Logo for Byte Magazine at Ball State University

Q&A with Namby Pamby

The Namby Pamby is an alternative band composed of three female artists: McKenna Parks on guitar, Emily Parks on bass, and Payton Knerr on drums. The group was established at the end of 2021 and has been performing since the beginning of 2022. The band agreed to be interviewed over Zoom to talk about themselves and their future plans.

Photo by Annie Bastian

Annie Bastian: Can you tell me about how you became a band and your experience beginning the band?

McKenna Parks: This specific project started as a solo project. I was going to write some songs and record them under my name. It was a solo passion project—nothing really serious. I tested out some people and they were drumming and playing bass for me, and it was fine and they were really talented musicians; but connection is so important to me when it comes to a band, and nothing was really sitting right. It is really unexplainable—the feeling just wasn’t right. I took a break. I was still writing music, but I wasn't focusing on the band project. I had played with my sister before in bands, so I knew she played bass and the connection was already there—we are pretty much best friends and get along super well. I had been friends with Payton since probably—I was a freshman in college, and I never knew that she played drums. We worked together, had been to parties and hangouts together, and there was one time where she was like, “I almost went to school for drums,” and I was like, “Wait what?” and that is when Payton hopped on board. We didn’t really mean for it to be a girl band when we started practicing last year in the winter and in the fall, but it was just really easy. I sent them the demos and the songs and it flowed really well. I knew that us as friends was an important starting point of the band. The more that we played the songs together, the more—in my own mind—it didn’t feel like a solo project. It was very collaborative and we were connecting creatively too. They were putting their input into the song and so I was like, “This doesn’t feel right. This isn’t my thing.” We were all collaboratively putting input into these songs and making something completely different than what I originally intended. That's when we started brainstorming about our band name. This is about us three together as a connection, and it wasn't about just me at that point. So, that’s where we started last year and we started gigging at the beginning of this year.

AB: Can you walk me through your creative process?

Emily Parks: Payton and I always say that McKenna is a genius, and we are always honored to play music with her. She is great and does almost all of it. She writes every song, the chord progressions, and lyrics—that all comes from McKenna. She will send us little videos of her acoustically playing a song and we are like, “Damn, you did it again.” So we then come together and just work out drum parts and bass parts, and we write ourselves in. It is a collaborative process in the sense that we are doing it and figuring it out together. We are all doing it and bringing something to the table. We have our own creative say in what we are doing, but McKenna sets the structure for everything we do. Don’t mess with perfection.

AB: Can you talk about where your sound is now and where it might be going in the future?

EP: We were just talking about that. We were just saying how, a month ago, our sound was so different.

MP: We haven't even been a band for a year, it has barely been six months. Looking back on when we first started playing in January, it already has evolved so much. When we first started it was harder, and we still play some of those songs that lean toward the mosh type stuff, but I think that the newer songs we are writing lean more toward—more of a soft alternative. I don’t really know the word for it. Still alternative but more easy listening, more toward the dreamy-type rock.

EP: I think part of the evolution comes from [the fact that] December of last year—when we met up and we were just playing the type of songs McKenna had written—Payton and I had never met before this, and so we were vibing it out and figuring out what is happening here. Every band has their niche, some bands play heavy stuff where people can mosh and push each other around, and other bands have their dancing and stuff. We knew from the first couple of shows that really wasn’t us. We have some dancing tunes for sure, but it is kind of an experience with the audience. We are just up here, but could just as easily be down there. So I think once we began figuring out what we meant to the people watching—our place—I feel like we are evolving into a direction of more of an…

MP: Experience.

Photo by Annie Bastian

AB: Can you talk about anything that inspires you, or something you go to for inspiration?

Payton Knerr: I compare our newer, more subversive music to Fleetwood Mac before Stevie Nicks, and I actually have been listening to their older albums a lot recently. I have been trying to get with these new songs McKenna has been putting on us.

MP: Subversive is a good word. It’s such a hard question, because I do have artists that inspire me, but when it comes to the question of, “What inspires me when it comes to a song?” I feel like, and not to be one of those deep artist types *laughs*, but I genuinely cannot describe it. When I sit down to write a song, it feels like my body just writes it itself. There is no thought, it just feels like my body has had it hidden down for so long and it just writes itself. It’s a weird, weird experience.

EP: [She’s a] genius. *laughs*

MP: When it comes to artists that inspire me, Joni Mitchell is one. The way that she does melody lines is so unique from many other artists at the time, at her time, and in modern music today—I don’t hear that very often. The way that she writes melodies is obviously very genius. Courtney Barnett’s guitar playing. She is an artist that has made me want to pursue more lead-type style guitar. She opened a whole other realm of guitar-playing for me. I would have to say Julia Jacklin is another one. She writes lyrics and—the way that she takes an emotion and translates it so well into song—emotion is super big for me, and the way that she does that is really clean and beautiful as well. 

EP: I don't play a crazy bass line 90% of the time. I keep it pretty steady.

MP: You hold it down.

EP: I hold it down. And I don’t claim anything else.

PK: I think it is really tasteful, what you do. It supports the music really well.

EP: I’ve been really loving Big Thief, their bass player is super cool and he just holds it down. Just holds it down. *laughs* I just draw inspiration from [the band] too. Sometimes I can be like, “This bass line kinda sucks and I don't know about this,” and these people are so encouraging constantly and remind me I am doing something that’s cool. I can just do what I do. I think you can be inspired by anything.

Photo by Annie Bastian

AB: What do you want your audiences to take away from your performances?

MP: I love this question because I wouldn't say our music is crazy or anything. There are so many awesome bands in Fort Wayne that are so good at drawing audiences in, like Man of the Flood does it so well and are so energetic, and Namen Namen is the same way. Again, coming to the idea of our place, the experience and the emotions is something that is so important to me when interacting with the audience. I never want it to be about me or us, [but] what we are doing as a band. The song and the art is so important. If someone can walk away from one of our shows feeling an emotion they have never felt before, or heard something in the song that made them—either happy or inspired them in some way, then that is success to me. Even just one person walking away feeling that. That is really important. If people can look internally during our set and be like, “Woah, that is really cool. I have never felt that before,” then that is really cool to me.

AB: Do you have any upcoming work or future plans?

MP: We don’t have anything on streaming yet. We have just started and have been saving up so that we can get into the studio, but we do have some studio dates set so we can get some recorded music in the end of April and early May. Hopefully by the beginning of summer we will be able to have some singles released to listen to. If people go to our website, all of the dates that we are playing will be on there, and you can buy merch from our website as well. We are excited to record—to get in the studio, so people have access to something.

Find them @the.nambypamby on Instagram, on their website, or on YouTube.

Featured Image by Annie Bastian

Sources: Namby Pamby, Instagram, Instagram, Instagram, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, Courtney Barnett, Julia Jacklin, Big Thief, Man of the Flood, Namen Namen, Namby Pamby, Namby Pamby, Instagram, Namby Pamby, YouTube

Contact Annie Bastian with comments at ajbastian@bsu.edu or on Instagram @anniebastian25.