Interview by Kitty Fedorec
I meet Amy Love and Georgia South of Nova Twins in a room above The Camden Assembly (formerly the Barfly) having the caught the end of their soundcheck. There is an air of tense excitement; the musicians shifting between big smiles, belly laughs, and earnest intensity.
You’ve known each other for a long time. When did that become making music together?
AMY: We’ve always made music together. I remember once Georgia was on keys at one of my gigs and when you (Georgia) were doing one of your bands I wrote a top line for ‘Let your hair down’. So we were always doing stuff in the same house – I’m always there because I’m like family. So it was inevitable. When we were finished with these other projects we wrote a song together called ‘Bad Bitches’. And that was it.
GEORGIA: Our first ever song… We were like, yeah it’s pretty sick, let’s make another. And we just kept gigging and writing and then we ended up here somehow. Which is crazy. We just remember gigging here two years ago, and we remember how we felt. I like that it’s familiar. When we were growing up it was always the Barfly. And when we were starting up as a band it was like… if you play the Barfly, that’s it.
AMY: It was a real goal wasn’t it?
GEORGIA: When I was 13 if you played the Barfly it was like you’ve made it. So it’s nice having our first headline show here.
You used to go out to gigs a lot?
GEORGIA: Yeah, and we used to gig. We used to gig at the same events
GEORGIA: So Amy would be a solo artist and I’d be in another band but we’d always be on the same bill or put on our own event – all our friends together on one bill. But then we always just ended up hanging out all the time, and my band would get pissed off, like “you’re always with Amy”. We were always together.
AMY: It was a bit weird – there was always this atmosphere.
Between songs Georgia shouts out, “I've never seen such a diverse, amazing crowd!” The room is hot and heaving. Looking to my left I see a couple in their 30s/40s dancing in the press. To my right are a group old enough to have seen-in punk. Ahead, some students are jumping almost high enough to touch the ceiling (this is not an exaggeration). I too can't think of a gig I've gone too with such a racially diverse crowd. Everyone looks like they have come dressed for a different gig. But across the differences there is a raw enthusiasm coming from the audience.
How did you find going to gigs as young people? I mean, I’m guessing you were underage?
GEORGIA: I remember I couldn’t get into some of Amy’s gigs in the past. And I used to hide under the bar counters when security used to come round. And I got kicked out a few times as well. I think I was properly young, like 12 to 16.
AMY: You’ve got to do that shit though.
You’ve both talked in the past about how important your parents’ support has been. I know some people reading this are parents themselves. Could you share some thoughts on things you think worked for you?
AMY: I think with Georgia’s parents, because they’re musical it wasn’t really seen as a parent-daughter vibe. They were like “I’ve done this, I’ve been there”. If we were slacking they’d tell us off. They’d been there and done that, so it’s nice to just have some advice, like you would if you had a manager or A&R. We don’t have that so we’ve got lots of people who’ve been in the industry just giving us advice because we’re independent at the moment – which is great.
I’d say people who have kids: if your kids are artistic it’s so important to let them express that. They say that depression is at a really high rate in creative people, so I feel you can not suppress it. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, just try and be open-minded and let them take that course. And obviously, yes, go to school, do your shit as well, there’s time for that.
The sound is bold and punchy, driven by heavy bass riffs. Tim Nugent provides lively drums while Amy sings from the gut. It's a sound for dancing to. Or screaming to. I shift to the side to let some shorter women through. The Camden Assembly is a great gig space, with its well elevated, wide stage; it's never much of a struggle to see. Still people press forward, into space that vibrates every breath. This sound is massive.
You guys have a real visual presence and, while you aren’t supported by a music label ,you have had backing from some clothing labels. Do you think that has helped you reach a wider and less traditional audience?
GEORGIA: Yes, in one way. Mostly it’s just gigging a lot. When you gig a lot people see you and then you get lucky and get asked to do other gigs and they like you from that. And I think that’s what it’s been like with us – based on luck. We’ve done one gig and met someone whose flown us out to France and met someone else who has flown us to South Africa.
AMY: 100 per cent. I think the brands we’ve got involved with… obviously Underground, who’re sponsoring tonight – sponsored us from day one actually. They liked our first single, ‘Baseline Bitch’ and stuck with us. We’ve all stayed really close – see we’ve got their shoes on right now. There’s other brands we’ve got involved with as well, but it’s funny, I think there could have been more, considering people always ask us about fashion and stuff. But we just have a few key brands. So we’ve always got time for them. But it’s definitely about the gigs we’ve done. We’ve gigged so much. Everywhere. You get better that way.
GEORGIA: Which is great. That’s where we’re most comfortable. Even over the studio, we love the stage more.
