INTERVIEW: Nova Twins

Almost a year after the release of their debut album Who Are The Girls?, alt-rock duo Nova Twins have returned to share Voices Of The Unheard, a charity compilation LP that’s dedicated to spotlighting artists of colour in the heavy music scene. Available to pre-order until 1st March, Nova Twins, aka Amy Love and Georgia South, have put together a blistering collection of alternative anthems that showcase an eclectic range of talent, featuring tracks from Big Joanie, The OBGMs, LustSickPuppy and more.

We caught up with Amy & Georgia to talk about the new compilation record (supported by Dr Martens Presents), their ongoing conversations about racism in the heavy music scene, their dedication to the underground music community and a shared love for DeathKult leaders Ho99o9…

Make sure you pre-order your copy of Voices for the Unheard here.

Hello Amy & Georgia! It’s been almost a year since you released your debut album, Who Are The Girls? What are you most proud of about this record? Did you get to play any live shows with it before Covid-19 hit?

Georgia: I feel most proud about the amount of people we’ve reached. We get messages that say stuff like “I’m so glad we’ve discovered you” or “we can see ourselves in you, and we can be something different too” because they’re seeing us play a different type of music to what people are used to seeing black women play, you know? When we won the Heavy Music Award last year too, it felt like a big achievement to us, because of what we look like. It was such a big moment for the band, but it was also a big moment for our community as well, so that was great.

Amy: We did manage to tour the record a little bit in March and April last year. We were in France for about nine days, which was great, so at least we got to experience a little bit of the live buzz and the kick you usually get out of making an album. But yeah, we were supposed to play Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds and all these new places for the first time, so we were a little bit gutted that we never got to play the album there.

I think people are listening and paying attention in a different way though. Yes, we’re more online than ever, but I think we can reach more countries and reach more communities this way. I think we’ve discovered a lot of different things and we’ve got to know our audience a lot better. I think the album’s actually done better because of the reach it’s had online, as opposed to us just gigging. Everyone’s in a different headspace now. I think it’s been really, really amazing to take a step back and just get to know our audience and watch them enjoying it as much as we enjoyed making it.

That’s true, people have been really appreciative of new music over the last twelve months.

Another amazing thing that you did in 2020, you wrote an open letter to the MOBO Awards asking the panel to consider adding a Rock/Alternative category to their awards show. They acknowledged your letter with a tweet saying they’re working towards representing alternative music genres in the future. How do you feel about their response?

Amy: I think we still have to now push for it to happen this year. We have to take into account that we’re still struggling through this pandemic and there’s issues with funding and things like that, but I think this is a time to push in the right direction. We’ve got people’s eyes and ears on us now more than ever and people are listening. We just have to keep pushing.

You also started up your Voices For The Unheard platform last year, which was originally a series of Spotify playlists and conversations online highlighting artists of colour in the alternative music scene. That’s now developed into a compilation LP funded by Dr Martens Presents, which is amazing! Did you have a record release in mind when you originally started the platform? Or did it develop naturally?

Georgia: I think it really was a natural evolution, it just kept escalating. It started from the playlist on Spotify and then we thought, why don’t we just chat to these people on our Instagram and have a conversation with them and discover their journey? We ended up having so much in common, even though we’re from different sides of the world, we have this similar feeling being a POC alternative artist on this journey. So that was great to see our audience discover them, as well and for us to meet so many new bands too. When Dr. Martens reached out to us and asked if we wanted to do something with them on a bigger level, that was where the vinyl idea stemmed from. We thought it would be amazing to raise money for The Black Curriculum and to push all of these artists we’d selected and to give them more exposure as well.

As you’ve mentioned, all proceeds from the physical release of Voices For The Unheard will be donated to The Black Curriculum, a charity that addresses the lack of black British history in the UK curriculum. How did you find out about this charity and the work that they do?

Amy: I think it came up on our social media last year when the Black Lives Matter movement started to happen again. All these forums and websites and Instagram pages started popping up. I think before that, we felt quite isolated. It didn’t feel that there was much of a community here for us to join, everything felt sporadic. I remember when AfroPunk held their first London festival at Alexandra Palace and we had all these incredible POC creatives artists and fashion designers turn up, and we were like, where did all these people come from? Because we don’t see them here. We didn’t feel like there was much of a community that we could just go to and feel like accepted, I guess.

So around the time of the BLM movement last year, everyone start reaching out to each other – all of us, no matter where you were from – sharing websites and discovering a whole new world that we didn’t really know existed. I think The Black Curriculum popped up through that and we just thought there was some really interesting stuff on there. We actually had to relearn and are still re-learning our black history. So we just think it’s really, really important for organisations like them to exist.

