It’s been a while since we last checked in with superstar Aussie DJ sisters NERVO.
Mim and Liv have spent the past few years spinning their club monsters on the decks at dance parties and festivals across the planet, but they recently returned home to Melbourne for a little rest and relaxation. Which in their books, of course, meant a raft of media commitments.
We were lucky enough to score a little one on one time with them during their visit, ahead of the release of their new single ‘Bulletproof’.
You seem to be travelling the world at whim! Where are you guys basing yourself nowadays?
MIM : The season in Ibiza has been getting longer and longer as dance music’s become more popular. So we used to go out there for two months a year and now we’re finding ourselves staying there five months, basing ourselves there for the European summer, then bouncing around to do our gigs. We set up a little home studio. We don’t get too much work done though…
Clearly there’s too much partying going on!
LIV : It’s too social!
MIM : Every night one of your friends is on the island.
LIV : One of your good friends!
MIM : Yeah! And they want to do something. Whether it’s have dinner before their show or go to their show
LIV : Also, everyone travels to Europe, well a lot of people, during the European summer, so you’ll have your friends from Australia, of course your friends from London… and then the Americans come. So it’s a big social fun moment.
So as far as close friends are concerned these days in the industry… go on, drop some big names.
LIV : People think that we’re friends with celebrities and all that kind of stuff, but our crew of besties… they’re not celebrities.
MIM : Our bestie besties. But of the famous bunch, we’re really close with Steve Aoki. And Dimi and Mike, and Jake Shears… I don’t know. There’s a bunch.
MIM : We’re still close with David too.
LIV : Of course. The DJs though… we all came up together as the scene exploded, so in my mind they’re not really famous.
Well ‘When Love Takes Over’ was really the catalyst for David’s career taking off in many ways, wasn’t it?
LIV : It was his first number one / pop record I guess.
MIM : I think it was going to happen with or without us, because he’s so talented, he has such a great ear.
LIV : Yep. Great work ethic too.
MIM : And he’s a great businessman. But it’s more than that. He has this creative side to him where he can just hear a hit, so it was going to happen for him for sure.
Wasn’t it the first collaborative feature vocal that he did?
MIM : Yeah – in the pop space.
Because literally everything he’s done since has been a featured pop vocal.
MIM : It was the first time he’d had a pop singer sing on a dance track.
LIV : And it was his first number one.
MIM : And it was just at the right time. We were lucky.
Well YOUR first number one as well. And hello… Grammy!?
BOTH : Yeah!!
(At this point in the chat, we natter about this year’s Grammy Awards and how Taylor Swift did so well with her album ‘1989’. Liv and Mim both express their love for the work of Max Martin on the record.)
LIV : If you ever interview him, can you just tell him…
Nervo wants to work with you…?
LIV : I’m obsessed.
MIM : We have met him… a bunch of times and we have been close to working with him, but for whatever reason, it has never happened. I think once, we couldn’t work with him because he had to go and work with Kelly Clarkson. And there was another time when we got really close as well… Hopefully one day it will happen.
Given you’re consistently travelling the world these days, are you still calling Melbourne home?
LIV : (sings) I still call Australia home… (laughs).
Apart from family, obviously, what do you miss most about home?
LIV : The food is great here. The coffee is insane. We really miss our family, you know? Thank god for Skype. And we’re lucky actually, because our mum really likes to travel, so she comes and stays with us… we probably do a month a year together overseas.
MIM : She toured with us this year!
LIV : Yeah.
MIM : All through Europe and she would come with us…
LIV : To the gigs!!
MIM : Some gigs she would come.
LIV : The daytime festivals she would come and she’d hang out by catering.
LIV : But the night gigs, she’s like, ‘girls, you play the gigs…’ and she’ll be out sightseeing somewhere in the morning and then we get up late and go straight to the airport.
I was going to say…! Because what time are your gigs normally? They’d be 3am or something, no?
LIV : In Spain, you start at three or four.
MIM : So we’re up all through the night while she’s getting her sleep and she’s up in the morning going to markets or whatever she’s doing. She’s probably seen more of Europe than us – in the three or four weeks she’s toured with us in the five years we’ve been doing it.
So what’s the best thing about travelling the world in that sense?
