Rock duo Nova Twins have launched a campaign for the MOBO Awards to create a new category celebrating rock and alternative music. We spoke to singer and guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South to find out more about why they started the campaign, and why it is so necessary.
Nova Twins released their first full-length album, Who Are the Girls? earlier this year to considerable acclaim: Kerrang! applauded its “furious themes”, “intense energy” and “pure sonic power”, while Clash described it as “a rollicking call to arms,” insisting “you have never heard two women have this much fun with a metric fucktonne of distortion pedals”. Hot off the back of this positive press, the band are now looking to achieve greater recognition for people of colour working within their genre.
The duo launched the campaign on Twitter today, sharing an open letter which pointed to rock music’s origins within Black culture. Referring to 1930s musician Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the letter reads “people often don't know that Rock'nRoll was in fact largely originated by a Black woman." But the campaign is about the present as much as the past. They argue that the MOBOs introducing a rock category would represent “a message to all young Black people to let them know that they can do and be anything that they choose, that they have more creative options available to them, other than the ones society has given them.”
The campaign was inspired in part by Black Lives Matter and the events of this year. “During the the BLM movement particularly, we found so many other like-minded musicians who felt that they never fit in,” explains Amy. “It’s already hard enough for women in the rock and alt scene to break through to the mainstream, and it’s even harder for people of colour. So we need to get the Black community to represent this category.”
“This year has taught us a lot” she explains. “We have learned so much about our history, in terms of music and in a wider sense. We just want to make that difference, so that bands have representation and people know where rock music has come from, because otherwise we’ll never be included, just as bands like us were never included before.”
For Georgia, the campaign is as much about driving rock music forward as recognising its history. “We think this will help the evolution of rock, because if these mainstream award ceremonies show different sides of music, young people watching it will be more encouraged to start a band. Being women of colour who play rock music, it’s difficult to see ourselves represented in the mainstream — this could be the platform to inspire a new generation. We want people [of colour] to think ‘I can start a band’. I think that will really help with the evolution of rock. It needs to happen.”
Rock music becoming more diverse would be in the genre’s own interest, the duo argue, in terms of its vitality, originality and even longevity. “What you find is that a lot of festivals and award ceremonies, especially when it comes to rock music, focus on the same headliners — and they’re always bands that came out thirty years ago,” says Amy. “If we want the music to progress, we have to acknowledge what’s really happening within the genre. We really just want to push the forefront. If you’re going to celebrate a rock category, look to the real venues and festivals where things are happening, the artists that are really making that type of music and give them a real platform.”
Despite rock music’s origins in Black culture, it hasn’t always been the most welcoming genre to Black musicians. Not only that, but it remains a male-dominated industry. “Women are [sidelined within rock music], 100 percent – especially women of colour,” says Amy. “We’ve played so many festivals around the world and we’ve generally only been one of a very few women on the bill. We are generally the only women of colour on the bill.”
But that’s not to say that there isn’t a thriving scene of alternative talent out there. Along with Nova Twins themselves, POC artists like Ho99o9, Bob Vylan, Big Joanie and Loathe are making waves within the genre. “We’ve made a playlist called ‘Voices For the Unheard’, which is comprised of up-and-coming and POC rock/heavy metal bands who are doing incredible things and mixing it up,” says Georgia. “These bands are the new wave.”
The duo hope that if the MOBO awards create this new category, if will have a knock-on effect, and encourage more young people of colour to get involved with the genre. “That’s our main reason for doing it,” says Georgia, “otherwise we’ll never have a spot anywhere, and there will always be a ceiling.”