In conversation with Nova Twins and Witch Fever: “It doesn’t have to be tokenistic, there’s good acts out there if you just open your eyes!”

For International Women’s Day, Nova Twins and Witch Fever sit down amidst a monumental tour to talk about stereotyping, sexual empowerment, and the turning tide of positive change.

In conversation with Nova Twins and Witch Fever: “It doesn’t have to be tokenistic, there’s good acts out there if you just open your eyes!”
Rachel Roberts
Nova Twins photos:
Federica Burelli
Witch Fever photos:
Bob Foster

These are pretty memorable times for Nova Twins and Witch Fever. The two bands not long ago each released killer albums (Supernova and Congregation, respectively), and last May saw Witch Fever opening for My Chemical Romance, marking their first-ever stadium performance, whilst Nova Twins have been infiltrating mainstream award ceremonies.

Both have worked their way up through a journey of struggle and authentic graft, to the point where they now stand as two solid pillars in the rock industry, not to mention uplifting fans who had previously felt overlooked.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, Kerrang! joined Amy Love and Georgia South of Nova Twins, with Amy Walpole and Alex Thompson of Witch Fever, in conversation. On the road with up-and-coming band Uninvited, for a near-sold out tour, they clustered together backstage ahead of their show in Newcastle to discuss the battles and triumphs they’ve faced as women in music…

On touring together

Amy L: “The [diverse] audience has always been there, but they haven’t been given the opportunity to see bands like us play so it’s so cool to see how the scene is evolving and growing, and that we can all be on this line-up together. Five years ago this would have been more of a struggle.”
Georgia: “It’s felt so powerful every night.”
Alex: “This is the first tour we’ve done that has more than one other woman on it, I think, and it’s just a lot nicer – this is what it’s like for most male bands all the time.”
Amy W: “Everyone’s on the same level, if you join a tour and everyone’s a dude it’s kind of like...”
Alex: “You feel like there’s something to prove.”
Amy W: “Yeah, it’s like you have to find where they’re at and how they communicate, whereas with us it’s kind of already there.”
Georgia: “We can talk about our experiences freely as well and we just relate to the same things.”

Moments of hope for positive change

Amy W: “Last night, I was on the merch stand and someone said that listening to our album was the reason they came out as non-binary!”
Amy L: “You’re affecting change via the music, one hundred per cent. 2000trees has been quite a progressive festival, we did that a few years back when they were trying to do a 50/50 line-up. We remember thinking, ‘Fuck, this is a good festival, why aren’t they all like this?’ It’s really good to see others getting on board now.
“We’ve still got a way to go with headliners, ’cause if you’re in a band and you’re all men you can just shoot; once you break, you break in a big way. For women, we still get put on the side stages. We should be able to become headliners that quickly too, we’re just as good – if not better (laughs). Because it’s more inventive, it’s fresh! It doesn’t have to be a tokenistic situation, there’s good acts out there if you just open your eyes!”
Alex: “You can always tell when it’s a tokenism thing; we’ve done some gigs where they've bundled women together that are not even [similar in sound]. We’ve been put on the wildest bills before.”

The fight to be taken seriously and “trauma porn”

Alex: “I think I definitely felt pigeonholed early doors. It’s only been the last few years we’ve been taken seriously as a normal band, like the politics always comes before the music to people.”
Georgia: “It’s so important to talk about [sexism in music], but they never ask male bands about it. Those are the ones that actually fully spark the most change when talking about it.”
Amy W: “We do wanna talk about shit things that happen to us but some people just want trauma porn.”
Amy L: “When we used to talk about being women of colour in rock, people would brand us as angry. It’s almost like we couldn’t talk about it and when we did it would get written out of the interview or cut out of radio shit, and this was only before lockdown, before the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It’s interesting now to see how we are able to have these conversations openly. There’s still a way to go but it’s amazing to see new artists coming through and for people to be respectful of the music and not the politics only.
“We talk about things that are important to us, but to be branded with that when our male counterparts are able to do what they want – they can be political and cool, they can be mean and it’s attractive, they can be ageless – it’s all bullshit. It’s good that we’re starting to unlearn these things.”

Sexuality and aggression in rock

Amy L: “We’d do a performance and people would be like, ‘You’re scary.’ No-one says that to men in bands.”
Amy W: “I read this book called Dangerous Women and it explored how as a white woman I’m totally fine in trying to be the scariest that I can because it’s not a stereotype that’s associated with me, but women of colour have to deal with that offstage and all the time. If I hadn’t read that book, I’d never consider it a privilege for me to go onstage and be as big and scary as I can be.”
Alex: “[Sexual empowerment is] something men really enjoy seeing but then if you point out it’s your power and not for them, they get aggressive. It’s like men can only understand sexual energy when it’s for them to digest. Sometimes if I feel sexy when I’m playing I worry people think I’m trying to do it to look hot for men.”
Amy L: “And it’s a shame you even have to think that.”
Amy W: “I kind of started off opposite to that. I wanted to be the most disgusting, I wanted to be repulsive. I wanted to go against the parts of femininity that I actually love! I’m now accepting of the fact I do actually want to be feminine, and that’s okay.”
Amy L: “We’ve definitely gone through that journey. We've gone through [old photos of us] when we’d wear shorts and T-shirts and we’d turn up and be like, ‘Okay, we need to tough up.’ We felt like we had to!”
Alex: “You shouldn’t have to perform like a man to be accepted.”
Amy L: “We shouldn’t have to, but that’s how we used to go out like fuckin’ D12. We only started wearing skirts the last few years, we never used to.”
Georgia: “It doesn’t take away your ability to play, I feel like that’s what people [think].”
Alex: “You’re either hot or good at playing.”
Georgia: “That is it, isn’t it? You can’t be both!”

On being labelled industry plants

Alex: “It’s ridiculous, after all the shit, horrible venues we’ve played to like two people! We used to get the Megabus everywhere, we’ve definitely put the graft in, and it’s like people see the polished looking women and they’re like, ‘That can’t be their own craft.’”
Amy L: “Sometimes people on TikTok say it, and our audience are like, ‘You obviously don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.’ I don’t regret our journey and it taught us a lot. The struggle was part of our story but if that’s not part of someone else’s journey then so be it.”
Alex: “We’ve been called sellouts as well before. I feel like now people think you’re a traitor, especially with the DIY punk scene, but it reaches a point where if you wanna do it professionally you need to…”
Georgia: “You need a label to support you.”
Alex: “Exactly, yeah.”
Amy W: “I think in the DIY punk scene people feel betrayed when one of their favourite bands signs to a label or a label that isn’t DIY, but for example, our label pays tour support. We couldn’t have done any tours without that.”

The joys and triumphs so far

Alex: “I love that I get to share my experiences with other women and non-binary people. I think I’d be a completely different person if I wasn’t in the band, or if I was in a band with men. I’m very grateful I got to share that experience with other people who understand. The My Chem show was my favourite!”
Amy W: “Even though we were just opening for them I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d play a stadium – not only this early in our career, but at all.”
Georgia: “I’m proud of the way we’re bringing representation into the music field, ’cause we get so many people coming up to us feeling seen and feeling they belong in the scene.”
Amy L: “We’ve had a really fun year with the Mercury Prize and the BRITs, for us it’s mad to see the alt. scene coming into those kinds of spaces. It’s cool bringing rock and alt. music to the Black community, like the MOBO Awards, [and] it’s really cool to see rock music evolving.”

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