LIV : There are so many great things about travelling. I think you learn a lot. You learn about different cultures… For your ear, it’s incredible. Because you’re listening to different radio stations, different trends… it’s very inspiring.
MIM : We love the world. We love different foods…
LIV : Yeah, we love that we can eat a schnitzel in Vienna one afternoon and then a pizza in Italy…
MIM : That night! And the next day we’re in Spain eating paella.
LIV : And the next day, we could be in Tokyo!
That’s the thing about Australia and because we’re so geographically removed, particularly from Europe, where there are so many different cultures, so many different flavours within a small area over there. We’d kill for that here.
MIM : And I’m getting really into history now. My history teacher would love that. I never used to really bother about any of it, but now I’m quite interested in it… I’ve been to Brazil, I’ve been to Portugal… The Portuguese invaded Brazil and it was a colony there and then you go to other places like Vietnam and you realise the French colonised that place for a while and that’s why they have roundabouts… Just little things like that around the world are now starting to make sense, historically.
LIV : Even going to India and seeing…
MIM : The Portuguese huts at Goa, but not in the rest of India because Portugal ruled there for a couple of hundred years… Just kind of cool stuff like that.
So maybe in years to come, the dance music will subside and you’ll get more into the travel side of things!? You could do a travel show as well!
MIM : It gives you guys (Australians) perspective. Because Australians and Australia are just so fortunate and lucky. We’re not a poor country. Everyone can have clean water, a health system and an education. Whereas there are so many places we travel to where the majority is poor. Brazil…
LIV : Mexico…
MIM : Peru… All Of South America bar Uruguay is really, you know, poor. So it really puts it into perspective and we are the luckiest and we should be grateful every day!
Absolutely you are. And you’ve achieved an incredible amount in your careers already. What’s still to tick off? Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you’re desperate to achieve?
MIM : There are so many things that we’d love to do. And there’s just not enough hours in the day. We’re bonafide workaholics. So I think what we’ve done this year, haven’t we Liv, we’ve decided to put a little bit more balance in our lives.
LIV : We tried.
MIM : We’re trying right now! That’s why we’re home.
LIV : Yes, but it’s quite stressful when we’re not working. We like to work. You know those people who go on holiday and they like to turn their phone off?
MIM : That gives me anxiety (laughs).
LIV : I like to go on holidays and check in on my phone for an hour a day, just to make sure that I’m still in touch. So it’s been an interesting learning curve for ourselves… we like to work. We’re happy when we’re working. We’re happy when we feel like we’re progressing and we’re building new things like… we just did a week in the studio last week and worked really hard to the point mum was like, ‘what are you doing home? You’re meant to be coming home to spend time with your grandparents…’. She was right. So the next week, we promised that we were only going to do one studio day in that week.
MIM : And we took two days off! And we literally did things like… we went to Fitness First. We did the Dandenongs steps… We felt like housewives that… this is going to sound bad, isn’t it? Housewives in the sense of working out housewives that don’t do anything but work out. Do you know what I mean? So by the end of it, we were a bit stressed!
Doing the Dandenong steps in your active wear!
MIM : Yeah, I wore active wear for 48 hours, basically. (We feign shock) No you don’t understand… that’s a BIG THING for me.
MIM : So yeah, this week we’re back working… (laughs)
LIV : Look, our gigs are always active. We sweat more at our gigs than we do in our workouts.
Well not only will you be bouncing about on stage for a couple of hours, but you’ll also be under the glare of the lights. And those lights could cook a rotisserie chicken!
LIV : Yeah! Well we’ll do classes and our friends will be sweating and really feeling it. And we do too, but we sweat more at a gig.
LIV : Yes! Mine was Brazil Tomorrowland 2015 and it was the very beginning of the summer. It must have been around May. We had such an amazing slot – they put us on main stage – I can’t remember the time exactly, but it was night time and the crowd just… I’ve never seen a crowd like that. They were so responsive, so many signs… Brazil is one of our bigger markets … It was the first time that Tomorrowland had gone there, so it was hugely hyped festival. It was amazing upon amazing.
Obviously some territories around the world, you’re absolutely massive and incredibly well known, but how do you go when you come back to Australia and in the mainstream, at least, you’re not?
MIM : We’re NOT!
LIV : Yeah, we’re not at all known here. Totally. It suits us fine, because we really just get to look ugly in our active wear. (Mim laughs)
Erm… that’s never going to happen.
