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Nova Twins: South and Love 

Nova Twins: South and Love 

As lifelong best friends, bassist Georgia South and guitarist Amy Love grew up in London, playing in local bands, woodshedding on their instruments, honing their musical voices, and creating a sisterly bond they knew was something special. Splitting off from their various other bands and projects, the two decided to unite as a duo and focus all of their attention on their budding new outfit, which they aptly titled the Nova Twins. Culminating an alternative, hard rock, hip-hop, punk, and funk sound, the two released a series of buzz-generating EPs. That word of mouth took them from local nightclubs and bars to festival stages, and eventually as the opening act for Prophets of Rage. Their 2020 debut album, Who Are the Girls? made its way to airwaves all over the world and skyrocketed their notoriety. Their fanbase, new and old, flocked from all over to catch their electrifying shows, sparked by their energetic performances.   

The music of Nova Twins is undeniably bass-heavy, as South utilizes a multitude of styles in her playing, which are intensified with her heavy use of effects. But don’t ask her what’s on her pedalboard. She keeps it a mystery after too many show goers tried to cop the pedal chain that took her years to dial in perfectly. Blending big rock riffs, metal breakdowns, hip-hop grooves, funky licks, and a supreme touch of melody via her Westone 4-string, South achieves a cohesiveness and vibe all her own. Additionally taking on a large share of the vocal duties, South’s charisma and unique style help fill out the low end of the duo, with bass serving as more than the foundation of their sound.

Now the Twins are preparing to release their sophomore effort, Supernova, written during the lockdown and inspired by the emotion of the past two years. Exhibiting a new level of musicianship, songwriting, and maturity while retaining the angst, explosiveness, and unexpectedness the duo was built on, the album is sure to take them to new heights. The first single, “K.M.B.” mixes ’90s R&B feels with heavily distorted chorus riffs that are all centered around South’s bass. The followup song, “Cleopatra” celebrates South’s Jamaican/English and Love’s Iranian/Nigerian heritage in a wild mashup of styles that, as always, will keep their listeners guessing. Excited to release their new music to the world and hit the road to support it, we caught up with South in the calm before liftoff. 

(Photo by Jamie Waters)

(Photo by Jamie Waters)

How does it feel to have the new album finished and waiting for its release?

We’re so excited to release Supernova. We wrote and recorded it throughout lockdown, so we’ve been sitting on it for a while. We worked so hard on it and feel like it sounds more Nova than ever!

What was the writing process like for this record? Was it entirely collaborative, or did you bring individual ideas to the table?

We started the album when we were isolating separately, so we wrote it by sending ideas back and forth while working in Logic. I’d build the music and then send it over for Amy to add lyrics, then we’d both finesse the song until it felt finished. We met up and wrote the last two songs—”Antagonist” and “Choose Your Fighter”—together, jamming in a room. Our energy when we reunited was electric, as it was the first time since the pandemic that we could rock out in a room together again.

(Photo by Ashleigh Davies)

(Photo by Ashleigh Davies)

What kind of bass sound were you going for and how did you achieve it?

I was going for super electronic sounds that you’d hear on a dirty rave synth bass teamed with gnarly distortion. I’d make dirty synth sounds on the MIDI keyboard when writing the demos, then start tearing my hair out trying to find a similar sound on my pedals and bass! I wanted to push myself to see how much I could achieve live. We’re happy we stuck to having no synths on the record.

Your lines on the single, “K.M.B.” are groovy and driving. How did those riffs come about?

We grew up listening to a lot of ’90s R&B and hip hop so I thought it would be cool to create a sassy line that feels reminiscent of that era but then explodes into a heavy chorus. I spent ages layering different riffs on the choruses and interweaving melodies. This was actually the tune where I was tearing my hair out the most, trying to find the perfect verse sound that pops. A pedal that cost only £20 did it.  

Your new single "Cleopatra" features a lot of styles in it. How did this song come together?

This tune switches between a lot of different tones throughout. The verses are like rap cypher, hip hop vibes, then the pre choruses flip into a Middle Eastern feel, which then goes into a heavy riff during the chorus. I wanted this song to feel like our heritages coming together, with Amy being Iranian/Nigerian and me being Jamaican/English. We tried to make the riffs and sonics reflect that.

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What were the main themes that you brought to this album?

The album touches on everything that has happened over lockdown. We wanted people to feel empowered, liberated, and that they can find light through dark times. Amy is an incredible lyricist who words these themes so well. The album feels like a journey. No matter what obstacles come your way, we want people to feel like they always come out a winner when listening to a Nova track.

How would you say your playing and writing has evolved since your 2020 debut album, Who Are The Girls?

I play a lot more with different textures and melody on the new record. I found a few inexpensive new pedals that have been great additions to the Nova sound. I had fun experimenting and writing riffs on my tiny MIDI keyboard, then later replacing it and recording it with my bass and pedalboard. Having a limited amount of keys to play on, it forced me to think out of the box and about the melody of a riff. I’ve also loved making beats on Logic and layering different drum sounds. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play drums, so I get my kicks out of writing drumbeats. Almost every song starts with the drumbeat, as I feel it’s the bones behind every song.

