Two punks and a goth walk into the National Gallery Café… no, dear reader, this isn't the start of a very obscure joke – it's the scene-setting start to my meeting with the indomitable duo Nova Twins. Cut a short story even shorter, we eventually wind up in the more appropriate setting of a crypt, and over a suspiciously healthy and thoroughly nourishing meal of pea soup and peppermint tea, we discuss all things in the manner of rock and roll.
Nova Twins have been steadily gaining momentum on the underground circuit for a number of years. With an amorphous signature that fleets between gritty punk, riotous grime, and a sound that often is so raucous that it denies all definition, there's a sense of exploring the unknown which the flows through their naturally unhinged noise. Riotous bass lines that simultaneously soothe and assault the senses, blurred with ravaging vocals that oscillate between saccharine and murderous; Nova Twins are carving their own path in the music industry and since they're pretty much the first of their kind; they get to make the rules.
"When we first did music, we were doing it for ourselves simply because we wanted to make music together. Then when you realise how it can affect [people] and how it can be a political thing, you're suddenly more woke and aware of what you're doing. You feel more precious about things," vocalist and guitarist Amy Love explains of their inception.
After being introduced to their music by a member of Nothing But Thieves, producer Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Kasabian) got in touch with Nova Twins about whether they'd be up for working with him. The timing couldn't have been more spot-on, as they had just finished up writing songs with an album in mind.
There's always the fear of the unknown, and wanting to please everyone, that goes hand in hand with making a debut album, but as a band who have built their craft around the live set, it was imperative to them that there were no backing tracks or synths used in the production. Amy says that the main points that they gave to Jim were that they just wanted it to be a three-piece, and if there were any extra layering, then it had to come from their instruments and pedalboards only. Bassist Georgia South adds that she's glad that they were absolute in what they wanted to get out of it because "now when we play it live, it's like the record. Obviously, it sounds better on record but close enough because we've done it as exact as we could."
Let it be said that 'Who Are The Girls?' is one hell of a debut. From the Tim Burton-esque 'Ivory Tower' to the industrial rave à la The Prodigy in 'Taxi'. Amy and Georgia are masters at what they do, and their high expectations bring along a kind of perfectionism to it all. So much so that ten minutes before having to submit the album, they were trying to make changes. Thematically, 'Who Are The Girls?' is an introduction to the world of Nova. It is about the pair delving into their craft and seeing how far they can go with conjuring up new sounds. "We're in our own bubble a lot of the time," says Amy of how serious they can be with their gear and the way that they do things. "It would definitely be interesting to show people the inner workings."
With a sound so unique, it would be nothing short of crazy not to be secretive about it. Both Amy and Georgia are very specific about the kind of gear they use since it makes up their signature colossal wall of noise. So, then. What is the secret ingredient to Nova? God loves a trier, but they're not giving it up that easily! Speaking of why she's so protective over her pedalboard Georgia says, "People at the beginning used to just take pictures of it. I'd get so annoyed, I felt like it was theft! You don't even know how many years I took to build it. It's like you can't just take it, buy it, and do it! So, somebody did that a few times and I just duct-taped the shit out of it."
It's this idea of reclaiming what is yours and not allowing somebody to step into your lane without permission that bleeds throughout the songs on the album. 'Bullet' is an unwavering, unapologetic response on behalf of all of the women who have been subject to catcalling, but there is also more depth to it as Amy explains: "'Bullet' was touching more onto sexuality. We know that women are under so much more scrutiny and everything; we're expected to get criticised 24/7, to be strong and just take it. It was just a hit back at saying we're taking our power back, and you know what? Fuck everyone else who has tried to come between that."
Nova Twins are flying the flag for anyone sick of having to change themselves to please the patriarchy. 'Not My Day' is in Amy's words, "about how sometimes you can have a really shitty day and you don't have to put on a brave face all the time. A little bit of vulnerability is sometimes a good thing. I think a problem we have in this society is, everyone is posting what they want everyone to think, and nothing is tangible or real anymore, and sometimes it's a case of aggression. Sometimes you act out, and it might not be appropriate, or it's appropriate for that moment, but then you get over it."
Georgia tells us that recently she had someone on the street approach her to try and buy her for the evening. As anybody would react, she was livid and made sure the person was aware of that. Tying in with the notion of 'Not My Day', Amy adds: "People let a lot of little things pass – well, what some people perceive to be little – for a long time. It was never appropriate, but now because there's so much awareness, people are starting to stick up for it because no, you can't say something about my body and think I'm just gonna give a little smile back and giggle. No, it's not funny."
If you are a person of colour who feels like they have no faces to relate to in the music industry, then Nova Twins are part of a wave of musicians that are trying to create a sense of community for you to exist in. "The underground is starting to catch-up and being more open and more inclusive to the LGBT community, people of colour and everyone on that scene. The mainstream is not having it at all, so that's where we still have to keep fighting to push through. We haven't got there yet."
Looking back to four or five years ago when the underground scene was opening up and being more inclusive; while the progress was good, it was still biased. "If you sounded like The Slits, Bikini Kill or L7, and if you were blonde it was great because you could fit into that kind of market. We didn't fit into that, so we didn't start getting picked up until a couple of years in. It's amazing because you see people like Big Joanie and Fuck You, Pay Us coming through and Skinny Girl Diet who are like the main ones in the UK representing at that particular time, and it was kind of scarce for women of colour in live music in the rock world. [In] the rock world you've just got white skin, and there's no place for people like us, so we had to create our own lane."
Georgia has noticed that there's a trend in the people who have supported their career thus far. "What I find interesting is that most of the bands that have brought us on, like the bigger bands, are people of colour – Prophets of Rage, Tom Morello, FEVER 333, Ho99o9, D12, Skunk Anansie. They're trying to bring up people of colour to carry on the flag."
This is especially true for Jason Aalon Butler of FEVER 333 who has signed Nova Twins to his artist collective, 333 WRECKORDS. It's this sense of community and belonging that the duo are hoping their music will provide. "You feel a responsibility to do things and be the best we can, and really represent. Usually, on festival bills, we're the only women of colour, and sometimes women, so we've got to wave the flag hard and keep pushing through."
So, what lesson can be learnt from walking into a room that doesn't feel like it's a suitable or safe space for you? Walk straight back out and find the place in which you belong, because sometimes it will be waiting just a little bit further ahead. Trust your gut, and know that not fitting in, is occasionally for the best.
Taken from the March issue of Upset. Nova Twins' debut album 'Who Are The Girls?' is out 28th February.
Featuring Milk Teeth, Four Year Strong, Loathe, Nova Twins, Slipknot and more.