Come to the K! magazine launch party with Nova Twins and Sophie K
Wanna come and party in London with Nova Twins and Sophie K on Wednesday, December 7?
Amy Love and Georgia South are busy hitting the phones. The duo appear to be working for some kind of helpline inundated with calls from both women and men who’ve had enough of their wayward boyfriends and are looking for a solution that’s a little on the drastic side.
So off our two troubleshooters go, taking to the streets in their Novamobile to assist in the disposal of some particularly egregious examples of manhood, with preferred methods of execution including smothering by pillow and electrocution by hair dryer in bath.
This is not, of course, an elicit enterprise Nova Twins secretly have on the go, a sideline they work on when they’re not busy being one of the most exciting and engaging British rock acts of recent years. Instead, it’s the video for K.M.B. – short for Kill My Boyfriend – one of the highlights of the band’s upcoming second album, Supernova. And those visuals are very much in keeping with the words, too – the song’s irrepressible chorus features the lyrics: ‘Get my fucking crowbar / Take you to the graveyard / Bitch you think you’re so hard / I say when it’s over.’
“You think of the Disney princess who’s expected to have this happy ever after, but we wanted to switch it on its head, where the girl just kills her boyfriend at the end and celebrates,” is lead singer and guitarist Amy’s pitch-black elevator pitch. “We don’t want to kill our boyfriends in real life. Or do we…?”
“It’s meant to be fun and playful,” says bassist Georgia of a video in which the duo has cast themselves as punk versions of Cher and Dionne from 1995’s coming-of-age movie classic Clueless, while also taking inspiration from Megan Fox’s character in 2009’s comedy horror Jennifer’s Body (“Minus the vampires and cannibalism,” Georgia clarifies). But like every track on Supernova, there’s a serious heart beating beneath its eccentric exterior. “It’s all very real,” says Amy of her band’s MO. “But it’s overly imagined.”
For further evidence of the exaggeration at play in Nova Twins’ art, take a look at the cover of Supernova. It portrays Amy and Georgia standing their ground upon the surface of a faraway planet, looking quite literally out of this world, their silver battle dress an obvious upgrade from the more playful attire on the cover of their debut, 2020’s Who Are The Girls?. Aesthetically and musically, Supernova is an obvious step up from what’s come before, then – bigger, bolder, stranger – encompassing that comic book trope in which our protagonists harness their powers to show what they’re truly capable of.
There are other superhero parallels to be found in the Nova Twins story, of course. The song Cleopatra, for example, features the lyrics 'When I was a kid they always called me a freak / And now them little bitches want to look like me,' which speaks of the pain of youthful outsider status, a notion familiar to fans of Spider-Man and Peter Parker’s zero-to-hero transformation. Admittedly, as outsider status goes, the challenges facing a brainiac white student with a radioactive spider bite pale in comparison to two young women of colour making their way in the world of rock.
“We didn’t realise the reality of being two black women making punk rock music,” reveals Amy, reflecting upon an origin story that began in 2014. “We thought that it was fine, but we had a lot of kickback from people not understanding what we were trying to do, or the music we were trying to make, or why we looked the way we do. We had moments of feeling disheartened, like there was something wrong with us and we were crazy, but then we had to become our own superheroes. We had a dream world that became a real one. So our clothes were our armour.”
Even at this moment, offstage and away from photographers’ lenses, Amy and Georgia are proudly wearing their armour. In Amy’s case it’s an official Nova Twins hoodie, with the band’s name inside a heart framed by barbed wire, embodying the brand with the kind of brazenness you usually associate with members of Iron Maiden. Georgia, meanwhile, is dressed in the vibrant get-up we’ve come to expect, replete with bold stitching and tartan flourishes. The band tried playing shows in more ‘normal’ clothing early on in their career, but the disparity between the look and the outlandish music they made didn’t gel. Georgia’s mum suggested the duo think about customising clothes to create a look entirely their own, so that’s what they did – embellishing gradually with a safety pin here, and an unusual strip of fabric there – working towards the ultimate aim of being more Nova.
“Being more Nova is the idea that more is more,” says Georgia, who reveals she and Amy have a fashion label they’d like to launch properly called Bad Stitches, a play on the name Bad Bitches, the first song they wrote together in Georgia’s family home in Lewisham, south east London, an area synonymous with cultural diversity. It was spending time there with Georgia, her mum and nan, that Amy, who grew up in Essex, explored a particular side of herself.