I grew up in Essex. I’m from Thurrock, and I was probably like, one of maybe two black people in my class? I remember my teacher saying, specifically, “black people are slaves, that’s where they come from, slavery.” Not saying why that might actually be, or how terrible slavery was. So I was like, “Oh, I used to be that?” I remember being quite embarrassed. I was just a kid! You just don’t know any better, you know? My parents are Iranian, so I grew up with my Iranian family. So I was immersed in that culture, but I wasn’t necessarily immersed in my kind of blackness, I guess, until I met Georgia’s family.

It was just painted that white people saved us here in Britain and how great the British Empire was, and how they decided to free us. It was a really strange and backwards way to learn your history.

Georgia: I grew up in London, so it was really diverse at my school. But when it came to black history, all they showed us was the Roots documentary. They said that slavery was bad, but they didn’t teach any other black history. Nothing about black kings and queens and how rich they were. That’s all I took from school.

I guess that’s why The Black Curriculum is so important isn’t it? I grew up in Essex too and I don’t remember anything about black history on the syllabus. Hopefully organisations like this will be able to change that for school kids in the future.

The Voices For The Unheard vinyl has been funded by Dr Martens Presents. What does it mean to you to have this kind of support from such an iconic brand?

Georgia: Dr Martens are our favourite shoe brand, we literally wear them every day. They’re a massive corporation, so their connection to underground music is so helpful. Even with the people that they put on their adverts, they could easily pick a bigger artist but they want to support new bands and they’re always searching for new music, which is refreshing.

Amy: I think it really makes sense for us because we genuinely love the brand. I mean, I could show my feet right now – I’m wearing DMs! It’s a natural alliance and it’s just great for us to be able to have a company invest in ideas support in the community in such a way so it’s brilliant, a really good match.

They’re so good at spotlighting new bands. I remember coming out of Camden tube station about three years ago and seeing the Dr Martens campaign that featured Ho99o9. They had posters of the band all the way up the escalators in the station and all over town, it was so good!

Amy: Yes, we love Ho99o9!

Georgia: I remember seeing the posters too, they were so good!

When it comes to the track-list for the album, how did you narrow it down to 11 songs? Your Voices For The Unheard Spotify Playlists are so extensive, it must have been hard to choose only ten artists?

Georgia: It was really hard! We were like “can’t we have 14 people on the record, please!?” I think many of the people on the track-list are the artists we first discovered and chatted to, so all of the people we’ve had online conversations with are on there. It was really difficult to be honest. We would have added like ten more if we could…

Amy: Exactly. We picked artists like Connie Constance who we love and feel like she is deserving of so much more. There’s obviously bigger artists that we love like Ho99o9 and FEVER333, but they’re kind of big already, so we tried to focus on people who may have not had that kind of kickstart or any kind of attention just yet. We wanted to explore the idea of new bands making new exciting sounds, and who have a new take on things, so we’re just really proud of them all.

Georgia: We wanted to be diverse as well, so there’s a mixture of non-binary and trans artists as well as artists from different cultures on there too.

It’s an amazing album and I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy.

So, what else is on the cards for Nova Twins this year? Any new music from you after this compilation release?

Amy: I feel like you never know what’s next for Nova. It’s so funny being in this band, I love it. One day we’ll be sitting there twiddling our thumbs and then suddenly, we’ll just run with this massive new idea. I think there’ll be loads of stuff that we’ll be putting out there, just trying to make shit happen for the community, and also just for us as two girls living in the UK, with a fucking dream, trying to get somewhere.

I think 2021 is going to be good. We’re excited about the new stuff we’re making and excited to join alliances with more artists. I feel like there’s strength in the artists joining together, as opposed to us being competitive with each other.Exciting times!

Thanks so much to Amy & Georgia for chatting with us!

Pre-order your copy of Voices for the Unheard here.

Follow Nova Twins on Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

INTERVIEW: Softcult

Inspired by their love of 90s alternative music icons Bikini Kill and Smashing Pumpkins, Ontario-based duo Softcult blend atmospheric guitars, energetic percussion and bittersweet vocals to create their hazy, antagonistic sounds. Formed of twin sisters Phoenix and Mercedes Arn Horn, Softcult cut their teeth playing live shows in their local town of Kitchener, before moving on to bigger audiences on the North American tour circuit.

Their experiences of playing and working within a male-dominated music industry formed the foundation for their current sound, which is born from the desire to resist and relieve the pressures of existing in a patriarchal world. We caught up with Mercedes (guitars, vocals) and Phoenix (drums, production) to talk about their debut single ‘Another Bish’, their last gig before covid-19 hit, and what their dream festival line-up might be…

Hello girls, how are you both doing? Are you in lockdown in Canada at the moment?

