No amount of shitty, crowd-shot iPhone footage could ever do Nova Twins’ live show justice. The genre-bending Brits made their Australian debut last week, playing a one-off headliner in Sydney before they tore Stage 5 to shreds at the Good Things festival. Second to none, they were the best band I saw at the Melbourne edition; they made Bring Me The Horizon and Deftones look like amateur pub bands, and even fighting a storm of technical mishaps, their musical prowess shone not a beam out of place.
Particularly mind-melting was the technicolour wizardry that Georgia South inflicted on her bass guitar – a super rare Westone Thunder 1, as she told me when we chatted recently for Australian Guitar – shredding and slapping wobbles in the vein of Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites-era Skrillex using only analogue effects. Her secret weapon, I found out after diving down no less than four internet rabbitholes, is a Hot Hand MIDI ring. By way of motion sensors, it allows South to modulate bass frequencies when she moves her hand in patterns close to her guitar’s pickups… I think. Admittedly I have no fucking idea how it works – I just know it sounds cool as hell.
It’s impressive, too, because almost any other band would simply lean on tracks, or at least use Kempers to emulate their digital elements. But Nova Twins spent years not just honing their sound – an idiosyncratic hybrid of punk, dubstep and hip-hop – but finding ways to authentically replicate it live. It’s this ethos that sets the duo, rounded out by vocalist and guitarist Amy Love, apart from their peers: there may well be other acts that sound similar to Nova Twins, but none are as fiercely devoted to embracing their inner chaos.
So too is this true in the ways they operate outside the music itself. They encourage individualism, even at shows where crowds are united by their affinity for one band, genre or “scene”. When they play ‘Parcels’, an ode to both melodic hardcore and ‘90s R&B, they call for pits where moshers and twerkers go ham in harmony. Even at a festival like Good Things, where Nova Twins were one of 32 acts performing – with a daytime slot on a side-stage, at that – they brought together a crowd entirely unique to their set: easily the most diverse, and very easily the most aesthetically ambitious.
Nova Twins are the risk-taking champions of inclusivity that punk needs in 2022. So, after experiencing a full-blown religious awakening during their set, I sat down with South and Love to learn more about their modus operandi. Have a listen to – or read – our chat below.
So this is your first time in Australia – how have we all been treating you so far?
Amy Love: Very nice. Everyone’s really cheery, got good spirit, good energy…
Georgia South: Super nice. The crowds are awesome – we just played our first festival here, so it was… Yeah, amazing.
Yeah, I just saw your set, on stage five… I don’t know why I’m hyping it up, it’s happened – but I’m still processing what I saw, and all I know is that it was, like, the best fucking thing I’ve seen – hand on my heart – in literally years. What was it like from your perspective?
Love: Well, there was a lot happening in our ears, so…
South: We had a few technical issues, but it was honestly so amazing, seeing women at the front and, like, everyone looked so colourful and amazing. And the fashion was insane, and the vibes were ten-out-of-ten.
Yeah, I feel like in-between every song I would just glance around the pit and be like, “Fuck, there are some fits in here!” First of all, with the set: Georgia, whatever fucking witchcraft you’re pulling with that bass… I have to know, how were you getting that analogue wobble when you were moving your hand over the pickups?
South: So I’ve got a magic little ring – that’s my, like, little special toy that I like to play with.
Love: That sounded really, like…
South: [Faux-sensually] “I love my toys…”
So my theory is, like… It’s magnets, right?
South: Could be! Y’know, it’s a secret…
Okay! How long did it take you to develop the sound that you have?
South: I think it’s been growing for a few years. We’ve been a band for a while now, so our pedalboards grew over time, and over the lockdown we had so much fun experimenting with new sounds. And we really had the time over Supernova to get into [those] kind of sonics as well.
Love: Yeah, it just grew. We sound more like we did at the beginning, and then we went down quite like a punk route, and then we came back again, full-circle. So it’s been quite fun.
I know, Georgia, you play with a Westone Thunder 1 – is that integral to your sound?
South: Oh, yeah, it’s so integral. It’s amazing. I love them. And they actually don’t make them anymore, so it’s a nightmare trying to find them on eBay and places like that – I also love playing Fender Precisions too, but I love my Westone.
And [Amy], you play… Is it a Mustang?
Love: Mustang, yeah, P-90 pickups.
Huge, huge sound – shoutout to the P-90.
Love: Shoutout to the P-90!
As far as the set itself goes, one thing I have to address is the absolute fucking calamity that is a combined mosh pit of moshers and twerkers. How does one come up with such a revolutionary concept?
Love: I think because when we wrote the song [‘Puzzles’], we were such big lovers of, like, ’90s R&B [and] ’00s R&B – like Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliot, you know, Snoop, Pharrell, all of that – but at the same time, we loved heavy music; we grew up on the punk scene, you know, we’re in a rock band for fuck’s sake. But we wanted a song that married the two loves and the two worlds, and all the different types of people who enjoy them type of things…
We do have a lot of non-male people at our shows who want to twerk as well, who don’t always want to mosh. So it’s like, “Well if you do want to twerk, this is your moment too – you can exist here and do that – but if you want to mosh, join in and, like, become a family.
‘Puzzles’ – it’s like the anthem for the entire Nova Twins fanbase, right?
Let’s talk about the record as a whole, because later this month, we’ll be exactly half a year out from the release of Supernova. I know when you’re gearing up to release a record, it can be super stressful, and just like a fucking rollercoaster. But you’ve kind of caught up on the buzz a little bit, played a bunch of shows… How do you look back on the record?
South: I think it’s been quite an emotional year for us, because… Just so much has happened. We’ve toured more than we’ve ever toured, we’ve been places we’ve never been – like here. We’ve played in America and Europe and the UK, so it’s been incredible, thinking [about] how far Supernova has kind of taken us. And it meant so much to us, this album, so for it to get the Mercury [Prize] shortlist and things like that… It was just… Yeah, [it’s been] an incredible year.
