London duo Nova Twins on their musical identity, history and how to make rock music more inclusive.
“We call it the Nova Sound, because it’s just everything we love about music,” Georgia South – the bassist and one half of London duo Nova Twins – says on Zoom. She’s in her car in Hastings, with a view of the sea in front of her. Her bandmate and vocalist/guitarist, Amy Love, is in their bedroom back at their shared home. Originally, Georgia is from London and Amy is from Essex respectively. The girls formed the band back in 2014, however, they’ve known each other a lot longer than that.
“I met Georgia through her brother,” Amy says when telling the story of how they met. “I met him at college, and we were in various musical projects together. And then one day I just came back to [Georgia]’s, and just became a part of the furniture, like family.” She goes on to explain how they would play music together and book separate gigs at the same pub venue, play in their separate projects and then go home. “We just decided to write a song one day, and it was Bad Bitches, and Georgia got out the bass and started playing some crazy, distorted fuzzy lines and then I just started rapping and singing on it, and then we never looked back.”
The girls released an EP back in 2016 called Nova Twins, which had five songs on it, including “Bassline Bitch”. They released a single called “Thelma and Louise” in 2017, and a few singles throughout 2018 and 2019, including “Hitlist”, “Vortex” and “Lose Your Head”. This was all in the lead-up to their debut album.
The music that inspires their sound is very mixed. “I think it was a number of things that subliminally we’ve put into our music. Between us, we like so many different genres,” Amy explains. She then goes on to say: “Growing up, my mum would play a lot of RnB. She’d play a lot of Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton, which doesn’t sound like our music at all. But in one way or another, it was our introduction to music. And then it went on to garage, and then I found punk and rock, with bands like The New York Dolls and MC5. And I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is really cool’ and I love the energy of bands like Deep Purple and things like that. Then I got into Betty Davis and I really enjoyed Joni Mitchell.” Georgia, on the other hand, “grew up on Mariah Carey as my mum used to play her [music], and my dad loved Stevie Wonder. That sounds nothing like us, but I think you start to pick up how music works together, and the melodies. But then I think the ones that really shaped how I write on the bass is the band N.E.R.D, Kanye West’s album Late Registration, the whole raw drum sounds really cool. People like Skrillex, who do crazy electronic sounding music, Skepta, and loads of different things really.”
“We just decided to write a song one day, and it was Bad Bitches, and Georgia got out the bass and started playing some crazy, distorted fuzzy lines and then I just started rapping and singing on it, and then we never looked back.”
Their sound is hard to pinpoint, as it’s a mix of “heavy riffs, loads of distortion, rock elements, punk elements, RnB elements, electronic kind of sounding elements,” according to Georgia. This is evident in their album, Who Are The Girls? which came out in February this year, and garnered substantial critical acclaim.
The album name is unique, and the reason why it is called Who Are The Girls? according to Amy is: “It was us wanting to shine a light on the lack of representation, and the people who are just killing it in their lane and we just felt not really seen in the rock scene or the punk scene. It was our kind of coming out party in terms of we’d turn up to shows, and people would be like ‘Oh, who are they? Are they a pop band, are you going to play RnB?’ We’d be holding our guitars, and people would ask, ‘Oh, whose guitars are they?’ so it’s just a statement to these types of people. And then us, being like who are the girls, and then just making this racket, announcing that we’re here, like it or leave it.”
The album cover for Who Are The Girls? depicts Amy and Georgia lying on the roof of a bright orange car with the album title spray-painted in dark blue on the side of the car. Amy explains the inspiration behind the image: “[Our song] ‘Vortex’ was quite a special number for us, and it inspired the title [of the album] as well. The song was about all the underdogs coming together and pushing forward. The car was already spray-painted with the album name, and it felt very DIY, and it was the embodiment of what we were trying to say. Plus, it was kind of abstract as well.” The album’s message, Amy says, is one of liberation: “We want people to feel liberated, and that they can also do it. If two mixed girls from London and Essex can get up at Hellfest or Download [Festival], and play punk/rock music, which society says that’s not a thing because you don’t see it often. We hope that makes people feel that [they] can do what they want to do if we can do it. Or that they can pick up the guitar, or the bass, or scream and sing gnarly. They don’t have to be what society says they have to be. We hope people can take that from [the album] and just enjoy it.”
2020 has seen the Black Lives Matter movement be taken more seriously and has raised the issue of the serious lack of diversity within all industries, especially the alternative music scene.
“It’s not a nice feeling to feel excluded from a genre that people of colour and black women have helped pioneer. I think we’re just using that energy to help change the fact there’s no diversity. So, if we can be a band that’s booked on these festivals and bring a light to other POC [people of colour] artists, who are also slaying it in their field then we’re doing our job. I think it’s about coming together and making sure that we’re heard and seen and using our energy and anger in the right way, and making great music,” Amy says.
