Even if you aren’t familiar with the name Nervo, you definitely know the music of the Australian duo. Sisters Mim and Liv have written and produced hits for the likes of Ke$ha, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Rachel Stevens; they also happened to write a little song called “When Love Takes Over,” along with two more songs from David Guetta’s album “One Love.”
Now, however, Nervo are stepping out into the spotlight with the release of their new single “We’re All No One,” featuring Afrojack and Steve Aoki. It’s a big, brassy, crossover club-pop anthem kitted out with an array of remixes suited for everything from the festival main stage to the FM dial.
We caught up with Mim during downtime between gigs on the Identity Festival, which has seen the sisters DJing coast to coast alongside Kaskade, Steve Aoki, Skrillex and Afrojack; read on for the interview.
How has the Identity Festival been for you? You must be visiting many places for the first time. What have been the biggest surprises on the tour?
The ID tour has been a lot of fun! Great line up from dubstep (Rusko) to proggy (Kaskade), Afrojack to Avicii – there’s something for everyone! We have caught up with a lot of friends too, so that has been lovely. The biggest surprise… hmmm. I’m surprised at how many Rockstar energy drinks we can drink. The tour is sponsored by Rockstar, and we’ve become addicted to the coffee-flavored ones.
You worked with Afrojack and Steve Aoki on your new single. What was the division of labor like? Who did what in the studio?
We were given a basic track/idea to work on and instantly fell in love with it. Liv and I went away and recorded the melody, lyrics and arranged it. Initially when we started working on it, we didn’t know who it was going to be for (Steve’s album, Afrojack’s album, our album or another artist’s album) but we recognized that what we were coming up with was something totally fresh and it didn’t fit into any box. We sent it back to Steve and Nick and then met the guys in LA and worked together on the track some more and voila…
You’re rather unusual in that you’re both DJs and songwriter/producers. Which came first? How did you discover electronic dance music, and how did you get your start as DJs, and what styles were you playing when you started out?
We’ve been creating music and have been clubbers since we can both remember. We were definitely studio rats, writers and producers before DJs though. DJing came after we got a lot of attention from the records we had done for others electronic artists. We won a Grammy for writing “When Love Takes Over” for David Guetta and also got a lot of attention for the work we did with Ke$ha.
David Guetta was a real mentor when it came to taking our DJing seriously and supported us from the very beginning, letting us open for him in Ibiza and a load of other places around the world. Armin Van Buuren has also been another super supportive friend in the biz—we opened for him on NYE in Australia last year. We play house, tech house, and go a little progressive at times. Our sets always depend on the venue (club vs. festival), crowd and country. We like to mix it up but all in all, we play house.
How did you break into songwriting, and how did you get tapped to write for Guetta’s “One Love” album? You didn’t have such a big public profile at that point, and I’m sure there were many writers lining up for that gig.
We’ve been songwriting since we can both remember, we used to write TV jingles and also demo sing for the extra money, but writing and producing was always our dream and goal. We met David through Kelly Rowland, because Kelly’s label asked us to work for her and she had received tracks from David while partying in Cannes. The first jam we did turned into “When Love Takes Over.” We delivered it to Kelly’s label and they didn’t like it. David then called us and asked us to write more for his album, which turned into “One Love.” Of course we jumped at the opportunity. We had been working with a lot of DJs already and David was definitely on our radar. It was a pleasure working with such talented vocalists like Chris Willis and Tara MacDonald, all of which he introduced us to.
What are your DJ sets like these days—is it a tag-team type of situation, one or two records apiece? Or are you just winging it, and whoever has a record lined up can jump on? Are there any differences in your individual styles?
It constantly changes depending on our moods. Sometimes Liv will take control for a few records at a time, and other times it’ll be me. But we generally tag team. Liv generally likes to play harder, and I tend to like more vocals.
Is your forthcoming album going to be more pop or more dance—or have the two genres merged so much that it no longer makes a difference?
At this point we’re focusing on an EP, and we know it will have a strong electronic heartbeat, but we’re not ruling out other textures either. We want to collaborate with a lot of our friends who are heavyweights in the club worlds, but we will probably look to the remixes to cater for the more underground scene. We’re working on some club releases that will come out simultaneously to our “artist project”—those records will most likely not feature us as vocalists, so lots going on!
“We’re All No One” is billed as your first lead vocal appearance, but what about Massive’s “Take Me To Ibiza”?
Ha ha, “Take Me To Ibiza” was a classic case of a song where we couldn’t find a vocalist in time, so we just cut the vocal ourselves. It did okay and was the first track we ever did with Richard Grey – love him!
If 2011 has been electronic dance music’s big breakout year (at least in the United States), where do you see things going in 2012?
We would be super happy if the love in America continued—we love it out here. Having been on the IDfestival, it’s incredible to see how dubstep is taking over, and I hope it inspires young kids to jump on their laptops and try producing. As far as house music goes, we would love to see the return of soulful house. I think pop music will continue to take elements from the club world for a little longer too. It just seems to work so well with all the major pop stars and their 128-BPM four-on-the-floor records.