AFROPUNK INTERVIEW: NOVA TWINS TALK ABOUT THEIR METERORIC RISE, COVID LOCKDOWN, BLM AND THEIR WORKING WITH FENDER
By Ian Freeman
September 17, 2021
For those not astronomy geeks, a binary star system is two stars orbiting around a mass center. And there couldn’t be a more appropriate description of a pairing than the Nova Twins. This dynamic duo of lead vocalist and guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South orbited around their respective UK music scenes until they were pulled together by a mix of fate and family and have been creating together ever since. While many musicians create this circle of familiarity that you can expect from them, listening to The Nova Twins is more elliptical where some tracks come close to their punk core, but others spin further away from the center as they weave elements of rock, punk, alternative, hip hop, grime and synth into their sound. Add to it their fearlessness as not only women but women of color, to speak on various issues including women’s issues, the BLM movement, the MOBO Awards and Black people’s role in the history of rock and it is no surprise why they have taken off like a rocket over the past couple of years building a fanbase with a mix of talent, passion, and creativity that it doesn’t take a telescope to see.
We had the chance to talk to the Afropunk alums about their activism, how they increased their audience during Covid lockdowns, and how they were tapped by Fender to be some of the faces for the guitar brand’s new made in Mexico Player Plus line, which takes its cues from their American Ultra high-end line.
Afropunk: Since Afropunk 2018, you both have just skyrocketed. It has been amazing. How have things been going?
Georgia: It’s been crazy. What year are we in now? We released an album. Our debut was released. That was-
Amy: Last year, February.
Georgia: That was cool. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to tour it as much as we would have liked, but I’m finally playing on some of the festivals. We’re just working on new music.
Amy: Yes, it’s been such a great journey. We’ve evolved, and we’ve grown. Everyone’s experienced things in such different ways because the lockdown’s changed the shape of how we do things. It was quite a shock, really, but I think a good one for some of us, maybe not for everybody. For us, we found, I guess some sort of solace in it. We just took time to step back and breathe and actually enjoy what’s important.
Sometimes you can just always be chasing the dream or chasing things. It’s actually nice to take a step back and just enjoy what’s around you as well. That was really great for us in lockdown.
Afropunk: You’ve really taken your music, but also done this, say, advocacy for people of color, and women of color in the rock scene. How did that evolve?
Amy: I think at first, when you get to start a band, you start quite naive. You want to play music. Well, we did anyway. We just wanted to make music. We didn’t realize there’d be so many hurdles, or we had to navigate slightly differently from our, I guess, peers, because of the way we looked doing this type of music we’re doing.
As we started to realize, the challenges at first, and then when we did get booked for these festivals, we’d look around and see no one that looks like us. Not in the audience, not on stage, certainly not on stage. We thought, “Well, it’s not good enough that we’ve just been booked. There needs to be more representation.” I just think it helped the genre evolve, grow.
Several things happened, like BLM and just other people, talking to and hear other people’s stories that we just thought, “We have to do more. It can’t be stopped. It’s just not good enough for one person to get through or tokenism here or there. It’s not good enough.” There could be more than one person of color on the bill. There could be POC people in rock music and alt music. We fucking pioneered the genre, so where the fuck–? What happened?
Amy: We’re trying to bring it back.
Georgia: I feel like, in the UK, they’re a lot slower to realize that rock music is of Black origin. I feel like the education here on that isn’t as strong as necessarily America. What people do know is Jimi Hendrix and Sister Rosetta Thorpe. I feel like the MOBOs being on board with that is important for the UK in general, because it just gets people to just accept that fact that rock is yours too. It is of Black origin.
Afropunk: Speaking of the MOBO Awards, how did that even come about, and how has that gone? I know you wrote a letter. They responded saying, “Hey, we see you,” Has MOBO reached out? Have they made any changes?
Amy: Yes. Well, I think, again, that just come about by someone making a joke saying, ” you should be nominated for the MOBO Awards.” We laughed, like, “Ridiculous.” Then we actually thought about it. It was like, “Why not? It is music of Black origin, and it should be represented on there.” We just basically reached out to them to see if they wanted to join forces, to see if they’ll give rock a platform on, basically, mainstream TVs to help that White audience to be educated in the genre. We’re still having discussions with them. They have heard us. They see us.
Afropunk: You did a Punk compilation called Voices For The Unheard. Tell me about that.
