When you’re chatting via Skype with two of the hottest properties on planet pop who just happen to be twin sisters who also happen to have very similar speaking voices, things can become a little blurry when it comes to transcribing your chat. Nonetheless, the story of the rollercoaster ride to international fame for Melbourne’s NERVO – Mim and Liv – is filled with juicy stories, tales from the catwalk and creating banging tunes with some of pop’s biggest names.
In our chat with NERVO, they dish up the goss on working with Ke$ha, how the Kelly Rowland track came about and their humble beginnings as glamorous models in Melbourne.
“Modelling was great,” says Mim.
“Well we were always doing music at the same time as modelling,” adds Liv. “Modelling was just a great job that kick-started our professional career. Oooh – that could be interpreted the wrong way!”
The cheeky humour that has endeared them to artists and producer around the world seeps through our entire conversation, but composing themselves momentarily, they explain that their love of music began at an early age.
“Well we’ve been playing piano since we were five years old,” says Mim.
“Yes, it started with primary school, then mum and dad gave us lessons outside of school when we were about eight or nine,” says Liv. “And we did it all the way through school. We picked up and dropped a few other instruments along the way. We did violin for a little bit, but the love for music was always there.”
“At school they had drama and musicals, so we’d always just get stuck into it, wouldn’t we?” asks Mim.
“When we were modelling in Australia, a journalist Lillian Frank did an article on up and coming stars of Melbourne and she picked us out at Chadwicks as these two girls who were doing…”
“More than modelling,” Mim interjects.
“In the article, they interviewed Mim,” Liv continues, “And Mim said that we’d really love to sing and we’d really love to do pop music. So basically from there, a few pop managers contacted us. And a producer. The producer got us to sing some of his demos to test out our voices and he really liked them. But he said that one of the songs was missing a middle eight. He said, ‘girls, why don’t you just try and write it yourself?’ So we did and I think we did a really good job. He really liked it anyway.”
“He loved it!” Mim enthuses. “He said, ‘god you guys have something, come back’ and we wrote a few more songs.”
From there, the girls moved to London to be guided by the then tour manager of the Sugababes, who took them under her wing to learn the artistry involved with being a pop star. They were just 20 years old.
Unable to secure a record deal, the girls continued writing songs, eventually inking a publishing deal with Sony/ATV that would see their songs marketed to pop artists across the world. Cue the new single for one of Britain’s biggest stars of the time – who would facilitate the breakthrough of NERVO.
“It was Rachel Stevens,”, they both say in unison.
“She was a pop princess in the UK and was a very hard project to get onto. We were the only unknown writers on that project and we had the first single,” says Liv, speaking of Rachel’s top ten smash ‘Negotiate With Love’.
“So that was our first break and after that songwriting really took the focus for us,” says Mim. “People noticed our writing. We always loved to club! And we loved house music, so we naturally gravitated towards some House DJ/producers to work with. After writing and producing with a bunch of DJs, we thought why not try DJing ourselves… It was fun and we got into the clubs for free – double bonus! Now we’re addicted,” she says.
“We love that world. We’ve always loved that world,” says Liv.
“It’s funny,” adds Mim, “We’ve always been going to Ibiza and clubbing and going to all the underground clubs, but also writing pop music. It’s great now to be able to merge the two.”
With NERVO songs starting to be picked up all over the world, first in Asia where the girls’ leftover “cheesy pop songs” were “eaten up”, the focus shifted to the United States where a then unknown singer from Nashville, Tennessee was looking for songs to take her into the mainstream. The girls explain how their connection with Ke$ha began.
“Ke$ha is a really exciting story for us,” says Liv. “We met her before she had a record deal. She was from Nashville, living in L.A. and discovering her sound. She and her management heard a song of ours that we wrote with a DJ called Tom Neville. The song was called ‘Fuck Him He’s A DJ’. Anyway ‘Ke$h’ loved it and so she recorded it, the management loved it and then she flew over to London, stayed at our house and together we developed a more electro dirty sound. Then she went over to America and she killed it,” she enthuses.
“So basically from the Ke$ha stuff,” Mim adds, “She got a really big record deal and she has blown up and become a massive success. So now what we’ve been offered is… Her old manager is now working at Virgin Records and before she got the job she called us and said, ‘Girls, I really liked what you did on the Ke$ha project, I’d really like to work you in a more formal way’.”