"I grew up in a predominately white area in Essex and experienced a great deal of racism," says Amy. "My dad is Nigerian and my mum is Iranian; I was brought up by her side of the family and we celebrated and were immersed in that culture. It was coming to London and meeting Georgia's family where I really got to experience black culture as I was so isolated from it in Essex."
Nova Twins’ status as a duo brings a fascinating dimension to proceedings too, celebrating the idea that however potent our individual abilities are, together, in unison, we’re capable of greater things. In short, they’re the embodiment of friendship and sisterhood as a superpower. “We’ve been friends for more than a decade, and are like sisters, bonded by our journey and our musicality,” says Amy. “You can’t fake the history we have. It’s a solid foundation that no-one can touch that goes into the music and into the future.”
When Antagonist was first released, Georgia described the single as “the sound of both of our energies coming together”. That’s a statement of fact, of course, given that Georgia and Amy worked on early versions of the song while separated by lockdown restrictions, before eventually convening at Marshall Studios in Milton Keynes to flesh it out. But it’s also the case that Nova Twins are two unique individuals whose combined efforts produce something equally. But what does each bring to the party? What are their separate energies?
To an outsider, the differences between the two seem obvious. Georgia almost always speaks first, which is unusual given that she appears the more cautious, her answers peppered with nervous laughter. Amy, on the other hand, seems to relish the spotlight to a greater degree, whether that’s treating a tricky subject to an irreverent spin, or commanding the attention of 20,000 people at London’s The O2, supporting Bring Me The Horizon, as Nova Twins did last September.
As it turns out, K!’s impressions aren’t entirely wide of the mark; according to the women themselves, if they were to sum up their unofficial roles in the band, then Amy is the witch and Georgia is the scientist. “If she’s got a good feeling that something is going to happen, literally an hour later we’ll get big news,” Georgia says of Amy’s near-supernatural gift for premonition, particularly when it comes to sensing good fortune for the band. “And she’s got very good gut instincts about things, especially around the crazier ideas.” Creatively speaking, those ‘crazier ideas’ tend to begin with Georgia, whose gift for sonic manipulation frequently leaves her bandmate unsure quite what to expect next. “Her ideas may initially seem mental and wacky,” says Amy, “but they’re presented in a way that means they make total sense.”
Supernova’s intro track, Power, is an interesting case in point. More than a mere entry to the record, it’s something of a baptism of fire, a pledge to do better and be stronger that concludes with the words: ‘Welcome to the end / And your new beginning.’ Now, whatever sounds you might expect to hear accompanying this emphatic drawing of a line under what’s come before, it’s safe to say your ideas won’t come anywhere near the resulting music.
In the space of 54 seconds, Power manages to encompass metallic punch and melting psychedelia; a juggling act of seriously disparate dynamics, it takes a moment to acclimatise to, but once you do you become aware of listening to something that’s genuinely and pleasingly different. “When [Georgia] sent the music over I…” words suddenly desert Amy and she’s overcome by thunderous laughter, as if hysteria is the only way to truly convey how it first hit her. “I knew this was it,” she continues. “Some other people might hear it and say, ‘What the fuck is going on here?’ but I got it and love it.”
Doing the obvious isn’t something that comes naturally to Georgia and Amy, with the idea of pandering to trends offending their sensibility. “Sometimes I do something because I’m trying to make it sound more digestible, but it ends up sounding really boring,” admits Georgia. “We don't want to follow trends, so we try to push it in a new direction, because that’s what makes it interesting for us.” Instead, they choose to flit between styles with total abandon, just as Amy does with her lyrical personas, transforming from an ancient warrior galvanised by the Black Lives Matter protests (Cleopatra), to a loveable villain (Fire & Ice), to a boyfriend killer?!
Georgia looks incredulous at the suggestion K.M.B. serves to strike fear in the hearts of men, because, let’s be honest, that dynamic generally works the other way, doesn’t it? The abduction and murder of Sarah Everard by a Metropolitan Police officer made her the 16th woman to be killed by a serving or former police officer since 2009. Furthermore, in the 28 weeks since Sarah’s murder, 81 other women were killed in circumstances in which the suspect was a man. “In this climate, women are genuinely terrified to walk the streets,” reasons Georgia of the imperative need for empowerment, admitting she herself won’t go out alone past 9pm.