LIV : Whenever we get stopped in Australia for photos… The other night we went to Queen Victoria Market and we had food there. And in Sydney as well, we find that the people that stop us are always people from overseas, so it’s interesting. We’ve been living overseas for over ten years now, so when we do come home, we enjoy the little bit of…
LIV : Exactly.
But don’t you find it disappointing that we don’t champion and we don’t celebrate you?
MIM : You know, we were speaking to Ruby Rose about it the other day and she was saying the same thing; we wish that the Australian media would get a little bit more behind Australian artists (before their success overseas).
Don’t be stupid!? Australian media supporting Australian artists!?
MIM : Well you have from day one. You singlehandedly dug us out years and years ago.
We can’t even remember what it was. We can’t remember what song it was.
MIM : It was a big dance number…
It wasn’t ‘Not Enough’…
MIM : Not Enough!!
No, it wasn’t ‘Not Enough’, it was before ‘Not Enough’…
LIV : I love that record!
Then Melissa Tkautz covered ‘Not Enough’.
MIM : That’s right!
LIV : I didn’t even remember that! I loved that record!
MIM : But I think you’ve been the only journalist that has really singlehandedly dug us out and massively put us on a pedestal.
LIV : Aussies are huge overseas. You look at those Hemsworth brothers… they’re literally the hugest things right now…!
Do you think it’s a case of Australians have to travel overseas and make it there these days before they’re taken seriously back home?
MIM : Well that’s what we have done, so we don’t really know any other way. But we’re not really supported and we’ve been living oversees (laughs).
LIV : Oh we’re still supported…
MIM : Yeah, by you!
So… ‘The Other Boys’. You roped in Kylie, you roped in Jake Shears, you roped in Nile Rodgers… you’ve pretty much got all your gay bases covered…
LIV : Love it!
Let’s talk about that collaboration and how that came about.
LIV : So we played Summadayze and our green room was next to the Scissor Sisters. This is about three or four years ago. Basically, the Scissor Sisters had finished their set, Jake’s wandering the corridors. It was a home crowd, so we had a lot of friends in our green room… He just came and joined us.
MIM : We got on with him like…
BOTH : A house on fire. (both laugh)
MIM : It was just love at first sight. It was unreal.
LIV : Two years prior we were working with Kylie, but under wraps. That was when we weren’t really NERVO. We were working as writers and producers for her.
For ‘Put Your Hands Up’?
LIV : Yeah, exactly. So he mentioned Kylie in some way and we said, ‘oh yeah, we got to work with her recently’ and then he got to work with her again six months later. He sent a photo of them both together to say ‘hi’. So we kind of started this friendship – a loose friendship – and we’d just catch up around the world. We had a huge party in New York one day, so we all had a night out and then another one in LA. Fast forward four years and he came to LA. We had just moved there and we were working on some music and we said, ‘hey, we’ve got this disco record’. It was when the Daft Punk record had come out, so we were really inspired by those kind of sounds and we were writing ‘The Other Boys’. So we told Jake that we had this disco-pop thing and said, ‘do you want to feature on a dance record? Because we don’t want our vocals on it…’. So he jumped on it. And then he happened to be having dinner with Kylie about a month later and asked, ‘hey, can Kylie jump on the track?’ And of course, we said, ‘erm… yeah?’. So then Kylie jumps on and then the album’s literally going to be pressed. Everything was sorted and we’d started working with Nile Rodgers for Nicky Romero’s album. And we were having dinner with Nile in New York and said to him, ‘oh by the way, we’ve got this track, it’s actually a disco Daft Punk number, it’s got Kylie and Jake on it, do you want to just get on and do a few guitar licks?’ And the next day, he sent us some guitar licks, so we literally had to stop the album so that we could get that track on. And the track very nearly didn’t make the album, but it was because of the features that it did.
We were going to say, because ‘Collateral’s release was delayed.
LIV : Yep, delayed and delayed and delayed and delayed and delayed again.
So we’ll have to blame Nile Rodgers.
LIV : No, no, no!
We’ll blame Kylie then.
LIV : No, we did it. It was just a really organic collab, actually.
And the album, of course, is your first artist album. Was that a daunting prospect to put together?
LIV : Massively.
Because obviously in dance music circles, it’s predominantly about the singles and the club cuts.
