Five things we learned from our In Conversation video chat with Nova Twins

The duo on their new album 'Supernova', improvements in the inclusivity of the alternative music scene and the singing advice they received from Skunk Anansie's Skin

Nova Twins are as DIY a band as they come. Since their inception in 2014, they’ve made a name for themselves as a duo who push boundaries, take risks and defy genre conventions, with a range of influences spanning New York Dolls, N.E.R.D. and Talking Heads. Vocalist/guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South have crafted an explosive sound together that oscillates between industrial metal, punk and grime, blending political messages with an enterprising outlook in a bid to change the landscape of the archaic heavy music scene for good.

Despite the past resistance they’ve faced from industry folk who have doubted their capabilities as women who play guitar (as well as Black female musicians who don’t fit the R&B stereotype), Nova Twins have remained determined to prove to the world that they’re a necessary voice that needs to be heard. Their February 2020 debut album ‘Who Are The Girls?’ served as a tongue-in-cheek response to this, but their second album ‘Supernova’ sees the band coming into their own: unapologetic and unafraid to shut down anyone who stands in their way.

All being well, ‘Supernova’ should receive the full album roll-out – unlike its predecessor. Just 10 days into the pair’s 2020 ‘Who Are The Girls?’ tour, the UK went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the duo to return home prematurely. When the initial disappointment subsided, the downtime actually proved to be a blessing in disguise for Nova Twins: with everyone’s hunger for new music at an all-time high, ‘Who Are The Girls?’ reached a bigger audience than expected. Having already been championed by the likes of Tom Morello, Skunk Anansie and Wolf Alice, the album earned Nova Twins new fans in Bring Me The Horizon and Yungblud – both of whom they’ve since toured with – as well as nominations at the BandLab NME Awards 2022.

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Nova Twins were also able to utilise the downtime of lockdown by starting work on ‘Supernova’. The record’s mission, they band say, is to empower others to see the good within the bad, and let them know that there are better times around the corner. “We wanted people to feel like they could take on anything; that if you just hold on, you’ll get through it,” Love tells NME. Over its unrelenting 11 tracks, ‘Supernova’ is intent on convincing every listener to take Nova Twins seriously. “If it ain’t love, it’s only war,” they sing on the chorus of ‘Antagonist’, and the band’s message is clearer than ever: they’re going to continue carving out their own path to the top, whether you like it or not.

For the latest in NME’s In Conversation series, Nova Twins tell us all about their newfound sense of empowerment, breaking the second album curse, and the importance of having influential mentors in the music industry. Here’s what we learned.

Writing an album during lockdown gave Nova Twins the freedom to be more experimental

Following up the success of ‘Who Are The Girls?’ could’ve been a daunting prospect, but Nova Twins say that they didn’t feel the pressure of navigating the ‘difficult second album’. “Lockdown changed everything, because [‘Who Are The Girls?’] felt so new and fresh: we never got to properly do the first album because we were locked down. [‘Supernova’] kind of feels like another debut!” South laughs. “I think lockdown allowed us to have time to reflect and experiment more, and get it wrong. There was no schedule, so it was like: ‘Should we write an album? We’ve got nothing else to do!’ That’s the best way when you work without pressure: sometimes it allows you to do more, think more out of the box.”

As an independent band without a major label giving them strict deadlines to work to, Nova Twins felt even more creative while working on their second album. Collaborating once again with Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Adele, Kasabian), who produced ‘Who Are The Girls?’, the duo ended up keeping a lot of takes from the DIY demos they recorded at home.

“When we were in lockdown, we got more into using Logic and producing the beats as well as the vocal production. A lot of what we did at home got added to the album compared to [‘Who Are The Girls?’], so we were a lot more involved in the sonics,” says South. “Some of the guitar and bass takes we decided to keep because you just can’t recapture it. We learned through lockdown to get it to a better standard.”