“We’re setting the boundaries of what is and isn’t okay,” adds Amy. “It’s us saying, ‘Don’t fuck with us.’ We want people to join in and have fun, and it’s good to have dark humour within our songs, but we’re painting it as a horror movie rather than some happy-ever-after fantasy.”
Fantasy, specifically in relation to female sexuality, is at the heart of Puzzles, a track highlighting the double standard of judging women who are overt with their lust, providing a heavy rock version of the kind of ‘get down’ track more readily associated with R&B in the process. “It’s to flip things on their head, so that women are in control,” explains Amy. “You always hear about sex from a straight male perspective and it’s quite explicit, but we wanted something that young girls can sing and feel good about their sexuality. Brits are generally coy and shy about sex. All the best sexy rock tracks we know, like stuff by N.E.R.D., for example, are American. Now it’s our turn!”
It’s also their turn, they realise, to carry the baton for those who’ve come before and dedicated their lives to enacting real change – for women, for people of colour, for women of colour. Because while the duo undoubtedly march to the beat of their own drum, they do so accompanied by ‘the sound of the dead choir’s roar’, as Antagonist puts it. “In my head, I was seeing the people who have been and have passed on,” says Amy. “But they’re still chanting, our ancestors, the people who have fought for civil rights and fought for women’s rights, which has passed on to us, so we keep fighting for what we think is right.”
Real change is, thankfully, taking place when it comes to representation in rock. The day before this interview, Ho99o9, a POC duo taking their art in less accessible, more incendiary directions, are revealed as the stars of K!’s Cover Story. Meet Me @ The Altar, who graced the cover last summer, are changing the traditionally white, male face of pop-punk. Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic the likes of Big Joanie, The Tuts, SPEW, Handle and Best Praxis provide us with not just reassurance of a more diverse and inclusive scene, but viable role models for a new generation of aspiring stars.
“When we see kids like that, we literally look at each other and say, ‘We need to go mental today,’” grins Georgia of the prospect of playing in front of young individuals of colour, who may be seeing people who look like them performing in a rock context for the first time. “It might be the one chance they get to see themselves in a punky setting.”
Nova Twins have led by example on this front too, having curated a bill for their UK and Ireland headline tour (starting this week) featuring DJ/On Wednesdays We Wear Black podcast co-host Alyx Holcombe, Irish/Ivorian rapper Celavied Mai, singer-songwriter Connie Constance, and rapper Kid Bookie. Many of these artists featured on Nova Twins’ Voices Of The Unheard, a project started as a platform for underrepresented artists, initially as a vinyl release, and later as a continually updated Spotify playlist.
Ask the headliners what they think of representation in 2022, however, and they cast their minds back to standing backstage at rock festivals pre-pandemic, while suggesting the need for change to be reflected in all areas of the site. After all, people of colour don’t just want to be in bands; they want to manage them, broadcast about them, book them, write about them, take their photos – the list goes on. “It’s about seeing a real mixed bag of people,” suggests Georgia. “So many times we’d literally be the only people of colour [at a festival], unless there was a security guard too. You want to be able to see yourself everywhere, including in the audience.”
“We’ve been doing the rap rock-infused melting pot for a while,” says Amy of the real way to tell if the dial is moving in the right direction. “And now we can see it’s become ‘trendy’. So when that trend starts to move away, I want to see what’s left. Can these artists still exist in this space? Can they still have a career? Can they still move forward? Arctic Monkeys can be on the indie scene and carry on being Arctic Monkeys and it’s fine, but with all these amazing [POC] artists coming through, I want it to be more than just a trend. I think there’s enough of us now to make it happen, but that’s the real test.”
And the real test for Supernova? “I hope it gets into the right hands,” suggests Amy. “The album will only go so far, we’re not the biggest band in the world, but I hope it reaches the young alt. kids who don’t fit in, just like us. Even if they don’t like it, I just hope they get to hear it.”
Supernova is released on June 17 via Marshall Records.
Wanna come and party in London with Nova Twins and Sophie K on Wednesday, December 7?
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