Have you started thinking about album three yet? Or is it a little too early?
South: Yes, we have!
Love: We’ve been thinking about it.
Yeah? What’s the vibe?
South: We don’t want to give much away. But we’re definitely thinking about it, and we’re excited.
Do you see the Nova Twins project – this sound and character… Are you going to kick it up to a different level, or…?
Love: I think we’ve never put any kind of boundaries or pressure on what’s going to come out. I think we just let ourselves do and if it comes out… It could be anything. And if it feels good and it feels like us, then we’ll just go with it. I think that’s the best way to keep it fresh, and also, like, discover things that you might not ever have thought you’d go down. If you just let yourself do it, it will come. So we’re just like, “Whatever happens, happens.”
There is a power in spontaneity, right?
South: Exactly. There [were] moments when [we were] writing Supernova, where we were like, “This sounds different to us!” But we’re like, “We like it, so why not?” And we just went with that feeling.
Without trying to blow smoke, my all-time two favorite genres are punk and drumstep. And I think what made me gravitate towards Nova Twins is like, the driving force is that raw, visceral aggression – that punk – but like, there’s that belting synth bass… It’s kind of like an In Silico-era Pendulum vibe. What is your history with bass music? Was that a big thing for y’all, growing up?
South: Yeah, I love my electronic music. Especially Timbaland’s production or Missy tracks, or like, N.E.R.D – love them – and even Skrillex. I love that kind of like, gnarly electronic synth bass sound. So I just wanted to emulate that onto [my] bass guitar with completely analogue pedals and stuff like that. So I love electronic music.
Outside of the music itself – and I think this was definitely evident in your crowd – I know it’s really important for you both to fuck with the status quo and challenge the binary of punk and rock as what has been a very traditionally white, straight, male-dominated scene. Being such an active force in the movement against that, have you noticed a shift towards a more inclusive scene and more inclusive crowds?
Love: Yeah, 100 percent. I think so much has changed since we’ve [started the] band. And obviously, for the people before us, it must have been completely different. But when we first started, we used to be the only women there sometimes – definitely the only people of color there – And you used to look around and think, “Fuck, this is quite…”
It was never, like, a “bad vibe” – people were always really nice and respectful, but it wasn’t good enough in terms of the promoters and who they were booking. It was lazy, you know, and people got used to just regurgitating the same headliners, the same acts – and it was like, “But what about all these new people that are coming through? What about diversity?” The genre nearly went slate for a bit! But now you can see, it’s kind of making [a comeback] – especially in the UK and the US.
I don’t know about here, but it’s a whole revival right now. I mean, we’ve played on our main radio station, which would never have been the case years ago. But it’s coming back, and it’s so exciting because we’re allowing for diversity, and fresh ideas and fresh takes, and new artists to come through. So it’s a super exciting time.
It is incredible to see this carving out of a space that is very important – and frankly, well-overdue. Obviously, that’s something you must have yearned for when you were coming of age?
Love: I think when we were younger, we didn’t really… Because we were young, we didn’t know, we just thought, “We just want to be in a band!” And then when it came to being the band, we got faced with all these different kinds of challenges and hurdles, and we thought, “Hang on a minute, is something wrong with us?” And it wasn’t us, it was the industry, not accepting us doing the type of music we do and the way we looked with it.
It was all very long and tedious, but you know, we just kept going [on doing] what we love. We took our own route, we were an independent band – we still are, you know, we’ve found an independent label that are really good to us [Marshall Records] and we’ve got a great team now – but yeah, we just fucked off everyone else and [were] just like, “We’re just gonna keep doing it our way.” And then it paid off eventually!
I think something that really ties into that in a big way is how you always push to get your fans involved – like the mosh-twerking pit and things like that – and make these people feel like they’re a part of something. What made you want to be, for lack of a better term, or more “interactive” band?
South: I think it just comes naturally to us. The people that support us, we call them our Supernovas, and they’re just amazing. They’ve been there, some of them, since day one – and when we just played our London headline show, we felt so emotional because we’ve been seeing these people that [have] been coming and coming… When we’d been playing to ten people, they were there, and people just really support us. So we always want to give back to our community, and you know, open the door and let people through – because that’s just what it’s about.
Are you very inspired by your fans?
South: Completely! They’re super talented, and like, the most badass, amazing people ever.
Love: And really loving. What’s really lovely about our fans – especially seeing our Discord group and things like that – is that they take care of each other. They see them in the queues, like, if someone’s come on their own, we’ll see certain fans – like our proper everyday fans – take them under their wing and show them around the area. Or if they need to get home, they’ll take them home. If someone’s fainted, or… You know, it’s really amazing, the community that they are – they’re just really lovely people. And they’re so open – I love that people come to our show and they feel safe and accepted to be whoever the fuck they want to be.
I fucking love that vibe. And just to wrap up – because I’m gonna get in so much trouble – at the very end of the set, Amy, you mentioned that Nova Twins will be coming back to Australia soon… Are we talking 2023? Headline tour?
Love: [Slyly] Maybe! I don’t know…
Love: I don’t know! You’ll have to ask our [tour manager].
We need, like, the 40-date regional tour…
Love: We will be back! This won’t be the last time you see us.
Nova Twins will be back.
Love: We will be back.
That is a promise, we’re holding you to that.
Love: Yeah, of course. If it goes well at Good Things, we’ll definitely be back!
Georgia: My grandparents were Australian, so I feel like this is my calling, to be back here.
Huge shoutout to Janine Morcos and Sose Fuamoli for making this happen!
Supernova is out now via Marshall Records. Check it out here.