Georgia: There was mainly out of the BLM movement. We just thought so many POC bands were being discovered when that was happening. We were finding so many as well. We were doing our own research, discovering all these amazing bands from overseas and all over the world. We just thought, “Let’s just do a playlist so it’s all in one place. We can show our community online.”
Everyone just got really on board with it and loved it, and loved the bands. Then it escalated. We thought, “Let’s talk to them and do it on Instagram and actually hear their stories of their experiences from other countries like the US or Europe.” We just thought it’s just really cool to hear from different perspectives, but as a whole, it was all quite similar even though it was all from across the globe.
Afropunk: Amy, I’m going to direct this at you. I know the story of how you got into singing, the Disney princess and everything. How did you gravitate to the guitar?
Amy: I was that young girl saying I want to be a singer because all I could see in terms of representation where people ended up singing R&B or perhaps they’re pop or maybe on B world. That’s obviously my first introduction to what I could maybe do.
I think I’ve always gravitated towards, I guess, rockier sounds. We’d have session musicians playing with me before we were a band and stuff like that. You can’t always rely on other people because people are busy. They’ve got their own things to do. Unfortunately, if they can’t make a gig, you’re just left, basically.
I think Georgia’s dad, because he’s been musical due to his parents being musical and he’s always been really supportive, encouraging, just pushing us to do music that we want to make and not try to conform or worry about other people’s opinions and stuff like that. He was like, “I think it’s about time that you just learn.”
I already had this shit acoustic guitar that I bought for like £30 or something from a cash converter. It was really bad because the action was so high. It put me off playing. I never really got into it, but he was like, “It’s time. You might as well back onto it again.” I eventually had an electric guitar and was playing and playing and playing until it made sense. I just did it.
By the time I got good enough, I then started and Georgia had started a band and was like, “Well, come on. Let’s gig. Let’s just do it.” And that was it. I love it so much. It makes me feel powerful really. It’s great.
Afropunk: Georgia, I know your family has a musical background. I know your brother played bass, and you started with piano? I guess the same question for you, not many women playing bass. What drew you to be like, “You know what? I want to play bass.”?
Georgia: I think having an older brother that played bass, definitely. Like, you always think, “Oh, my brother’s so cool. I want to do what they’re doing.”
I was on piano for ages and I was 12 in these summer schools. I was always on keys and they needed me to get on keys because nobody else was on that. One day, I was like, “I want to play bass just to try it out.” I wasn’t very good. I had a lot of fun.
The next week, they’re like, “Okay, you’re back on keys because no one’s there doing it.” I was like, “I want to play bass again this week.” Honestly, I don’t think I ever played piano again after school. I played bass. My first bass was a Fender Bronco, which is like a short scale.
Amy: I remember that you drew on it.
Georgia: I drew all over it and stuck these baby stickers on it. [laughs] Then I just never went back, but I just loved it. I don’t know why. It just felt like me. Just the bass, yes.
Afropunk: I heard that in an interview, you said the instrument chooses you, you don’t choose the instrument.
Georgia: I believe that. I do.
Afropunk: Amy, how do you approach guitar?
Amy: In terms of our band, it’s a different dynamic. Usually, people assume the guitar is the loudest upfront instrument, but we’ve flipped it on its head. It’s actually the bass. The guitar’s role, really, is to just sonically add, I guess mostly the high frequencies and stuff to meld in with the bass. At the same time, it weaves in and out. Its relationship is to find the space, but not wank over the song.
That’s what happened. Wank it, it’s great. Obviously, this particular type of music is great, like, no, you want the guitar to begin up front, and it has its moments in certain places, but it’s definitely, sonically, it can just dance with the bass and let that do its thing and leave space for the vocals as well. Yes, that’s how.
Georgia: I’m in a great place. I think approaching it when I got into bass, I didn’t necessarily learn covers or anything. I just found my own way with it, just like just write it riffs and songs. Gradually, you just get your fingers to move faster and the bass gets more difficult, but it’s that way.
I just loved Timberland’s production. Skrillex to N.E.R.D. Coming from like that end of things and putting that vision but on to electric bass. I just thought it’d be cool to have that produced sound but live and just on pedals. I don’t know why I came to that, but I just thought it could be cool to do, and then it just escalated. Our board was getting bigger and bigger.
We broke our back trying to carry it time. I just felt that heavy, fuzzy but electronic sounds. It sounds like a synth. I love synth and electronic music but also love bass so it’s the marriage of the two.
