If you’re not familiar, NERVO is a pair of Australian twin musicians known for their eccentric style of high-energy electronic dance music. Their work is booming right now, too. Between their radio show, recording music, and high-profile collaborations, they’ve been booked for big venues across the country on their North American tour this summer.
Among their stops on tour this summer is a, what should I call it, sweep-under-the-rug festival called Spring Awakening Music Festival. Totally kidding. On June 17, the duo will take over Soldier Field in Chicago to join the ranks of some pretty big names in celebrating dance music in a fresh festival setting. This is a pretty huge deal. I called NERVO in their hotel in Washington, D.C. before their May 24 gig at the Lima Restaurant & Lounge to ask a few questions. Here’s what Olivia had to say:
Chicago Phoenix: So you’re in D.C. right now.
Olivia Nervo: I am. I just got here and I’m waiting to fly out to New York a few days early. And we’ve got a gig tonight, we’ve got a crazy weekend ahead of us, and yeah! It’s great to be back in America.
CP: I looked at your schedule; it looks like you’ve been really busy.
Nervo: Yes, we have. No rest for the wicked.
CP: No kidding. I saw that on some dates there were two events happening in one day!
Nervo: Yes, on Satruday we’re playing Tampa and Dallas all in one day and then on Sunday I think we’ve got two gigs in L.A. and one on Manhattan Beach. So yeah, really busy. It feels like there’s a real thirst for this kind of stuff in America right now so we’re just riding the wave and having a great time with it.
CP: Do you suppose your music’s been really popular now or has it been growing recently?
Nervo: Yeah, our gigs are getting better and better, the fans are getting crazier and crazier, so we definitely feel like something good is going on.
CP: I think your genre’s really big right now, too. Wouldn’t you say?
Nervo: Yeah, we’ve always been in this genre, we’ve worked in pop music as well, but we’ve always been slightly more electronic-based, anyway. So it’s kind of hard to think that it’s fashionable. Because, to us, it’s always been fashionable. But if everybody’s loving it, then we’re loving it.
CP: What do you suppose sets you apart from the people in your field?
Nervo: Well, [my sister Miriam] and I jump on the mic from time to time, so that sets us apart from other DJs. Our set is really high energy. We play a lot of our own material, so that could be quite different because a lot of the material is unreleased. We put a lot of time into our sets, preparing sets, going through a lot of promos to make sure it’s fresh and interesting. And what really helps is that we’ve got a radio show that we prepare every month so it’s constantly making us stay on top of new music. And hopefully that comes out in our sets!
CP: So what do you think your set in Chicago will be like for the Spring Awakening Music Festival?
Nervo: Oh my god, so excited about Spring Awakening. It’s gonna be mega energy. I think we’re only playing for an hour, so it’s going to be a power hour. Just going to keep it high energy. And we’re going to play a lot of new material. So it’s going to be a lot of stuff Chicago people haven’t heard yet. So it will be great to check their reactions.
CP: Yeah, and Chicago’s a good place to do that, too.
Nervo: Yeah, oh my god, home of House.
CP: Do you like Chicago?
Nervo: Love. We’ve played a few gigs there. We played Lollapalooza a few years ago, and then we played the Mid and House of Blues. We’ve played a few times and just love it.
CP: Have you seen the lineup for Spring Awakening?
Nervo: No, who’s on it? I mean, I have seen it but there are so many floating around that I wouldn’t want to get them mixed up. [She pulls it up on her computer.] Here we go, we’ve got Skrillex, Afrojack, Benny Benassi, wow… We’ve got loads of great DJs playing. Wow, Flux Pavilion, Moby, Carl Cox, Diplo, WolfGang Gartner, Datsik… Wow, it’s insane! Oh, I’m super excited now. Even more so.
CP: And your name is in all caps, too, so it’s hard to miss.
Nervo: Yeah, yeah [laughs]. We’ve been doing the all caps thing for a while now.
CP: Do you suppose you’ll have time to see the other acts?
Nervo: Yeah, definitely. I’m going to hang around all day and check everybody else out. You know, the best part about our job is that a lot of these guys are friends of ours, so it’s really nice to be able to hang out with them at these festivals. It’s the best part about playing a festival, really.
CP: Do you have a favorite song to play for fans, or one that fans always look forward to hearing?
Nervo: “The Way We See The World” is a record we did with Afrojack and Like Mike and Dimitri Vegas, and that gets a great reaction in our set, so we always like to play that one. I’m always looking forward to seeing the crowd react to that one. And also “We’re All No One” is our latest single. That’s been and gone now, but the club kids really seem to know it so it’s no better compliment than having people sing along to your track.
CP: You’ve worked in pop music before but haven’t much recently. Do you suppose you’ll go back to that or are you still working on that?
Nervo: Yeah, we always have a foot in the pop world. I really enjoy writing pop music but in our artistry, we try to push it a little harder with the sonics. Right now we’re just focusing on our own stuff, but I’ll never say goodbye to pop, because, you know, it’s fun. It’s fun to get into both of them.
CP: What are you listening to right now?
Nervo: I’m listening to the new Miike Snow album, and you know what, I’m a little late to it, but the new Coldplay I’m just loving as well. We’re constantly listening to new electronic music for our radio show.
CP: I was wondering about your work ethic with your sister. Is it collaborative, do you separate? Or do you get along well behind the scenes?
Nervo: Yeah, we collaborate every day together. We’re sisters, so everything’s very frack; there’s no room for grey. We can fight and get over it in a second, which is quite nice. In the studio, I think we really complement each other. We do the same thing, more or less: we both write, we both produce, we both have strong opinions. But I think what’s good about us working together for so long is that we really understand each other’s flow. If I need to sit back and let her dive a little bit deeper, I know when to step back. So we’ve got a good flow, a good understanding.
CP: Do you have a balance of decision-making, too?
Nervo: Yeah, constantly. Our life is full of decision-making, from the sets that we play, to the playlists that we make on the fly, to the stuff we prepare, to the records we make. Just everything in business. We’re always having to make decisions together so we’re always quite open with each other.
CP: So, what’s touring like for you? Is there a favorite place or venue for your act?
Nervo: Oh, we love it. We just love it so much. We have the time of our lives. We’re loving the vibe in America right now. We really love New York. One of our favorite clubs in New York is Pacha. Every time it’s crazy people wanting to get crazy wanting to get crazier, so we love it. Just loving America right now.
CP: You’ve worked in fashion before. Are you working in fashion right now?
Nervo: We love to work with fashion in our music, you know, we love to dress up for our gigs. Now that we’ve been shooting videos, we’ve gotten a little bit more creative with the things that we wear. We’re working with some designers that we love. It’s always been a part of us. It’s funny, people used to seem to think that we’re models. We aren’t models but we have been made into models because of our music. We have a makeup campaign here in Australia, with a few more things popping around, but I think it’s all music-based right now. It’s just great to be able to experiment with fashion in your job.
CP: What’s been hot with what you’ve been wearing?
Nervo: Well I really love this L.A. designer, she does these tailor-made shorts for us, and she puts a whole bunch of studs on them and fashioned them all up, so we love them. Another designer I really like in New York, she puts badges and paints and studs… She’s very free and artistic with her fashion. Very, kind of, street. None of that high-end Gucci-Gucci stuff. We really like the street-y designers that are out there.
CP: Well, Chicago’s really looking forward to seeing you.
Nervo: Oh my god, I cannot wait.