Making ‘Supernova’ helped the duo process the upheaval and chaos of 2020

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‘Supernova’ is a reflection of where Nova Twins were personally at during lockdown. Having been on the frontline of the Black Lives Matter protests, both South and Love knew that it was important to use their platform to raise awareness about the things that mattered most to them.

“We were writing [new material] while everything was going off in the world, and there was so much to talk about,” Love says. “It was quite turbulent at that time for a load of different reasons, but we got through it. I think there’s a running theme throughout the album that no matter how bad it gets, or how good it gets, you will always get through it, and you’ll always be the winner at the end of the day. We don’t want people to think you have to struggle to be in a band; you have to struggle to be a Black woman. No, you don’t: you just have to get through it.”

South agrees: “Especially coming at it being two Black women in this industry of rock, we always want to be like, ‘This is us, this is our place here, and we belong here too’. You can come at it with this force and power, and just own the space. That’s why we want to have our audience listen like that and feel like that on the other end of the album.”

Nova Twins
Nova Twins (Picture: Federica Burelli / Press)

Representation is at the heart of everything Nova Twins do

Nova Twins have been met with resistance for the entirety of their career. They had no idea that they would become voices of an underrepresented group of people when they first started the band, but, as time has gone on, what they stand for has become so much bigger than they’d ever imagined.

“We thought we were in a band just like any other band, but, as we went along, we slowly realised that when we were playing these festivals, we were looking at people that didn’t look like us backstage, and the people playing on stage didn’t look like us either,” South says. “We would see people in the audience that looked like how we felt growing up, coming to shows like this. So then we were like, ‘We have to do it for them’. We are representing so much more that isn’t supported in the industry, in the mainstream, or anywhere at this point.”

Finding mentors has been vital for their growth as musicians

Nova Twins can count both Skunk Anansie’s Skin and Rage Against The Machine’s Morello as friends and mentors, and the duo are supporting both bands (including Rage Against The Machine’s forthcoming outdoor gig in Edinburgh) this summer. Nova Twins recalled to NME one piece of technical advice the Skunk Anansie vocalist recently passed on to the band: “Skin was telling us [about her vocal exercises]: there’s one where she puts a straw under her tongue and does the warm-ups while having that in, and [another to help her] sing around laryngitis. [She told us that] there was a time when she was ill and used that technique, and it was all good. It was great thing for us just having her there and bringing that demonstration with her.”

During lockdown Nova Twins started a chat show, Voices For The Unheard, which featured the likes of the Noisettes’ Shingai, Watford artist Connie Constance and DJ Sophie K. They then went on to release a vinyl compilation in partnership with Dr. Martens and Blood Records, including some of the artists who were featured on a playlist of the same name.

“We’ve always said that we’re quite a band’s band, and there were a lot of key people supporting us – such as Fever 333‘s Jason Aalon, Tom Morello and Sophie K – who really championed us at the beginning,” Love explains. “We’re always appreciative of them, so we’re always going to do the same if we can, however we can. It’s just about bringing each other up.”

They’ve started to notice more inclusivity in the alternative music scene

As a big part of the Nova Twins experience is highlighting the difficulties that women have to face in the industry, they’re pleased to see the positive changes that are starting to come to light. After winning Best UK Breakthrough Band at the Heavy Music Awards in 2020, the band were nominated for Best UK Artist at this year’s ceremony. “We were honoured to be in that category as it’s such a massive category,” South tells NME. “We did quickly notice that we were the only people that looked like us in it. But when we looked at the other categories, we saw Meet Me @ The Altar, Pinkshift and Cassyette coming through, so it was reassuring.”

A lot of rising talent in the alternative scene is coming from women, non-binary people and people of colour, and it truly feels as though there is a shift happening towards allowing these people to have a platform and change the landscape of rock music. “We’ve started to realise that this is more than us,” South adds. “Even when we won the Heavy Music Award [in 2020] it felt like it wasn’t even our award: it felt like a real win for the whole community.”

Nova Twins’ new album ‘Supernova’ is out now on Marshall Records

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