WORDS : MALVIKA PADIN
“People tell us they are glad they found us because growing up they didn’t have anyone in music that they could relate to, now they feel like they’ve found a home,” say Nova Twins, bassist Georgia South and singer/ guitarist Amy Love.
The duo explain that never having seen themselves in music growing up has meant that they’ve had to build and then fight for an identity of their own. Now, six years after becoming Nova Twins,, with their debut album Who Are The Girls, the genre-bending pair of friends are shining a light on the unheard, unseen stories and identities in music and beyond.
ho Are The Girls is meant to be representative and shine a light on the voices of the unheard ; women of colour, inspirational women not only in music but in all fronts. We are using that slogan to represent as those who are unheard and unseen
Speaking of their album, Amy says, “ To have a body of work to mark down our journey so far was great. With everything that’s happened, everyone’s journey was stunted so we were fortunate enough to bring out our album before the outbreak and lockdown happened. Even the title of the album Who Are The Girls is meant to be representative and shine a light on the voices of the unheard ; women of colour, inspirational women not only in music but in all fronts. We are using that slogan to represent as those who are unheard and unseen.
They add ,“ We actually didn’t have an album in our minds until last year. We were so lucky to release it when we did, because we were lucky to tour it for two weeks. As people are now opening up their mind towards alternative music, they have an album to discover. We get comments saying “ we didn’t know this existed, you existed!” and now they have a whole body of work to get stuck into.”
Delving into the topics of colourism , racism and Black Lives Matter, there couldn’t be two better people to guide the conversation. Half-Iranian half Nigerian Amy and half-Jamaican half English Georgia have never fit into any box be it in terms of their heritage or the kind of music they make. But understanding they take on race requires an understanding of the expansive nature of the duo’s signature sound – which Amy refers to as “the Nova Sound” – and the wealth of cultural influences that each of them brings to the table.
Speaking on influences they say,” Our sound is a hybrid of hip-hop, rock, punk etc – we didn’t give ourselves any boundaries and wrote about whatever we wanted. We don’t draw from specific influences, it’s a mix of different sounds and genres. For me [Amy] personally, I love 90s hip-hop and R&B but also garage and rock. Growing up I was more into glam rock while Georgia was into hip-hop. I [Georgia] listened to Kanye and N.E.R.D, Justin Timberlake and Timberland on Justified.
It would be good to get rid of the mentality of tokenism. It shouldn’t be about ticking a box like “ I’ve now ticked the ethnic box so we’re safe”. They need to include diversity in genres and culture. The industry uses it but doesn’t acknowledge it. Music thrives on using diversity and the different elements people bring but refuse to acknowledge it
“Our first song we wrote together already had elements of the sound we have now, we started playing big festivals quite early on so we always had it in our mind to have a sound that was expansive and could reach across a festival field, we aimed to sound massive. As we evolved we wanted to experimented but we always maintained that we don’t want any synths on our records or live so we found crazy electronic sounds done manually. It was a natural progression, Georgia naturally played heavy riffs on the bass and my vocal style on top of her instrumental influence was just our sound. I think our friendship and dynamics evolved into music.”
On the importance of heritage, they add, “ We naturally love to explore as we’ve had that option all our life due our mixed backgrounds.. It’s a part of us and part of our music. It’s good to be proud of your culture and bring it into your music. It’s not always direct, but it happens subconsciously.”
The combination of their unique sound and the way they look can be a cause of frustration. Amy explains, “People thinking that black artists only like one genre which is stereotyped as hip-hop and R&B is sheer ignorance. As women of colour trying to be alternative, people not only struggle to understand our music but also the way we look representing that music. That’s definitely one of the most frustrating things.” Georgia adds, “Playlists often box in genres so if you don’t fit the mold of what’s expected. If you’re not a four-piece male band then you don’t fit in the rock playlist. We are starting to get picked up and noticed both because of the Black Lives Matter movement and other people of colour in rock music – Tom Morello, Skunk Anansie etc- have shouted out about us and made people listen.”
After the recent decision to drop the “Urban Music” category of the GRAMMYs in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the duo delve into what other changes they want to see in the music industry. Georgia says “ We’d love to see more alternative POC bands in the mainstream media. The only band’s they pick to be on the main stages are either all white or pop bands of colour. If more bands of colour are represented in mainstream, then people of colour feel like they can be picked up and be successful. It’s not a good reflection of the world’s culture if we side line POC acts as underground.”
Amy adds, “ It would be good to get rid of the mentality of tokenism. It shouldn’t be about ticking a box like “ I’ve now ticked the ethnic box so we’re safe”. They need to include diversity in genres and culture. The industry uses it but doesn’t acknowledge it. Music thrives on using diversity and the different elements people bring but refuse to acknowledge it. When it gets to the top it gets white washed. This is one of the major reasons that people don’t know the origins of many genres of music like blues or rock n roll as it hasn’t been perceived in an honest manner. When people are able to include it evenly and acknowledge it, then the creative space will be better off for it.”
Sometimes we get teary when our supporters tell us how they feel a sense of belonging when they see us ;it feels great to know that what we’ve been trying to do with our music is actually paying off
The Nova Twins aren’t just willing the change, they are instead taking the steps to be the change they want to see. Speaking of what they’ve personally done in support of the movement they say, “We created a playlist called ‘The Voices Of The Unheard’ – loads of fans have loved it. People want to see and hear diverse creatives, often times it’s the industry that’s putting up the block. We have also started our own show of the same name where we get people of colour in alternative bands and the industry to come on and chat about their experiences. Through the playlist and show, we’ve opened our own minds as well. Sometimes we feel isolated from what’s happening the alternative rock world, but people like us exist within the scene, it’s just they haven’t been given the chance to co-exist with anybody.
An open-minded fanbase is key for cultivating a sense of community in music . The duo gush about their own supporters, saying, “ We’ve always seen them as friends rather than fans and we want them to feel like they can talk to us whenever. It’s nice to be connected to a creative community who just want to unify and share experiences. It’s been nice to have time to sit back and take note of everything they say to us. Sometimes we get teary when our supporters tell us how they feel a sense of belonging when they see us ;it feels great to know that what we’ve been trying to do with our music is actually paying off.”
Talking about how they’ve spent quarantine – aside from doing challenges with their fans and brushing up on their cooking skiils – they say, “We’ve been writing our second album on lockdown and we’d love to explore hip-hop beats. We’d love to blend that with drums and electro. But we’re also concentrating on having fun, and taking time to ourselves and plan out our future music. We started lockdown in a negative headspace but we’re coming out of it thinking this was really good for us to focus on music without pressure. We know there’s a lot to consider on the flip side particularly in terms of the venues. People are struggling but if the arts come together as a community, with the help organisations like Musicians Union, we can come back to pick up where we left off!”
The Nova Twins have plenty to be proud of including playing in front of 20,000 people at France’s Hellfest and collaborating on a one-off gala show with icons like Nona Hendryx and Angela Davis. But it’s their ability to bring people together that needs to be underpinned as their biggest gift as artists. Leaving us with the ringing impact of the final remarks, “It’s not about segregation, not separation. Unity and community is what we want to promote . We more a space for conversation and learning regardless of skin tones.”