Written by Maria Ekaterina

Photo by Roger Gupta

On a busy Wednesday afternoon, the second day of Jam Cruise 18, aboard the MSC Divina, I sat down with Karina Rykman for a quick chat about what she’s been up to. We caught up on her holiday season, her new singles and her custom P-Bass by Zeke Guitars. We caught up on so many interesting perspectives while watching the sun set into the distant waters.

Maria: I’m interested in how your Holiday season went.

Karina: Well, I had a crazy tour with Marco, with basically a week break. I was on tour from October 10th to December 15th. It was crazy, we traveled all over. We went to Japan, everything was crazy. After playing 40 shows, I got home on December 16th and then that went into a nice little holiday season. I live in Manhattan and so I was able to chill with my parents and then went to my boyfriend’s family house in Bedford, NY and we got to chill and what not. Then came back and it was just an onslaught from day 0. Went to see Disco Biscuits, Phish, played a late-night show with my band and went to see Phish again and then played a late-night show with Marco’s band. Then load in for this pan art exhibition show I had.

Maria: What’s that all about?

Karina: It was my first show. I make visual art too. I make these little prints. They’re not Phish related they’re not music related, they’re just these psychedelic works of art I create and was able to sell 8 of them at my first show! That was interesting and I was so happy the way people received it. So that evening there was another Phish show and the next evening was Phish’s NYE show. We had New Year’s Day off and then on the 2nd, my boyfriend and I flew to Turks & Caicos after that craziness to get some rest. Then we came to Miami and got on the boat. So that’s kind of the long and short of my holiday season. It’s been a lot of late-night shows, touring, a lot of Phish and all that, I just can’t get enough.

Maria: You really like keeping yourself busy?

Karina: I do, I really love being busy doing what I do.

Maria: I’ve heard you have many hats, and I think your psychedelic art is one of those.

Karina: Yes, this is new.

Maria: How long have you been doing this?

Karina: Well I’ve been drawing in my free time for a long time, but I think I picked it back up in 2016. It’s been accumulating over time.

Maria: What inspired this new energy in you?

Karina: It’s just amidst all the crazy and touring. I like to make them on planes, tour busses, on the road. Whenever I have the time. My crew is like, this is the quietest Karina gets when she draws. I was on the plane towards West Coast tour and I was doodling for 4 hours. I was working on this crazy thing and the dude next to me tapped my shoulder, I had my headphones in and he kind of scared me. He was like “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I just had to say, this shit is crazy!”

Maria: What kind of medium do you use?

Karina: It’s literally all sharpies!

She pulled out her phone and shared some of her work. Psychedelic astronaut with cacti on the moon. Cat’s flying multicolored spaceships through the visual universe of colors. There is a lot of details included in this! We spoke about making her art into fashion for us to wear at her next show! Maybe in a year or some we could see Karina coming out with her first philatelic clothing line for men and women. Check out her Twitter for photos of her art.

Maria: Do you think your parents being professors influenced your decision to take the path you took?

Karina: Great questions, I think about that a lot and it’s kind of funny. My parents are PHD-ed up from the feet up. My mom has been the head of the French department at Columbia University for 40 years and my dad is a philosopher, he writes books and gives lectures all over the world. Me doing music, people always ask, do your parents play? Really, they could not be any less musical. But they love it! It’s a funny combination of being so clueless and so supportive. They didn’t even show me The Stones, The Beetles all the classic rock stuff knowledge that I basically got interested in did not come from them.

Maria: So how did this spark to play music come about for you?

Karina: When I was like in 8th grade I got so deep into a rabbit holes of music. I’m in middle school going ham downloading albums, buying every book, every album. I was like there is no way I’m not getting all this music to listen to. Then Indie Rock happening, and I was like, I must listen to all this.

Maria: What were you into during that Indie Rock phase?

Karina: I was really into Spoon and Block Party and even Franz Ferdinand and the Strokes. At the same time, I was deep into Led Zeppelin, Blind Faith you know.

Maria: So, you started practicing the many hats in a way that allowed you to be open to what music flows and inspires you.  

Karina: I think that’s kind of a beautiful and weird thing about being born when we were born. Everything that we wanted we had access to at our fingertips. Maybe if I was a teenager in the 90’s or even more so 80’s maybe I would have been like – oh I’m a grunge kid. I think it I might have put myself into a singular mode. But really, I’m just a sponge, I’m ready to absorb everything from Rap to 50’s classical to whatever I choose to put on.

Maria: How do you listen to your music at home?