The Twins have a playlist called Voices of the Unheard that is dedicated to POC alternative artists, such as American hardcore punk band, Fever 333 (whose lead singer Jason Butler signed Nova Twins onto his independent record label, 333 Wreckords Crew) and the up-and-coming pop/punk band, Meet Me @ The Altar, who are also from America. As well as groups, Loathe, Ho99o9 and rapper Little Simz, the playlist spans across multiple genres, from hip-hop to metal. As Georgia explains: “We were discovering so many new bands, especially around the Black Lives Matter movement. We just thought, you know, more people need to discover these bands too. So, we just made the playlist, and fans are saying thanks for putting them all on one playlist. We’re still discovering more [bands] and updating it, and we get so excited when we find more. There’s so many out there. When people say there’s not more black women on guitars, it’s so untrue. They’re just waiting to be discovered. We’re on a mission to find as many as we can.”
It is clear that there is still a lot of work to do in regards to representation within the rock and alternative music scene. Amy explains how the alternative music industry can be more inclusive: “I think the responsibility lies with the gatekeepers to include more POC artists on their playlist, such as the rock playlist or the punk playlist. Also, for labels to get behind POC alternative bands, and not just predominantly white male rock bands or punk bands.” She also adds, “I think we can all do our part by just being more conscious and more aware and doing more research, so that when you do find a band you love, actually support them. Don’t just like it because it’s Black Lives Matter. [You should] actually like it because you think it’s great music and you want to support the band.”
“We want people to feel liberated, and that they can also do it. If two mixed girls from London and Essex can get up at Hellfest or Download [Festival], and play punk/rock music, which society says that’s not a thing because you don’t see it often. We hope that makes people feel that they can do what they want to do if we can do it.”
Nova Twins have supported bands such as Wolf Alice and musicians such as Little Simz and are set to support British rock band Enter Shikari on their UK and EU 2021 tour, with Dinosaur Pile-Up as a fellow support band. However, their dream bands and artists to support would be “The Prodigy, N.E.R.D, Missy Elliott, and Rage Against The Machine.” The duo have played at a variety of festivals, including Download Festival 2019, and are due to take Reading & Leeds Festival by storm next year. Their dream festival to headline would be Glastonbury. “It’s the mother of all festivals,” Georgia smiles. “Everyone works up to it,” Amy agrees.
The girls are known for creating their own clothes, which started with them “putting on safety pins, rips, badges and cutting things. Sometimes we go into the material shop, and we both pick different textures and colours, so we’d have the same materials, and then we’ll just go away and make the outfit. And they’ll match up because they’re made with the same colours.” “It started off with us not really having the clothes or resources to get the type of clothing we wanted that matched our music. The customization literally got out of control. We’d end up with bags full of material and it started off really edgy. Things would just fall off. We’d be on stage and there’d be a massive rip. We then just got better. We started this brand, which we haven’t really launched yet, but we’ve done a few custom bespoke items. It’s called Bad Stitches, coming from, like, how we started was really rough, really punk and really DIY, but it became our armour. When we perform, when we do [photo]shoots, there’ll always be an item of Bad Stitches clothing,” Amy explains.
Lockdown hasn’t been fun for most of us, but for the Nova Twins, it has given them the time to relax, and to work on the follow up to their debut album. As Georgia says: “It’s been really nice. I think bands get stressed because they’re touring all the time, and they kind of have to rush to fit it in. Whereas we’ve had a much more relaxed approach, and we can just write in our own time, and not have the pressure of trying to fit it in when we’re exhausted from touring all summer. We can just sit with it, and really take our time on this one.”
Their best experience as a band is when they won Best UK Breakthrough Band at the Heavy Music Awards. “That was quite a big moment for us,” Georgia explains. “One because we didn’t expect anything, so when we won, we were just like ‘This is crazy!’ We felt so proud of ourselves, and then we felt that this was a great opportunity to open more doors for women of colour in music, because it’s kind of saying to everybody that we can do it too. It felt more than just our award; it felt really like this was an award for a whole community. So that was a really good moment.”
Another big moment was when the girls played at Hellfest to twenty-two thousand people, which was their biggest gig to date, and still is. “When you’re in front of that many people, the adrenaline you get is just mental. It was really like an out-of-body experience for the whole thing. We were just like, ‘Woah!’ Amy was down the front commanding this massive ring of death. It felt like the world was just shaking. That was really fun”, says Georgia.
With the way things are going, it is looking likely the girls will not be underground for long. With a rescheduled headline tour that’s going to take the underground venues by storm, supporting Enter Shikari, who are one of the biggest names in rock music, and playing some of the biggest festivals throughout the UK and EU, such as Burn It Down Festival in Torquay.
As for the next chapter: “Hold that space,” Amy laughs. “We’ve got some things on the horizon. There are some things we can’t say, but some things we can. We’re excited, and we’re excited to release new music. We’re growing and, you know, maybe there’s some collaborations here and there. So, it’s going to be good.” Georgia nods.
“We feel excited,” she says. “We’ve got so many secrets that we’re bursting to tell, but we can’t and it’s so annoying. But we’re very excited about the future.”
With a rescheduled headline UK tour that is selling out faster every day, it looks likely that this could be the last time the duo play smaller venues as the next step could be venues like Camden Underworld or even the O2 Academy in Brixton.
Listen to Nova Twins here.
Words: Katie Bird
Images: Nathan Richards
Makeup Artist: Grace Hayward
Stylist: Kitty Cowell