Words by Brittany Joyce.
It doesn't take long to realize that twin sisters Nicole and Natalie Albino of Nina Sky are super laid back. We caught up with the R&B duo at the VICE office where fall was in full swing. Cozying up around a picnic table, we pulled from our custom tarot deck, talking about everything from music to, of course, being twins.
Releasing their self-titled debut album in 2004, Nina Sky's first single, "Move Ya Body," quickly reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and made its way into hearts via high school dances and first car stereos.
"One word to describe my sister?" Nicole picks up a custom Broadly tarot card from the table. "Mom. That's you, Natalie."
"That works—a word I will accept happily," Natalie smiles. "Boss?" "That works, too."
Raised in Queens, New York, the two have made music together for as long as they can remember, trading normal kid stuff for writing and auditioning. "Me and Nicole always worked hard and spent so much time [making music]," Natalie says. "We were in high school recording our music and staying late at the studio and then going back to school in the morning."
Even before that, they were part of a group with another set of twins. "We were Styles, Mirror Image, Aria," Nicole says, recalling their past band names. "We grew up best friends with [them], but they were a year older than us, and they lived in a different building." The two sets of twins made music together until they got signed at 18.
Working with DJ Cipha Sounds as their mentor, Nicole and Natalie always had a vision for what they wanted to do, but "Move Ya Body" set everything into motion. Still getting ample playtime 12 years after its release, it's no doubt that it was an exciting and strange time. Just having graduated high school and entering college, it came as a sign that they were doing what they set out to. "It's the biggest moment in your life," says Nicole, remembering the first time they heard "Move Ya Body" on the radio. "Cipha had a [radio] show called Cipha Saturdays. We did an intro for him and he was like, 'I'm going to play the intro and then your song is going to be the first song I play.' We had our whole family there just waiting around the radio."
We've been so many places, we kind of take something from everywhere
But Nicole and Natalie don't let their success change their attitudes on making music. "I think if that's not the type of energy you're projecting then people are always gonna treat you the same [as before finding success]," Natalie says. "But when you show up somewhere like, 'I got this song on the radio now, you can't see me' then of course they're gonna be like 'who do you think you are?' If you roll up like 'hey guys, we're back, let's hang out,' then that's the vibe."
Nina Sky released "Champion Lover" this past summer, reminding both of that feeling they felt huddled around Cipha's radio show with their family and how far they've come since. Today, the two are constantly creating and traveling. "We've been so many places, we kind of take something from everywhere," Natalie says. "It's cool to be able to travel the world and have fun while you're working."
Their latest gig is a residency in Atlantic City, where the two say fans are down to party. "In New York City, everyone's too cool to have a good time," Nicole laughs. "But then you go somewhere else and people get really genuinely excited to have someone there playing for them."
It's that energy that inspired their playlist, "Afterhours." Filled with smooth old school tracks like Marvin Gaye's "I Want You," 90s jams like Total's "Kissin You," and sultry new songs like The Weekend's "Often," the list is tailored for post club hours—and maybe a little bit of trouble.