Mercedes: We’re doing alright, we’re locked down like you guys are in the UK. It’s a lot of time to focus on music and writing and recording, so we’re very lucky that we have a home studio right now. I feel very blessed right now, because for some people I know, being in lockdown has meant they’ve been very unmotivated and unable to write, whereas that hasn’t been our experience at all. We’ve been writing and recoding loads and it’s been a God send to us, it’s kept us sane and active and motivated.

That’s good news! Let’s start at the beginning, who or what originally inspired you to start making your own music?

Mercedes: We’re twin sisters and we’ve been making music together forever. We’ve been in different bands over the years playing and getting some experience, but for this project we felt motivated by everything that’s going on right now. Having been in the music industry already for some time, we’ve experienced misogyny and sexism. At this point, I feel like this band has been put on this planet as a voice against abuse, or for people who don’t feel seen or feel like they don’t have a voice. A lot of our songs are about that.

We speak to lots of women who have unfortunately experienced misogyny in the music industry. Do you think your experience of it is somewhat heightened because you’re twin sisters? I only ask because I have younger sisters who are twins, and when we’ve been on nights out together before people have made inappropriate or creepy comments towards them without any hesitation…

Phoenix: Only another person who really knows twins would ask that, and it is so true. There’s a weird fetish around twins and it’s very creepy.

Mercedes: We find a lot of the time there’s insinuations about incest and weird stuff like that. I know a lot of women in bands who aren’t even related who have experienced that. Heart are a good example actually. The sisters in that band are constantly being pitted against each other and I think that happens a lot with women and siblings in the industry and it’s just so weird. It’s a definite downside to being a twin, but there’s also an up side too.

Phoenix and I have such a close connection and that helps a lot with our music. She’s always a step ahead of me, or finishing my sentences creatively for me. She handles all of the production side – everything we make is recorded and produced from our home studio. Then I handle all the stuff on the video/visual side of things and it just makes for a good team. There’s a closeness and and understanding and an empathy that we have from being twins, it’s not all just creepy dudes!

That’s true! Talk to me about your debut single ‘Another Bish’. What’s it about? How did you put the video for it together etc.?

Mercedes: The song is about misogyny. Phoenix and I hate the word “bitch” so we couldn’t even put it in the title, we literally felt skeeved out writing it down! The lyric “I’m just another bish that you’ll never tame” was supposed to be aimed at that typical misogynist dude who thinks all women are the same, and they’re there to be controlled and conquered. The song is from the perspective of the woman who’s sick of it and feels like the dog who’s finally going to bite its owner. It’s about fighting against that but also owning it. We noticed the type of guys who often say “she’s such a bitch” are just saying that about women who they think are outspoken. They just label them as “aggressive.”

For the video, we used paper cut-out clips of different women’s facial features – eyes, lips, nose – which we replaced with dog mouths. The dog mouths reflect the feelings of those guys who think that when you speak out about sexism you’re just some yappy dog who never shuts up. They’re also supposed to be a comment on how there’s so many double standards for women, not just in music but in the beauty industry as well. Women are having to basically try and be something that’s unattainable and if you’re not that thing, then they make out like you’re not trying hard enough. So we took those themes and put them into the video.

Are there any women in music at the moment who you admire who are standing up for themselves and not taking any sexist bullshit?

Phoenix: Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! – big time. We were just little teeny boppers when we first found out about Against Me! and we were obsessed. She’s a huge icon for a lot of reasons, but something I’ve always admired about her is that she is really outspoken about who she is. It’s so brave to go through the transgender transformation when you’re in a very male dominated space in a very male dominated music genre, and just rebelling against all expectations and being yourself. That’s a huge inspiration.

Do you remember the last gig you went to before Covid-19 hit?

M & P: Yes!

Mercedes: It was another music project that we in at the time and it was at this dive bar. It was in March (2020), right after the stay-at-home orders happened and we were trying to play our way home, but we realised we had to cancel everything because it was just not responsible to have shows. So it was our very last gig and the vibe was very depressing.

Phoenix: People obviously didn’t show up, quite rightly, and we just wanted to go home.

Mercedes: We actually ended up staying over at a girls house. Up until then we were just crashing on floors on the tour, we didn’t have hotels booked or anything like that. So this girl kindly let us stay at her place and made us pizzas.

Phoenix: We were like “are you sure you still want us to stay? It’s totally cool if you don’t, we can sleep in the van!” but she still let us crash.

Mercedes: Her Dad had all these cool guitars so we just had a jam session with her. So after a kind of depressing show, we had this jam session in her living room and it was probably the most uplifting thing ever. That was probably the last real hang time we had with anyone outside of our house since lockdown started.

When we can all hang out properly at a festival again, who would be on your dream line-up?

Mercedes: I keep watching all these old videos from Reading & Leeds festival and wishing we could play that somehow…one day!

Phoenix: We’ve watched the Reading & Leeds Veruca Salt set a million times!

