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gal-dem in conversation with Nova Twins

18 Oct 2016

South Londoners Amy and Georgia form punk band Nova Twins. They released their EP Mutant back in August and performed at AFROPUNK’s London debut. 

They stopped by before taking to the stage at the festival and told us about their inspiration and introductions to punk music and their experiences as women of colour in the music industry.

gal-dem: How do you feel ahead of your set at AFROPUNK?

Amy: Nervous! I think when the nerves go it’s not a good sign, because they say it means you don’t care anymore. I wish I didn’t care that much.

Georgia: But we care too much.

Amy: Let’s go for it! We’re really excited about the set. We can’t believe we’re here today.

Georgia: AFROPUNK is definitely the coolest festival we’ve been too. We had a look around and everyone looks cool and amazing. I hope they come back to London.

Amy: AFROPUNK picked us up when we had just started last year, and found out our video and put it on their website and they’ve been following us ever since. People wanted to put us in boxes but AFROPUNK was just like, “This is Nova Twins and that is all.”

We saw the festival in Paris and Brooklyn and we wanted to be part of it. This year the festival came to London and we got invited. It’s so nice to have something to reflect us. And everyone else can look across the room and think “I’m not the only one.” People don’t see that in the mainstream, you see a conventional look and you’re stuck in a stereotype and it’s not true at all. Being here today and people being able to see this, to see us, people are going to think, “We’ve been living with closed eyes before.” It’s about opening up to diversity and uniqueness.

gal-dem: When did you form the band?

Amy: We’ve always been good friends. I’ve known Georgia since she was 11 and basically I am a part of her family. One day we wrote a song and we kept it up and been a band ever since.

gal-dem:  What’s your inspiration when making the songs?

Amy: A lot of things inspire us – artists that we love, day-to-day life, and artists we love like…

Georgia: Missy Elliott

Amy: Melody Gardot, Jack Black!

gal-dem: How would you classify your style of music ?

Amy: Punk is a movement for the alternative and the diverse. It’s an attitude, pretty abrasive and we can also relate to the DIY approach. We’re a 21st century band. We didn’t grow up listening to punk. Georgia’s dad taught us how to play and got us into the punk culture and showed us bands to listen to.

Georgia: But we also love Missy Elliott. So I guess we want to label our music as something that feels good. We don’t really want to put people in boxes. But the conventional way of thinking is: “You shouldn’t be here, you should be doing R’n’b” But people here (at AFROPUNK London) are diverse and unique. And that’s what we want to portray in our music, we just want people to be themselves.

Amy: Our first video, we filmed at the studio. We just wanted to go out and shoot something fun in 10mm. We didn’t know that was going to be the video but we had some nice reactions.

Georgia: We’re obviously not some pop act having to conform to whatever is trendy at the moment. I think the grime scene they pick up on that, they all do DIY. We have a team that we put up together and we are on tour now and we’re just vibing around with our crew. We do it ourselves, and are not waiting for other people to do it for us.

galdem: How does the songwriting process go?

Georgia:  Generally it starts with the baseline and then Amy thinks about the lyrics on top of it. And then we’ll go back and forth and play guitar. Amy is the lyricist and I write the music.

Amy: We like to talk about life, stuff we’ve been through and personal themes. And people can relate to it. We don’t want to be too upfront about what it is about, but leave room for interpretation.

gal-dem: What are the challenges and advantages of being black women in a punk band?

Georgia: We turn up and people have these expectations. “Are you going to sing some R’n’B? Are you a rapper?”

Amy: Why are you saying that? Is it because of the colour of our skin? If we were invisible, you would listen to our music and take it from what it is! People wanted to pigeonhole us and we said no. It was hard to kick out at first because we didn’t belong anywhere – we still don’t belong anywhere. We try to carve our own path. A lot of artists do that. And we’d rather do that than being a cookie cutter.

The good thing there is a movement, we see a change, we see loads of women coming to the front and it’s an exciting time to be a part of it. We’re exciting to be part of that movement and hopefully we can push things forward.

When we do gigs at the moment, we’re lucky the guys around are really perceptive and not completely disrespectful. We had some encounters but it’s mostly people outside the industry who don’t know much about it who make the most ignorant comments. When you’re doing the gig circuit with other musicians it’s fine. When you’re in the business side of the industry it is more male dominated and when we meet some industry people for instance, they will automatically turn to Georgia’s dad first.

Georgia: It’s really weird. It happened the other day. We were playing a gig and some financiers attend. At the end we go to greet them and they turned to my dad to speak to him. We were like: “We actually just played the show”.

gal-dem: What are your future plans for Nova Twins?

Amy: We’ve started touring in the UK. We’re going to release a new EP soon but at the moment, we also want to concentrate on the first one and add more visuals, a few music videos.

Georgia: A lot of people who are at AFROPUNK don’t know us yet, but we hope to find a new audience. We’d be lying if we say we don’t want people enjoy our music!

We hope to connect to likewise people and pushing things forward into a new space, a better time. Hopefully, our music transcends that. That’s what we want to achieve.

Amy: We always take things as they come!