But it was their massive 2009 club hit ‘When Love Takes Over’ that really sent the NERVO trajectory soaring to new heights. It was a mammoth club and chart hit across the globe (top ten here in Australia, No.1 in the UK), but the girls reveal that Kelly’s old record company had heard it and had rejected it.
“We were in touch with Kelly Rowland’s people to work for her album,” says Liv. “So it was purely for Kelly Rowland’s album at first. She was the one who then introduced us to David Guetta. He had given her a load of tracks asking her to work on them for his or her album. So we were all vibing on this one track which was ‘When Love Takes Over’ and we wrote it in her hotel room. The next day we recorded it,” she says, rather matter-of fact.
“Then she got dropped!” exclaims Mim. “We delivered that song to her label and they weren’t vibing on it, so David went ‘Great! It will be my first single’. And from that, David said ‘girls, I really like what you do’ and then he got us to work with Chris Willis and Tara MacDonald and all of his peeps.”
Though excited that the girls were then working in some esteemed musical company, we’re left dumbfounded that Kelly’s former label Columbia would a) pass up something as glorious and magnificent as the almighty ‘When Love Takes Over’, and b) then drop Kelly from their label. But NERVO explains that more often than not, record companies get scared of change.
“It was a very brave move for Kelly,” says Liv. “So maybe they weren’t ready. Maybe they wanted her to be more tied to her urban roots. Because when you speak to labels, they’re always going on about ‘your market’ and ‘what you stand for’,” she says.
“‘Your Lane’. They always use ‘your lane’,” adds Mim.
The girls reveal that they’ve written more music for Kelly’s forthcoming album, but add that it’s incredibly hard to complete it when they’re seldom in the same city at the same time. Nonetheless, they’ve written for others too – ‘Not Giving Up On Love’ with Armin Van Buuren and Sophie Ellis Bextor, ‘Put Your Hands Up’ on Kylie’s latest album ‘Aphrodite’ and more.
“We’ve worked with Pixie Lott,” says Liv. “And Cheryl Cole recorded one of our songs. We didn’t get to meet her though – ‘cause we were in LA when it happened. We did a writing session for Rihanna. They flew us over to L.A. and that was really cool. Rihanna didn’t want the song that we wrote, but J-Lo wants it. So that’s kinda cool,” she says.
For now though, the girls are concentrating on their debut artist album for Virgin Records. We ask them what musical form their album will take – will it be pop or will it be dance…
“It’s going to merge both worlds,” says Mim. “When they offered us this deal, we were just content being DJs. Writing for others and then DJing on the side. We weren’t really looking for a record deal, were we, Liv?”
“No,” answers Liv.
“So we’re allowed to release six club releases a year simultaneously to the Virgin deal. Which is great for us, because it means we can still work with all the indie club labels, as well as on our own record where we feature as vocalists. We’re doing two club releases with Defected, we did one with Loaded, and the current one ‘Irresistible’ is out on Armada and Positiva.”
“Our record is going to be collaborative,” adds Mim. “So if there’s ten tracks, five of them will be with other artists that we love.”
“We really love artists like Mark Ronson. And Missy – they all have featured artists on their records. Part of our artistry is the fact that we do collaborate,” enthuses Mim.
The girls’ latest collaboration is with vocalist Ollie James on their single ‘Irresistible’. Describing the track as “kinda like a male version of ‘When Love Takes Over'”, the girls are full of praise for the singer’s talent.
“Give him any range – his vocals are just incredible. He’s got a big voice,” Mim says. “He’s just brilliant.”
Armed with a swag of tunes recorded by Miley Cyrus, Cheryl Cole, Kylie Minogue, David Guetta, Kelly Rowland, Rihanna, J-Lo, Pussycat Dolls, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Pixie Lott, Rachel Stevens, Ke$ha and more, it’s safe to say that the world is a little less dull with NERVO brandishing their ever increasing pop powers in it.
And with their debut artist album due sometime in the first half of 2011, the next year’s looking like it will be the brightest yet for some of the shiniest, most sparkling artists to have emerged from our shores.
NERVO’s single ‘Irresistible’ (featuring Ollie James) is available digitally now.
NERVO’s debut album is due in the first half of 2011.