'A lot of people didn't even realise that POC could do rock too'
Jasleen Dhindsa
12:09 25th February 2021

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Since their inception in 2014, Nova Twins, aka Amy Love and Georgia South, have been flying the flag loud and proud for women, people of colour and Black people in alternative music.

For their latest venture in the name of inclusivity and representation, the duo have launched a compilation album showcasing alternative POC talent. Titled ‘Nova Twins Presents: Voices For The Unheard’, the compilation is available on limited-edition vinyl via Blood Records, backed by Dr. Martens and raising funds for The Black Curriculum (a social enterprise founded in 2019 by young people to address the lack of Black British history in the UK Curriculum), with 100% of proceeds donated to the cause.

“I think it started from Black Lives Matter [2020],” the band's vocalist Amy muses on the project's inception. “Obviously, we are aware of the lack of representation for POC in our field of alternative music. We just wanted to give them a platform. For us it was a big eye opener because we were just thinking and feeling so insular in the UK; feeling like there's not much Black out music here. Oh, but there is! It doesn't really get a look in. Then we started discovering all these bands. I think we just felt less alone.”

Dr. Martens seemed to be the perfect fit to support the duo’s new project. Both Love and South have been avid wearers of the iconic shoe brand growing up, and have had the brand's support at Hellfest. They were even the face of their A/W 2019 campaign.

Bassist Georgia explains how the collaboration came about: “it felt like a lot was done because of BLM [in 2020]. People felt quite isolated, and the whole community just came together. We did the version of [Voices For The Unheard] on Instagram where we talked to these bands that we've discovered, and you just find similar stories of how they got into the alt scene and music, and how they fell in it as a POC in a white dominated scene. It was really great to chat to those bands, and then Dr. Martens reached out to us and were like, 'we'd love to do a project with you'.”

‘Voices For The Unheard’ allowed Nova Twins to not only collaborate with POC artists in the UK, but across the globe, including scuzzy French punks IMPARFAIT who they gigged with in l'Hexagone, to all the way across the pond at Afropunk Festival in Canada where they met the swaggering solo force of SATE.

“On our actual playlist are some of our friends like HO99O9 and FEVER 333, but for everybody else, we've reached out to them to try and connect, because sometimes relationships can feel quite sporadic when you're focusing on your own thing. We wanted more ways to unite. I feel like bands need to stick together a little bit more, and I think we'll get further in the long run because of it all together, as opposed to people pitting us up against each other and shit like that. It’s just nice to find friends!” says Amy.

To celebrate the vinyl launch, Nova Twins hosted a live-streamed ‘Voices For The Unheard’ conversation on the Dr. Martens official Instagram channel with artists featuring on the compilation.

“People can expect great stories about how these bands got together, and advice from up-and-coming POC artists, and how they create and how they met," Georgia says of the show, "often it’s like: 'how do we meet people on the same wavelength as us?' We picked different genres too, so you've got Loathe who are super heavy metal, Connie [Constance], who is super indie, then Big Joanie who take inspiration from Nirvana, and Death Tour who are super hip-hop, punky and heavy screamo. So it’s a good variation,” Georgia says.

Though it's incredible to see Nova Twins rally up POC artists to fight for the representation and visibility that comes so easily to their white peers, it bodes the question: why has it taken until now to instigate change in this community? And why were the BLM protests in 2020 the catalyst for these conversations to trigger not just the alternative music scene, but the wider music industry in general?

“We've always been discussing this particular topic, whether it's women in music, POC alternatives just existing in a rock/alt space…” Amy states. “We always felt that we were made to hush a little bit, like it was always seen as a bit of a swear word when we spoke, and that we were a bit perhaps, brazen, aggressive...whatever stereotypes come with the colour of our skin. BLM was a really interesting turning point for us where it kind of confirmed that we weren't going crazy."

"Then we started reaching out, holding people accountable, and then suddenly, some people felt genuinely bad, like, 'fuck, I didn't realise my own privilege, I didn't realise what I was even doing...' It's put a lot of POC alternatives and creatives on the map, because people are going out of their way to discover, because a lot of people didn't even realise that we could do rock too!”

“Suddenly our music started getting shared a lot more and people are more aware of us than they were like a year ago, which was amazing because now we've built this community of people who may have felt a bit lost," she adds.

Georgia agrees, and rightly mentions those that paved the way for her and Amy to be as vocal as they are: “we've been watching X-Ray Spex documentaries lately, and you see the parallels of Poly Styrene, how she was breaking through in the industry, but still came in with the same issues. They'd have protests that looked exactly the same as BLM in 2020, and you think that was like, what, 30 years ago? And not actually much has changed.”

She continues, speaking more about how real change can happen to make alternative spaces a fairer, inclusive and more representative space for POCs: “we always say it starts with the gatekeepers at the top, because they're the ones that actually have power to put things into the mainstream and put it on TVs and billboards. So people will walk in the street and can just see themselves without having to dig through the underground to find it. You need to see it on Glastonbury primetime and those big shows where it's just not seen there, where it shouldn't be made as easy for people of colour to see themselves as white. But they make it so difficult because they just think POC is a niche or POCs will not be accessible or sellable. It's just not true.” 

‘Voices For The Unheard’ is just at the start of its journey, but has all the makings to be a global force for change, spearheaded by two of the most ferocious women alternative music has seen in years.

“Until we figure out a long-term solution, we'll probably just go back to being DIY, because at the end of the day, it’s not about the aesthetic, it's about the conversation,” Amy ponders on what's next for the project. “Also, we really want to push for the MOBO awards to have the rock/alt category this year. If we can pull that off it will be incredible because that's how you get to the mainstream and see that kind of difference.”

“Kids will be watching that as well. We grew up watching the MOBOs, we love the MOBOs. So it would definitely feel good to be included.” Georgia adds.

Amy concludes on a sentiment that perfectly sum up what ‘Voices For The Unheard’ is all about. “You want those young generations to watch it. Even if they go: 'what the hell is that racket?' You want them to be like: 'but that looks like me!' Maybe I want to make that racket!'" 

Voices For The Unheard is available on a limited run until 1 March. Pre-order it here.

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Photo: Press