What is it like writing music with Amy, having played together for so long?

It’s super natural. We both know what feels like a Nova song, so when something clicks, we instantly feel it and get excited. We also trust in each other’s crazy visions and love surprising each other with ideas we know the other will love. Before the band we were best friends, like sisters, so you can hear that in this record more than ever.

Your music is a unique blend of rock and hip-hop with a lot of other elements to it. Which genres and artists inspire you most as a bass player and songwriter?

I love artists like N.E.R.D, Timbaland, Kanye West, SOPHIE, Grimes, Beyoncé, Missy Elliott, Billie Eilish, Skepta, The Prodigy, and Skrillex. I’m always inspired by the production of songs. I also love seeing how songs or a riff or a melody line translate live, and how they can connect with so many people.

Tell us about your playing technique.

When I first started playing my dad taught me how to get a fat tone out of the bass with good technique. He would press my fingers down on the strings till they hurt, to get my fingers stronger—now I have iron hands! I still don’t have the most traditional technique, as I taught myself a lot along the way. I’d write riffs that were too difficult for my playing ability at the time, then have to catch up and make my fingers do what my brain needed them to do.

(Photo by Chloé Terrasi)

(Photo by Chloé Terrasi)

How did you choose a Westone Thunder as your main bass?

The Westone chose me. I was looking high and low for a bass that felt like me in all the guitar shops on Denmark Street, but it was slim pickings. It wasn’t until I was at my friend’s house and saw the red Westone hanging on the wall in all its tiger/racing stripe glory. My mouth dropped in awe. It was perfect. His dad hadn’t played it for over 10 years, so he let me buy it off it him for £100!

You use a lot of distortion and fuzz pedals. Have effects always been a big part of your sound?

I’ve always loved pedals. As a teen I’d spend all my savings on pedals, going with my dad to Denmark street not knowing what I was looking for and coming back with some sick new find. There’s something about having everything manual at my feet that feels like I’m driving a Formula 1 car or something. It’s such a rush.

(Photo by Fabien Mathieux)

(Photo by Fabien Mathieux)

How long have you been keeping your pedals covered for secrecy?

Probably like six years now. I used to have them on show but then people would run up onstage and take pictures of them and threaten to post them online. I found it so invasive, as I spent many years crafting my sound, so I felt protective about it. Eventually I just got a load of tape and covered them up.

Describe a Nova Twins concert from your perspective.

When we first walk on I’m on full pedal patrol, like Hawkeye just double checking that all the settings are set right. I’m like that for most of the set, as if one thing is wrong then the whole thing tumbles down. Once I know it’s all good, I love jumping around, running about and taking in the crowd. I especially love venues that have subs under the stage, so you can feel the rumble.

What was it like touring with Prophets of Rage? Did you and Tim Commerford talk bass a lot?

Yeah, we chatted bass a lot. We discussed different amps and tones. He’s such an incredible player. His tone is so fat and he plays very hard, with mental stamina. We loved touring with Rage, they were incredibly welcoming and complimentary to us, always bigging us up and giving us great advice. It instantly made us feel at home.

Is singing and playing bass something that’s always come naturally for you?

It can be so difficult! Amy always makes me do the really high backing vocals, too. Some are easier than others, it just depends on the rhythm of the vocal and the bass riff.

(Photo by Nathan Roach) 

(Photo by Nathan Roach) 

Who are your greatest bass influences?

My dad is definitely one, as he’s an amazing player with so much groove. Watching him as a musician growing up was really influential. Also, my mum and how she would react to bass in her favorite songs, while encouraging my wacky style. I remember seeing Divinity Roxx slaying it on stage with Beyoncé. She was a real eye opener for 12-year-old me. I could finally see myself being represented. She completely owned it and ripped the sickest bass solo in a huge arena with so much confidence and class.

How and when did you first start playing bass?

I first started when I was about 13. I played piano up until then but when I became a teenager, I started playing the bass at a School Of Rock-type summer school and that was it. I was obsessed!

How have you evolved as a player since your early days in bands?

I was always obsessed with writing melody in riffs. When I was younger, I was more into writing complicated melody lines. Looking back, I think it helped me get better at playing faster. Now I can appreciate the simplicity of a riff, and that the best riffs are often super straightforward and catchy.

Why bass? What attracts you to the instrument itself and its role in music?

Bass is at the heart of every song but also the underdog that is often overlooked. Everyone loves to give the glory to the lead guitar, while bass players are humbly holding it down. I love that it can be so infectious and groovy or gnarly and thrashy. I love the spectrum of sonics that the bass can cover and that it can also sound weird and wonderful. I love the bass community, as we all look out for each other and it’s full of so much love. I want to help change the game on how people view bass. It can be wild and untamed like any other instrument! –BM

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Hear Her On: Nova Twins, Supernova [2022]

Gear

Bass Westone Thunder 1, Fender American Professional II Precision

Rig Gallien Krueger 212 Combo, Marshall Valvestate Guitar Amp

Pedals Unlisted

Strings Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky .045-.105

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