MIM : We were loving just plodding along, doing a single here, doing a single there, but after doing that for three years, we wanted to release some records that we knew wouldn’t go well in our sets, but that we still loved and still represented us.
So maybe a little bit more ‘pop’ is what you’re saying?
MIM : Yeah!
LIV : Absolutely.
MIM : Just some downtempo tracks… they didn’t all need to be such bangers, you know?
LIV : Having said that, most of the tempos are around 128.
MIM : But still, it’s not such a ‘set’ record. So that’s why we did the album. But then when we embarked on the album, we found it quite…
LIV : Daunting.
MIM : Daunting and quite stressful, because we’re perfectionists, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, so we were always second guessing ourselves. We had 40 songs to choose from, we honed in on about 20…
LIV : Some of our biggest records aren’t on there. Like ‘Like Home’ and ‘Revolution’ we couldn’t put on. We just didn’t have space for them. It would have meant that we had to get rid of the new ones, so it was really hard.
Dance music, obviously, comes first and foremost for you girls, but you started as pop artists, considering being a pop duo…
MIM : Oh… well..
Ha! Look at that scowl! You almost sicked up in your own mouths!
MIM : No, no… But we love the clubs. And we love DJing and we love writing. I just think we need to go… Now we’re creating some new music which we feel is a little bit left to where we’ve been in the past.
LIV : More poppy.
MIM : Yeah, it is more poppy. But it’s not the pop that maybe you know us for. It’s different again. So I think the reason I screwed my face up is that that is pop we’ve done in the past, whereas now, we’re looking to a different type of pop.
So as we’re fully aware by now, by travelling the world, you’re able to keep on top of the latest trends. Where do you see dance music progressing in the years to come?
MIM : I think R&B music’s coming back. With The Weeknd going crazy…
LIV : You can hear it in the track styles DJs are playing too. Everyone’s playing slower BPMs, bigger bass… it almost feels like songs are going down to eight tracks again, instead of this highly-compressed 200 tracks per record. It feels like we’re stripping it down a bit.
‘Cause it’s often times that the dance music arena is where the next trends are born. We remember when Dannii Minogue used to be…
LIV : Oh my god… remember that record she did?
She’s always ahead of the curve and it’s because she spends so much time in the clubs. She hears new sounds and goes straight to the studio, often times becoming the first to break the trends into the mainstream.
LIV : What was that amazing record she did?
MIM : It had like a talking part over the top of it.
LIV : Come on, you must know it…?
‘I Begin To Wonder’?
MIM : Oh yeah! (starts singing it)
LIV : That was amazing!
MIM : I love that song! Good ol’ Melbourne girl!
So as far as collaborations for you from here on in, who have you been working with?
LIV : Well we’ve got one with Natasha Bedingfield that we’re finishing off now.
MIM : She’s a beautiful talent.
LIV : Who else have we got? We worked with this new guy in America who’s an amazing talent… Dion is his name. He hasn’t released anything yet, but he’s working on an album. Who else…?
MIM : We’re working with Galantis at the moment. Who else? I think we’re going to be recording Kelly Rowland again soon on another record, which will be fun. Also Jennifer Hudson, but we’ve worked with both of those ladies before. People who we want to work with? I love artists like…
LIV : Lauren Hill!
MIM : Lauren Hill… incredible! Eminem! Yeah, he’s cool.
So essentially a mix of dance, urban and hip hop in there!
MIM : Why not!? Lil Wayne… I’d love to work with Drake… love his raps.
And do we take it that will again more be singles-based recordings or are you planning another album?
MIM : We hope so.
LIV : I don’t know. I don’t know whether we want to do the whole album thing.
MIM : Maybe an EP.
LIV : Yeah.
MIM : Where you put together two singles and three bonus records.
LIV : Or let’s go two-two. Like the old singles days.
MIM : It’s also that you have more of a creative freedom… You’ll be promoting an album for a whole year, whereas with an EP, you’ll promote it for probably three to six months. So if you try something and it doesn’t go that well or you’re not feeling that inspired by it, you can manoeuvre and move.
And, no doubt, spend more time having a grand ol’ time in Ibiza with your bunch of besties!
NERVO’s album ‘Collateral’ is out now.
Their new single ‘Bulletproof’ was released on Good Friday.