“You Can Mix It and Make It Into Your Own” Gear Essentials With Nova Twins
The London punk duo give us a tour of the variety of sounds that make them uniquely who they are.
Nova Twins are a genre bending duo from London who broke into the scene with their heavy metal sound and brazen lyrics. Made up of vocalist/guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South, Nova Twins have been steadily pushing the envelope with their electrifying sound (created with the help of top secret pedalboards that mark their signature sound).
Since their 2016 self-titled debut EP, Nova Twins have gone on to perform at festivals in Europe and America, such as AfroPunk, Prophets of Rage, and more. In 2020, they released their full-length debut, Who Are The Girls? (333 Wreckords Crew), including the single “Play Fair,” a musical rollercoaster of emotions with a thrilling instrumental arrangement and transcendent vocals that demand the listener’s full attention.
“Who Are The Girls? is about unapologetically celebrating diversity,” says Love. “Ourselves and many others have come up against adversity whether it’s to do with systemic issues, fascism, racism, etc. We wanted a space that broke down those boundaries, where we could celebrate each other in all our glory.”
For our four part series in partnership with Reverb, we spoke with Nova Twins about their essential gear, their song-writing process, and how they keep energized.
Nova Twins are such an inspiration to a lot of young alternative musicians. What inspired you to choose rock music to begin with?
Amy: I don’t really think it was a conscious decision—it wasn’t like we wanted to be “rock” players. It was literally something that happened between us: we wrote the song, “Bad Bitches” (unreleased and one of the first songs we wrote as a band), Georgia had the bass, and I did the vocals. That was just our sound, and it’s just our world.
Georgia: Yeah, the energy ended up being heavy and got heavier and heavier the more we experimented and got into the band.
Your music has such a sharp and electric sound. What are some things you like to keep in mind when looking for gear?
Georgia: For me, personally, I don’t really like gear that sounds super specific. I’d rather it be something that you can tailor yourself, rather than hearing a pedal and knowing what [pedal] it is. Even if it’s more basic, you can mix it and make it into your own.
Amy: I think something that tracks really well is when you start getting into different sounds, it has to work with your other gear—not all pedals do. Sometimes they’re quite selfish and don’t like to work with others, but we like friendly pedals. Tracking is really important. Just something different, something out of the box.
What are your top five gear essentials right now?
Georgia: Obviously our pedalboards are a massive part of our sound and our show—we don’t go into what they are, but they make all the sounds happen.
Amy: [laughing] They are the show…
Georgia: In terms of gear that we can share, I have a Gallien Krueger MB 212 II combo amp and a Marshall Valvestate amp which I split—those are quite essential for the shows. With Who Are The Girls? we set ourselves with the challenge of not adding any other instruments, as we wanted it to sound as close to our live sound as possible, so I recorded with these and my Westone Thunder 1—my OG bass guitar. I absolutely adore it and always will. The tone, the look, the rosewood… It’s a rare gem as they don’t make them anymore.
I recently got gifted a Fender American Professional II Precision Bass and it’s sick. I use it a lot to record and write with at the moment as it’s a very different feel to my Westone; I find it has a much lighter feel, a different tone (a more clangy/crunchy tone), and is super easy to play. I played all of Who Are The Girls? on the Westone, so it’s nice to play a different bass to generate new fresh ideas and get you out of the same headspace.
Over lockdown, I bit the bullet and invested in a new MacBook Pro 2020 as all of our demos on my old laptop kept crashing and it was just a nightmare. It was a sting buying it, as it was pricey, but it has been so handy having a speedy, reliable computer to work on!
I love Logic X! I’ve been learning so much and think it’s a great piece of software for musicians to work on—it’s easy to get around if you’re a beginner, and has loads to offer for advanced peeps too. We write all of our demos on Logic, and we’ve both got a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio to record our instruments in with.
My Marshall Monitor Bluetooth headphones are so sick! They’re great to mix tunes on as they’re not too bassy or toppy. Also, my walls are paper thin so I can’t be blasting out bass and tunes all day, so I just whack these on and it’s a party in my head all day.