Mercedes: We love the UK. Every time we’ve been there we’ve had such an amazing time. I think the scene for music in the UK is sort of unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. The fans are so in to the music. They know the lyrics, they know about the meaning behind the little pieces of art on your albums covers – I feel like they’re really into it and that’s really cool. Our dream line-up would be a dope festival somewhere in the UK and we’d have Bikini Kill, Veruca Salt, Against Me! playing…

Phoenix: …and Radiohead, they’re one of my all time favourite bands.

Mercedes: We’ll play the opening slot at 11am so that we can watch all the other bands.

Good decision! Finally, if you had to describe your music in three words, what would they be?

Mercedes: Rebellious would be one, empathetic might be another. It’s not all just angry stuff though, sometimes it gets pretty feelsy and sad.

Phoenix: Fuzzy? (laughs). On the production side, people always think that distortion and fuzz are for loud music, which typically they are, but you can also make super dreamy, fuzzy distorted music and we try to do that as best as we can.

Huge thanks to Mercedes & Phoenix for answering our questions!

Follow Softcult on SpotifyInstagramFacebook & Twitter for more updates

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LISTEN: Ailsa Tully – ‘Parasite’

A personal rumination on the pernicious power dynamics that are prevalent within the UK music industry, Welsh-born songwriter Ailsa Tully has shared her latest single ‘Parasite’. Released via Dalliance Recordings, the track is a deceptively powerful observation on the toxic behaviour Tully has experienced first hand, and a subtle warning to those who think their actions will go un-noticed.

“’Parasite’ is a confrontational song written for a controlling and manipulative person,” Tully explains. “It explores the insidious manner in which sexism takes form, particularly within the inner workings of the music industry.” Through a blend of brooding guitar sounds, enveloping vocals and the faux allure of her lyrics, Tully takes considered shots at her antagonist, effortlessly dismantling the layers of expectation that were pushed upon her because of her gender. Her gracefully repeated threat of “I could break you down / you parasite” sends shivers down the spine.

No longer intimidated by these industry peers, Tully is free to deliver her poetic alt-folk sounds with a hard earned confidence, and ‘Parasite’ is a poignant example of this. The track is accompanied by a video directed by Finlay O’Hara, which shows parasitic plants twisting around vines in tandem with Tully’s music, personifying the struggles she sings of.

Watch the video for ‘Parasite’ below.

Follow Ailsa Tully on bandcampSpotifyFacebook & Instagram for more updates.

Photo Credit: Finn O’Hara

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LISTEN: Petrol Girls – ‘I Believe Them’ (Solidarity Not Silence)

A raucous anthem with a defiant and empowering message, Petrol Girls have shared their latest single ‘I Believe Them’. The uncompromising track has been released to raise funds for Solidarity Not Silence, who are a group of women fighting a claim of defamation made against them by a well-known musician. You can download ‘I Believe Them’ exclusively from bandcamp today to support their cause.

GIHE stands in solidarity with the women affected by the Solidarity Not Silence case. Read the powerful statement Ren from Petrol Girls has made about the track below, and scroll down to the end of this post to watch the accompanying video. #IBelieveThem

“We’re releasing this track to raise as much money as we possibly can for Solidarity Not Silence and to widen the network of people supporting the cause. Solidarity Not Silence is the legal defence fund for a group of women, including myself, who are being sued for defamation by a man in the music industry because of comments that we each made separately regarding his behaviour towards women. We’ve been fighting this case since December 2016 and desperately need help raising money for our legal costs. The only reason we’ve been able to successfully fight this case as long as we have is because we were able to come together and fundraise for our legal defence. Help us keep our legal representation all the way to court and win this!

“As one of the Solidarity Not Silence defendants, I’m limited in what I can say about the case whilst it’s ongoing. However, there’s nothing to stop me contributing to a wider conversation about sexual violence and the law – which is what this track, ‘I Believe Them’ is about.

“’How are we meant to protect ourselves?’ I find myself internally screaming this question, which is the chorus lyric, on a pretty regular basis. On the one hand, the criminal justice system consistently fails and often further traumatises survivors of sexual violence who decide to report to the police. This system clearly does not protect the majority of survivors and I personally do not believe it holds any answers in dealing with gender based violence. Then on the other hand, when survivors and their allies try to protect one another by speaking out about abusive behaviour, they become vulnerable to libel/ defamation law. And in both criminal and libel cases, the burden of truth is placed on the survivor. Literally what does the law expect us to do?

“There is, in practice, no legal aid available for the defence of a defamation case, which creates a dynamic whereby it is relatively easy for someone with money to silence those without. Money should not be a barrier to accessing justice and we refuse to allow our case to set a precedent for silencing marginalised voices in the music community and beyond. Please donate to/share our crowdfunder.”

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut