Heavy Culture is a monthly column from journalist Liz Ramanand, focusing on artists of different cultural backgrounds in heavy music, as they offer their perspectives on race, society, and more as it intersects with and affects their craft. The latest installment of this column features Amy Love and Georgia South of the Nova Twins.
UK duo Nova Twins released their debut album, Who Are the Girls?, in 2020. They kicked off 2021 by curating a compilation called Voices for the Unheard, which showcases alternative and rock artists of color. Proceeds from this compilation went to The Black Curriculum, which is an initiative to address the lack of Black British history in UK classrooms.
Bandmates Amy Love and Georgia South meld several musical genres together, including elements of rock, electronica, punk, and metal. They’ve recently been busy in the studio recording new music, but the duo took some time out to chat with Heavy Consequence for our latest edition of “Heavy Culture.”
The pair spoke candidly on their background, cultural upbringing, and early experiences with racism. They also talked about navigating the pandemic and sociopolitical issues in the UK. Read our interview with the Nova Twins below, and pick up their album Who Are the Girls? in physical formats via the band’s website or digitally via Amazon.
On where they grew up and their cultural background
Amy Love: I was brought up in Essex and I am mixed race, my mum is Iranian and my dad is Nigerian.
Georgia South: I grew up in Lewisham, South East London. My mum and dad are both born in the UK. My mum’s side of the family are from Jamaica and my dad’s side are from Australia.
On what being a person of color (POC) in 2021 means to them
AL: Community, coming together and being passed the baton to keep pushing for change!
GS: It feels really special to be in such a beautiful community, last year and this year especially. Black Lives Matter (BLM) gave black people the space to say what we’ve all been saying within our community for generations and for me it felt like a weight had lifted. We’ve still got a way to go but with more and more companies and people being held accountable. It feels like we’re finally heading in the right direction.
On the past year-plus of protests and the pandemic, and the response in the UK
AL: It was really tough at first. It was hard to see some people even questioning that black lives matter. It revealed the ugly truth, even in the people you know and love. But it made us shift into another gear, to be unapologetically ourselves and speak our truth without self-doubt.
A lot of the racism and micro aggressions were put into perspective and brought to the surface. People had to re-educate themselves and step outside of their echo chambers and face the truth. Whilst some people remained in it, it was also a positive thing to see more allies coming together and people waking up to the fact that BLM is here to stay and something that we should all be a part of.
GS: This past year has been a lot to process. When BLM happened, we felt anxious, as we didn’t know what we could do to help fix what seemed like an ever-growing mountain of systematic issues against people of color. We decided to start by tackling the areas we know best – the music scene, by uplifting POC alternative artists via a platform we created called “Voices for the Unheard” as we feel like there isn’t enough representation in this area of music!
On why the representation of women of color in heavy music and their experience in the industry
AL: Heavier genres seem to be dominated by white men. It’s hard for women in general to cross into these genres, even harder for women of color.
POC artists often have to fit the narrative of a R&B, hip-hop or grime but if we want to draw outside of those guidelines, the industry doesn’t seem to know what to do with us. That’s what we have been told in the past.
It almost feels like “Black” is a genre but we should be seen for what our music sounds like, not our skin complexion. If you put a blindfold on the taste makers and they just had to listen to the music, without seeing the artists, I’m sure we would see so much more diversity in these genres! It’s great to see that the alternative scene is making a comeback and there are so many amazing POC artists leading the charge.
GS: I think there is a case of — if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. The media can influence people by creating boxes or guidelines in society. It’s thanks to the artists before us, who were brave enough to be what they couldn’t see for leading the way for generations ahead. We are carrying the torch as far as we can, in hopes that we look back at an inferno of black rock gyal (“girl”) magic!
On what people should understand about the experiences of Black people and people of color
AL: That it’s a beautiful thing and that I’m proud of my heritage.
GS: Some people’s perception of POC people is that we need saving, whereas I see it as though we have won. We have enriched and colorful cultures that make the world go round. Everywhere you look, the music you listen to, the beautiful fabrics that you feel, these wouldn’t be the way they are without people of color.
On early experiences with racism
AL: I grew up in a predominantly white area in Essex, London. My first rude awakening was in year seven, getting teased by the whole school about my braids. Older boys were laughing at me saying, “I bet she doesn’t have a visa.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time and assumed they must have been talking about a debit card.
Also, when getting into an argument, people would casually bring my race into it and of course use the N-word on a few occasions but that would end up in fight, as I would always stand my ground.
GS: I was lucky to grow up in super diverse schools in Lewisham, England. Although, I still experienced micro-aggressions like, “Are you more Black or more white?” and “Where are you really from?” and people constantly pulling, touching and dropping stuff, like draw pins, on my hair.
One of the worst experiences was a few years ago outside of London, when a white person thought they had the right to tell me I’m not Black. When I said “Yes, I am” they then continued to try and convince me that I wasn’t and say, “Why do you want to say you’re Black, when you look white?” I was fuming and deeply offended for many reasons.
On what they would tell their ancestors and their advice to younger people of color
AL: We love you, you are so beautiful and we thank you for all that you have done for us. We wouldn’t be here without you. To the next generation — you are powerful, you are the future and that can be anything you want it to be. Always trust in yourself and vision. Get rid of any self-doubt and love every inch of yourself unapologetically, no matter what anyone else says! Go get!
GS: To my ancestors — there are no words worthy enough to thank you for your fight. I hope you have found peace and can see all the amazing changes that have happened because of your strength, love and drive. We will keep building on what you created for us. To the new gens — let’s try and live fearlessly and appreciate the journey of life, rather than worrying when we’ll reach the final destination. The most exciting bit is always the adventure to get there, the rush of approaching a new territory. Trust that when you look back from your view at the top, your cherished moments will be about the climb.