You produce some pretty extraordinary sounds live. What’s your favourite bit of kit on stage?
AMY: Georgia has got some special pedals.
GEORGIA: Yeah, I’ve got some special pedals. Which I can’t talk about.
AMY: Can’t..? Won’t! [laughs]
GEORGIA: …I won’t talk about. But probably my pedal board right there. I brought it up with me to have at all times. I couldn’t live without that, cos I spent years building it so it’s kind of lik
e my lifeline. That and my Gallien Krueger amp. Everyone always sees my amp… it’s like one foot big. It’s a tiny combo amp and normally when we do festivals bands have got a massive wall of amps and I just come with my tiny little combo amp, they’re like “ok what’s that gunna do? It’s gunna sound like shit.” And then it sounds bigger than them. It’s not all about size.
AMY: I have a favourite pedal or two, but I can’t say. I love my Hot Rod, quite standard, small, it’s just a Deluxe. My favourite thing is towards the end of the set where we do one of our numbers where I come off the guitar and just kind of go in and Georgia’s bass sounds like the end of the world and I’m just screaming. It’s just fun to gig live. That’s what we do it for.
Amy, you are reported to be into a good vocal warm up. What are your hot tips for vocalists?
AMY: You know what, it’s so bloody important. I started off not really warming up and when were gigging, in especially places like France, it’s like an hour set of hard singing. I developed this cold on tour (not this last tour but the tour before) and it literally blew out my voice – I got a virus that infected my larynx – I had to gig on it and by the last gig there was like nothing left so I had to cancel. Since then I started warming up properly. Like with steam, and taking care of my voice after gigs. It depends – everyone is different you know. I don’t sit there getting fucked up because I know I want to do a good show for people and I know if I get fucked up I won’t be able to do anything. So warm ups; I’d say just gentle hums, ‘sirens’ and then a few scales – I do about 15-20 minutes before each hour’s show, and today I’ll probably do about 15 – DO IT – it will save you on tour. It saved me. We just did relentless hour-long gigs day after day after day, and I was like, how am I going to do it? Warming up – it was fine
We often find it easiest to frame new music in terms of what already exists. I'm listening to something that, if you were looking for a shortcut to describing it, would most easily be compared to Rage Against the Machine. It seems to be the comparison most often used – probably because few bands have so successfully combined hip-hop and heavy rock influences in the crucible of righteous anger. Reviewers frequently site their UK grime influences – that's something I am under-qualified to talk about. But Nova Twins can definitely get as heavy as anything Part Chimp put out.
You are pretty passionate in your music. What do you get passionate about outside music?
AMY: It sounds really like ‘oooh all we do is music’ but… I guess that is our job and we do it full-time. We are lucky enough to earn a smaaaaall amount of money – still skint, but enough to keep the project going – you know what I mean? What are we passionate about? I think the politics behind it all really.
What really kinds of grinds us a little bit – in the feminist world it feels like there’s one type of feminist that can be allowed in – it’s very cliquey sometimes. At the moment I feel like if you’re a band, your band has to be seen to be driven by a feminist politics to make you a cool band. But we’re driven by it every day. Why do we have be like … anything? Why can’t we be a band – who are women – who are also feminist – who are also many other things?
That’s why I think it’s so important to just support each other and get out of this cliquey thing where it’s only people who sound like this [gesticulates to sum up a genre of music] are seen as feminists because they are doing the punk sound that actually drove feminists back then. But that’s been done. And we’re trying, in the 21st century, to still be feminist but in a different way with a different sound. And we’ve found that sometimes people are a bit like [makes a face] because we don’t sound Punk – we are punk but we’re not just that, do you know what I mean? It’s not about getting into a little clique, it’s about coming together as a whole, because that’s the only way we’re going to achieve what we really want to achieve. We ain’t going to fucking achieve it by segregating each other – there’s too much of that going on already, let’s stop that, get together and keep moving forward. Does that sound a bit harsh?
Can you describe the new EP for our readers?
AMY: We say basically (this is our little slogan) ‘for the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between’. So again, it’s just portraying the whole spectrum of how one can be.
GEORGIA: And don’t be ashamed.
AMY: …and not being ashamed of anything whether the good or the bad – the bad doesn’t have to represent the word do you know what I mean – your flaws…
GEORGIA: The bad doesn’t have to be wrong.
AMY: No exactly – unless you are actually doing something wrong [laughs] but I think it’s more about self-acceptance.
Everyone seems reluctant to see this gig end. Bass and drums push relentlessly through layers of distortion. Our heads and feet move in agreement. Amy has put her guitar down to blast into the mics, two clutched in one hand, before ploughing into the room. Now she rises up and rides the audience like a queen.