Karina: I love vinyl at home. On the road it’s just crazy. I think I like vinyl because of ADD age, you put on a record you flip it, that’s it. You’re not trying to skip it. It’s a good lesson in paying attention on the medium itself.

Maria: Do you have any big plans for 2020?

Karina: It’s been such a crazy lead up to 2020. Not even 48 hours after Jam Cruises I’m going back on tour with Marco. I am trying to live in the moment and absorb this experience. After this next Marco tour, I think the dust will settle and I would like to make a record with my own band. Last year was the first year I put out music under my own name, which was huge for me. It’s been a big goal of mine. So, the first song we put out is called “Plants” that we put out right before we opened for Khruangbin at the Capital theater. I was like, Karina you’re not opening for Khruangbin without having any recorded music out. I wrote it a few months in advance, and we got in the studio, mixed, mastered, boom, boom, boom. It now has six figure listens on it, which seems like people are really enjoying. We also recently released another single around Thanksgiving called “Elevator” which has been well received. I’m stocked about all this stuff, but I want to keep going. I want to make more.

Karina is looking forward to playing at Peach Fest this summer along with shows up in NY and across the country.

Maria: How do you ground and humble yourself amidst everything you have going on?

Karina: With Marco alone, it has been just the craziest ride. Touring with him has been the best thing that has happened to me. It’s been such a huge thing to wrap my head around and coming up this April it’ll be four years. It’s insanity! My first Marco gig was while I was still in my senior year of college finishing up. Shout out to NYU Gallatin, because they allowed me to do this. I mean back then I was in a band called The Sound of Urchin and other five bands going nowhere playing all over the city. I just think NYU Gallatin is a great school for self-motivated kids. But to humble myself I take it one day at a time. It’s a life with not much stability. I live gig to gig as most people live 9-5. But I’m so lucky to play with my best friends and to laugh our way across the country and across the world. We just laugh and laugh and laugh, and if that’s not living what is? I’m so blessed to do what I do. It’s so apparent even when I’m swept up between airports, late nights, early mornings, long drives and it can all be crazy and draining. But I’m so happy to be playing music being where I am.

Maria: You’re one of the Artists at large here, how’s that going?

Karina: They gave me my own jam room, which I think is a pretty big deal, it’s cool. I’m looking forward to digging in with a bunch of pals and improvising. Marcus King invited me to do the super jam as well, so I’ll be doing that too. I’m doing something called the Pedal Party? I believe that’s when I showcase my pedal board. I’m excited for that, and I’ll be doing Everyone Orchestra as well on Saturday. Annabelle and Josh Moore from Cloud 9 are dear friends and I’m super grateful they have me on board. I don’t have my band with me, but I’m excited to be so busy and doing so many things all week long. I’m really looking forward to it all.

Maria: Did you do any land excursions?

Karina: I slept until 3:30 pm today, not going to lie to you. I was so buzzing from the experience here. I had one drink, maybe two last night and one espresso and I just couldn’t fall asleep. I was all tucked in by 4:30 this morning and was not sleeping. I couldn’t do it, it’s so fun here. I love Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz last night. I knew I would, that’s my bread and butter. I mean those guys improvising is great. Watching Skerik and Les play off each other was great and then I started visualizing my contribution and was so excited. I didn’t get the best sleep for the first six hours, but then I got some sleep towards the end. I wish I could have gotten into the water. I would have loved it. I’ll be there in Mexico! I think that’s another great lesson about this boat, is that everyone can dance to the beat of their own drum. People can see what ever music they like or not see music they don’t like and just chill in their room, at the casino, hot tub or whatever else. It’s sweet to see people just doing their thing.

Maria: I’d like to chat with you about your instruments. What did you bring with you on Jam Cruised this time around?

Karina: I brought one bass and one pedal board. The bass I brought on board and the one that has become my ride or die for the past few months. Brand new, specifically tailored and cut to me by a guy named Zeke Guitars. He’s built stuff for Ween and that’s how we know each other. He wrote to me a year ago and was like, I want to build you, your dream instrument. He asked what that would be. I was like, oh, lol what. I spelled it out for him. It should look like P bass but a little shorter scale and way lighter. So now my bass is white, gold pick guard, rather thin neck because I have these small hands. Now I just fly all over this neck and it’s such a beautiful piece of wood to play. The name of the wood is Korina wood. It was obvious that was what it had to be.

Karina has been fueled by her ambition to do more for years. Her talents continue to blossom and in 2020 alone, she’s bound to make big marks in the music industry. She is full of surprises and who knows what we will see her share with us in the upcoming years. You won’t want to miss the rocking good time she’s bound to make happen this year so check in with her on socials to keep up with this blazing ball of fire.