From an outsiders’ perspective, it might seem like Nova Twins have never put a foot wrong. Originally known as BRAATS when they formed in 2014, the South London duo had barely passed their third anniversary when Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello hailed them as “the best band you’ve never heard of”.
That obscurity soon changed, when the release of their acclaimed debut album, Who Are The Girls? in 2020 saw them exchange the capital’s fecund punk circuit for high-profile tour support slots, industry awards nominations and glowing praise everywhere from the rock press through to style bibles such as Teen Vogue and The Face. But speaking to Hammer on the eve of the release of their much-anticipated second album, Supernova, Amy Love (vocals, guitar) and Georgia South (backing vocals, bass) laugh off the idea that this has been an easy ride.
“We didn’t know what we were doing,” Amy admits freely. “In the beginning, we’d just upload a new song to YouTube and then it was like… now what? We didn’t have a clue, but it was a lot of fun.”
“We’ve had a very organic journey,” observes Georgia. “You have these stored experiences where you’ve salvaged a gig, learning how to play to a near-empty room, learning how to cope if your amp breaks. It’s all such a valid experience. We don’t regret anything.”
“Those are the experiences that make you,” Amy finishes.
If the memories remain vivid, those early ‘toilet circuit’ gigs seem a world away now. Last year, the duo were invited to join Bring Me The Horizon’s Post Human arena tour, having collaborated with the Yorkshire band on 1×1 from their genre-obliterating EP of the same name, Post Human: Survival Horror. After that they played dates with Enter Shikari, then embarked on a headline tour across the United States and Europe. Today, they’re still processing those experiences.
“Doing our headline show at [1,000-capacity club] Heaven in London was such a ‘pinch me’ moment,” says Georgia. “Walking out to that many people there solely to see us was just crazy… and we had pyro! It just felt like a real milestone.”
“We had two years of nothing, no shows at all,” Amy recalls. “And then suddenly, we came back and we’re playing arenas with Bring Me The Horizon. Just looking at our new schedule, like – we’re playing the O2! It’s, uh… different.”
It’s understandable that moments like this were a shock to the system for Nova Twins. Their debut album was released on the eve of lockdown, which meant that all their scheduled live shows were cancelled, and their promotional interviews were conducted from home. But for anyone who listened to the singles Vortex or Taxi while the world outside had ground to halt, those tracks sounded even bigger than they would normally, too lively and colourful for walls to contain them.
During this period of quiet isolation, Nova Twins were glued to their laptops, learning how to use music production software Logic, sending each other riff ideas and writing what would eventually become Supernova.
“This album was approached differently, because we wrote the majority of it in lockdown,” says Amy. “Everything changed for everybody in lockdown, it wasn’t just us. We were sitting on laptops, in tiny, different bedrooms – not even a rehearsal room. Before that, we had just come off the festival circuit [for Who Are The Girls?], so those new songs had all this raw energy – we were ready to go.”
“We wasn’t afraid,” Georgia stresses. “We had time to think and reflect, and just be free from routine. We were so lucky to have the time to write this album outside of our usual schedule. We would have rushed it otherwise. It always comes naturally. Even when we were separated and just sending files across to each other, we would both just know when it was right. We trust each other with the process and our instincts would just tell us immediately whether it makes sense, and whether it sounded like Nova.”
This is the exact energy that comes across on Supernova: it’s thoughtful, but it never holds back. The lyrics might be more outspoken and politically charged than ever before, but these are no airy, academic treatises: even by Nova Twins standards, these songs are loud.
It’s evident too that, when you completely tear up the rulebook, push genre boundaries and carve out the space for a whole new scene, as Nova Twins have done, you can choose exactly where your perimeters and goalposts are. Nova Twins have always taken influences and elements from all over the place – punk, grime, electronic music and more – but with Supernova, it seems like each one of these is amplified as never before.
“We just hope people enjoy the album and take from it empowerment and strength,” says Georgia, speaking about her hopes for their music. hat sense of empowerment shines through everything Nova Twins say and do, including how they dress.
Image and music have always been intertwined, but the Novas do it better than most: just like the original Class of ’77 punks, the duo take a gleefully uninhibited and irreverent attitude to fashion, modifying every outfit to their own specifications: snipping and stitching, adding safety pins to anything and everything, and bleach-dyeing any t-shirt they can get their hands on. “Our clothes speak like the music does,” says Georgia. “It’s just loud and it’s fun.”
Because, of course, this isn’t just about the music. Or rather, it is… but when you are two black women trying to make your way in the rock music industry, your very existence becomes politicised. This is something Nova Twins have accepted from the beginning. Asked once to explain what it takes to write a Nova song, the pair answered with the words: ‘power’ and ‘imagination’, speaking to this very idea of creating their own space where none existed before. “We were so naive when we started off in a band as young girls, teenagers…” Amy reflects.
“When we first entered into the music industry, we realised that it wasn’t what it was made up to be – we had challenges as women, we had challenges as black women. Our scene has so much wrong with it: the lack of diversity was so shocking. Like, whenever we turned up to a festival, we were always the only ones there who looked like us. That’s not gonna do anything, is it? That’s not going to change anything. So, we just thought – we need to diversify. We need to be less insular in the music industry.”
Of course, Nova Twins are not the first punks of colour, or the first female punks of colour to make it big in the rock scene. The Selecter, X-Ray Spex, Bad Brains, Death and more have paved the way for marginalised people to get their voices heard in the rock mainstream, kicking down doors for the likes of Skunk Anansie and long-time Nova Twins champions Fever 333, both of which have invited Amy and Georgia to open for them.
Ultimately, the duo want to be able to pass the torch. “It feels like we’re doing our bit to try to change the way that things are,” says Georgia. “Even just one step at a time. It feels amazing.”
Amy elaborates: “We hope the next generation will feel like, ‘I can fucking pick up a bass. I can pick up a guitar. I can scream. I can be lairy. There are options for people like us. There isn’t just one thing we have to be.’ We just feel honoured to be able to be in this position, and be able to open doors, bring bands on tour with us, and give them a platform like other bands did for us.”
The girls exchange hopeful, determined smiles. “It’s never too late to see this kind of change,” says Georgia.
Amy agrees, and lays out one simple direction for the road ahead: “We just want to continue to lift and smash the barriers.”
Supernova is out now via Marshall