Afropunk: I have fiddled with this question because I typically ask it of everyone. But then I’ve heard that you tend to be particularly secretive about what your rig looks like. But I’ll ask, what does your typical rig look like? You don’t have to go into super specifics, but I would like to know what kind of stuff that you do- or what are the things that you can’t live without when you’re performing?
Georgia: The pedalboard now looks like a village, and literally it’s like, somehow I own them. It does, they look like little buildings. You know the wires, they look like the roads, so we call it a mini village.
Afropunk: What are you playing right now? What are you playing now, bass guitar-wise? What do you guys play now?
Georgia: I’m still playing my Westone I also play the American Professional II P bass live. I’ve been writing a lot in that one just because it’s still passive based on the clarity, especially playing sounds like Taxi live. The riff is super low and it sounds very stereo how they record it in the studio. That bass is just like, it really cuts in through live, which I love.
Amy: I’m on a Mustang Player Series, which I play live. We’ve also been working with Fender on their new Player Plus guitars, which are really awesome. They’re not out yet, but we’ll show you.
Amy: Basically, they’ve got this really awesome blue ombre finish.
Afropunk: Nice. Nice.
Georgia: It’s really nice and unique. We love color. Obviously, it’s like a strat, which is cool. It just sounds really great with our sound is pretty versatile. It’s brilliant. and we haven’t played them on tour yet because we’re not allowed to, but we have done like sessions with them. They sounded really amazing.
Afropunk: I know Georgia started with the Fender Bronco, but how did you all get tied to Fender?
Amy: I think it basically started off we were basically in a position where, looking at top brands, I think BLM made us question a lot of things and what we do, how we live in our day to day experience brands that we are representing. I just felt like my previous guitar didn’t really– I remember just looking at brands thinking it was great to see brands like Fender that just putting out there that “We do not stand for racism. We don’t want that on our pages.”
Plain, simple, just let your audience know what you stand for. That’s the clientele you’re going to attract. It just felt like in terms of, if I run off playing, it didn’t say anything and it had pressure to say and it didn’t want to say it. It was skirting around the edges, but a Black box said nothing else. I was just a bit like, “We don’t want to be representing Black brands that don’t stand for us. You don’t stand for us. Why the fuck are we standing for you?” Do you know what I mean?
I think it was actually Frank Carter who is like, “Fenders are really good,” and blah, blah, blah. We know it. We can see on their page, the diversity. Its great representation of women, and different backgrounds. It doesn’t matter who you are or what music you play, it’s on Fender.
We were just like, “You know what? Yes.” We got to speak to them. They really understood where we’re coming from. They have just been supporting us ever since. It makes sense. We’ve discovered some great artists on there, Melanie Faye being one. She’s just so great. Most different artists pop up. Don’t they? It’s good they’re supporting new artists as well. Trying to revive rock, not like just guitar music, or just going towards the big headliners that people usually do.
Afropunk: What advice would you give for young women, young artists coming up about really working in the industry now or trying to get out there now?
Amy: Personally, I think I would say be relentless. Do not stop. Do not get disheartened. Many people tell you many different things about yourself, but you know you the best. As long as you’re saying true to that, and you keep doing that, no one can shatter that. Do you know what I mean? You need to just keep consistent, get rid of self-doubt. Even if you do doubt yourself, you have to like, not fake it, but just reassure yourself and trust in your own vision and keep moving forward.
Sometimes some bands, it takes like one day or two days, you’re bad for a year and you suddenly blow up. For a lot of bands, it’s craft and it can take years. I think a lot of people expect it to happen straight away, but it doesn’t. It’s a constant journey. You have to really enjoy their moments for sure. Just keep going with it.
Georgia: Yes, definitely. I’d say just be the best version of yourself and don’t look to trends. Trends come and go. If you just stay true to yourself-
Amy: It’ll catch up.
Georgia: -it’ll catch. I’m going to quote Beyonce. This was a great quote, but she was like, “Don’t dumb down for the world. The world will catch up to you,” or something like that. That was just so true because so many people just try and not really be themselves because of what’s trendy right now. Then the next trend comes. If that doesn’t feel like they’re either, they’ve lost themselves on the way.
Eventually, the world will catch on to what you are doing. When you do it well and it’s just what you love, then you can never get bored of it or feel awkward. Just believe in yourself.
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