Amy: We’ve recently been working with Fender, and I’m really in love with my Player Mustang 90. It fits my body shape like a glove, it curves and is short scale so it’s super comfortable to play when we are running around on stage. The P-90s rip and really compliment my board, giving it more of an edgy rocker’s sound. I’m really excited to use that on the new record. And I love my Stratocaster HSS.
My Fender Hot Rod Deluxe IV is a relatively small amp, but it really packs a punch! It’s very true sounding and I love the clarity; it allows space for the sounds that you put through it, which is ideal when you have a load of pedals.
My Swanflight pedalboard is nice and sturdy, and keeps my pedals in place with a thick handle that supports your grip. I love that they come in fun colors too, as gear design can lack in imagination sometimes, so this was perfect for us!
Georgia: I think it’s all different, really! For Who Are The Girls? we would just be in one room and really kind of worked on it together. We would vibe off each other. It’s so funny, because when we don’t feel the vibe, we both don’t feel it. We’ll both know, “Oh, this isn’t working…” and then change it up.
Amy: I think we bring who we are to the table, and obviously the world around that grows. A lot of the time, Georgia deals with the music and I do a lot of the top line. Then we sort of bring it together and finesse it, add this and that.
I watch videos of your shows, and they seem to be such high energy experiences. What do you keep in your studio space to emulate that feeling when you’re practicing or creating?
Georgia: Backstage before shows we make sure to jump around and really get ourselves warmed up. We only discovered that recently, because we’d do shows and afterward, on tour, we would really hurt so much…
Amy: …and halfway through the set it would really hurt when we didn’t warm up!
Georgia: It was only when we got overly hyped before a show once, and we were running around, we thought, “Oh no, we’re so tired now. We’re out of breath before the show’s even begun!” But when we went on stage, it ended up being so beneficial. We were looking at each other during the set like, “Wow, we’re actually more energized than ever.”
Amy: Warmups are really essential. Good food is essential. I can’t do greasy foods pre-gigs—I just throw it up, it’s really weird. Any other day I can have a veggie burger or chips, but if I do it before a show and then I sing, for some reason I end up vomiting. It’s happened many times, so I’ve learned the hard way not to do it again!
So good food, exercise, and good tunes! And our playlist before we get on stage to get us warmed up: Ho99o9, Fever 333, Princess Nokia… just all of our favorite bangers!
Georgia: The song before you go on stage has to be ready for war. [Laughs.] We have to feel like we’re ready.
So what advice would you give to musicians who are trying to stay inspired right now, trying to stay in that energized space?
Georgia: Don’t be afraid when you don’t feel inspired. When you don’t [feel inspired] you feel really anxious and guilty for not doing it that day. It’s like, “Why am I not being productive?” You get so bogged down about feeling shit about yourself—it’s draining. Allow yourself to go out for a walk, let it be for a few days and then go back to it. Don’t try to force it when it’s just not happening.
Amy: That’s good advice. It depends what you’re doing. Sometimes you can play something, or listen to something, different than what you usually do. Sometimes when I’m working and I’m like, “Okay, I’m not getting anywhere with this,” I just try to jam and listen to something completely different. Then it’s just like no pressure, take the pressure off. Then I’ll go back to it.
What are you both looking forward to in Nova Twins’ future?
Amy: New songs!
Georgia: And to go back on tour again.
Amy: It’ll be scary, but it’ll be great! This pandemic has made us have to think out of the box even more. We’re looking forward to seeing how we have to evolve given the circumstances we’re in now. It could lead us anywhere, down any path that we wouldn’t go normally. Usually we have our whole year set up. We assumed we would be doing festivals like Glastonbury this year, our own tour, and a couple of supporting slots, but they’ve all been cancelled. Now we know what that’s like from 2020—and in 2021, anything is possible! We managed to navigate our way through. I think keeping an open mind is your best bet, and not getting bogged down about what didn’t happen. Seizing the opportunity, and thinking anything could happen!
I agree. I’m really hopeful to see what you guys do—everyone is!
Georgia: We want to travel and come to America soon. We’ve gigged in LA and New York and it was great.
I was planning to go to AfroPunk last year, before it got cancelled.
Georgia: It was so fun.
Amy: Next time.