This summer has been unlike any other for children and parents around the world. COVID-19 not only shut down the spring semester early, but also took countless summer programs off the table leaving families to find their own ways to stay busy while staying safe.
Houston’s Andyroo is adding joy to the summer with his latest release, Roocycle due out August 1. The album is an upbeat and socially conscious collection of songs with a call to action to take care not only of our planet, but also ourselves, a fantastic message for children and parents alike.
Roocycle is Andyroo’s third full length album and in it the sounds of the Andyrooniverse take a different direction, moving away from acoustic guitar and instead relying heavily on electronic beats and instrumentation in combination with live instruments.
Andyroo is the playful alter ego of Andrew Karnavas. Karnavas moved to Houston in 2006 and formed his band Runaway Sun a few years later. He runs Yawp Records and the after school program, Just Add Beats, teaching kids in grades 2-12 how to create, record and produce their own music, beats and podcasts. Just Add Beats has also developed an internship program leading students into the job market.
In 2011, he began making children's music at the request of his sister who was looking for musical options for her own children. A few songs turned into an album which turned into a project landing Andyroo on Radio Disney and beyond sharing his imaginative world of the Andyrooniverse with kids all over.
In 2015 while promoting his album Color Your World, Karnavas began to experience numbness in his hands and feet along with other symptoms. After many months of testing, Karnavas was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
“It was like a really fast progression of events in those early years,” says Karnavas of Andyroo's career. “In the last five years I went through some big life changes with being diagnosed with MS and losing the ability to play guitar for a few months.”
Prior to working in the music industry, Karnavas had worked in medical research with patients diagnosed with Scleroderma, a chronic, autoimmune rheumatic disease which causes hardening of the skin and connective tissues in the body.
Karnavas saw his patients as people who were dealt a bad hand for unknown reasons and were forced to deal with their new normal, a similar situation to the one he now found himself in.
“In a lot of ways my past experience in medicine had prepared me for something like this because I understood it as a reality, as something that could happen to anybody. I immediately just focused on staying positive and looking at things like how I could change my diet.”
Faced with the possibility of never being able to play guitar again, Karnavas decided he needed to find new and more ergonomic ways to create music. Combining the life lessons from his past experiences in the medical field, his new diagnosis and his knowledge of beat making and producing, Karnavas created Roocycle.
“One of the things that someone said to me is, ‘If you don't want your body to be inflamed, don't live an inflamed lifestyle.’ I thought, that's great cause you take care of yourself, you get plenty of sleep, you show up early to things, you eat right, all the little things that you can do to de-stress and make sure your body is doing okay. That's really transferred over into my music to and into the things that I've been writing about, especially in this new album.”
The first single from Rooycle “R-E-A-D” is a playful reminder that words are everywhere and knowing how to read and interpret them can be fun and powerful. Roocyle helps kids see how they can help the planet and themselves by picking up trash, recycling, exploring the world around them and holding onto their own dreams.
“I see it as an opportunity for the music to be part of a conversation between a parent and their child. I really look at it as an opportunity to be a part of other people's families without being there, just the music is there. That's something that really helps anchor the songwriting process, making sure that each song is something that the kids and the parents can share together and doesn't that drive the parents crazy when they listen to it.”
Roocycle is a treat for adults and kids. These are not your typical kid songs with sometimes obnoxious lyrics and melodies; these are real songs. Karnavas's musical and production talents are on full display and the album is catchy without overwhelming the senses. Parents could make an activity or lesson plan to match each track and fill in the remaining summer days.
Band mates from Runaway Sun and Karnavas's partner Grace Rodriguez also lent their talents adding to the songwriting process and playing instruments on the album which was entirely written, recorded and mixed by Karnavas.
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Typically summer is full of performances for Andyroo in libraries all across the city, but this year Karnavas has had to roll with the punches and adapt. He took his Just Add Beats program online and has participated in some online performances.
Another new addition to the Andyrooniverse is the use of TikTok where fans have taken it upon themselves to make fun little videos featuring his music. Though it is no substitute for performing in front of a live audience of energetic kids, Karnavas still finds joy in seeing others interact with his songs.
“Even on days where I can be tired from MS fatigue or anything, once I get to the show and I see the kids its like a switch turns on. It’s just a special thing, it’s my favorite thing to do is to perform with in front of the kids and share that time with them.”