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NERVO: DJ MAG North America Cover Feature

Australian twin sister-duo NERVO is already having what looks to be one of their biggest and busiest years to date. Gearing up for their return to Miami Music Week, the beautiful Liv and Mim drive headfirst toward another wild run under the sun. DJ Mag hopped in the backseat with them to hear their thoughts on women empowerment and their real feelings about the EDM bubble burst...

“We’re not a normal kind of two people coming together.” It’s 2pm on a Tuesday in Brazil at the height of Carnival. Olivia “Liv” NERVO has just woken up to a day’s worth of unread emails, missed text messages and countless social media notifications. 

“They do say blood is thicker than water, don’t they?” Her twin sister, Miriam aka “Mim”, is shouting into Liv’s laptop from across the room, completing her sentences by way of sibling telepathy. “We can argue like nothing else and then be able to move on,” Mim says. The two are beacons of stamina: Last night, the NERVO girls threw down an epic set in front of 3,000 Brazilian ravers, their seventh consecutive show in five days across Brazil as part of the country’s Carnival festivities. Even with a broken nose and stitches across her face — the result of a nasty swim accident that occurred three days prior to this very interview — Mim powers through it all, like the true machine these sisters are. The word “tired” simply does not exist in NERVO’s vernacular.

This same unbridled energy is a key factor in how Mim and Liv have stayed at the top of their game since exploding onto the scene in 2009 after being hand-picked by the Frenchman himself to co-write David Guetta’s Grammy-nominated, chart-topper ‘When Love Takes Over’. It’s also what’s fueling NERVO in 2018, a year of milestones that already includes a performance on MTV’s TRL and their American late-night TV debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, both times alongside best friends Sofi Tukker and The Knocks. This summer, the girls will also host their first-ever #NERVONation stage at mega festival Tomorrowland, where attendees are bound to hear their newest single, ‘Like Air’, a collab with Wolfpack, which marks the first official track on their own Got Me Baby! Records, a sub label under Armada.

Despite fully stacked schedules, these twins do not display diva behavior. NERVO continues to shine on, always beaming charismatic smiles and Aussie-tinged chipper vibes. They’re true Magic City ambassadors who represent the Miami spirit to the core: endless good times under the sun. This month, NERVO return to South Beach with their fan-favorite NERVO Nation party at the SLS, plus a few surprise performances throughout the city you won’t want to miss. If you don’t believe us, see for yourself in this no-bull interview with the dazzling cover ladies who are here to stay – we hope forever.

NERVO: DJ MAG North America Cover Feature

It sounds like 2018 will be the year of NERVO. Are you aiming for world domination this year? 
Liv: “Every year we look back and we just have to pinch ourselves. And then we look to the year ahead and it’s equally as exciting. We still genuinely, really love what we do. There’s no bigger high than seeing people in the crowd react to your song or reading their comments online about how much they love that song or how much it touched or helped them through their life. That is the biggest high, and we’re constantly chasing that — we’re like addicts for it.”

Musically, you’ve taken some risks recently. How is your new music different than what you’ve done in the past? 
Liv: “We did a collab with Chief Keef [‘Champagne’], who’s a rapper. That was bringing one world to our world that we weren’t sure would connect. We really loved the record, but I think the worlds were a little bit too far apart in the end. It’s experimenting.”
Mim: “The music industry is changing so dramatically.”
Liv: “But now I feel like things like Spotify have just changed the game. It’s a difficult balance of how much do you focus on that as an artist or how much you would just ignore it and play to your core. The music business is full of curveballs and there are just no rules. As an artist, it keeps you working really hard.”

Let’s talk Got Me Baby! Was having your own label always part of the NERVO master plan? 
Liv: “It wasn’t really. It was always one of those things like, ‘Look, we can’t add another thing to the plate.’ But [Armada] made it really easy for us. We came up with the title, and they loved the records we submit. We love our radio show because of the same reason. When you play a set, there is a responsibility of making the crowd move and playing certain records. But there are other records that you can release on your label or that you can put on your radio show that are not records that you’d ever play out. It’s another nice creative outlet for us.”

What is the label’s driving ethos? 
Liv: “We’re doing our very best not to fit in a box. You know what kind of records are going to come out on Revealed. You know what records are going to come out on Protocol. You know what records are going to come out on Musical Freedom. I hope that Got Me Baby! keeps people guessing and listening and intrigued.”

More curveballs.
Liv: “The thing is with us, we’ve never really fit into a box. When [people] think of NERVO, they might think of EDM. And I don’t think that’s really fully us. I do feel like we’re diverse — we always have been. We’ve been lucky enough that that movement embraced us.” 

The stars aligned for you. 
Liv: “I think we are copping a bit of a backlash from it now. I feel like it’s a dirty word in a lot of places, which I think is a shame. I just think the industry and just people in general look at EDM and they think it’s done. Or people on Spotify look at NERVO and they think it’s an EDM act. We’re trying really hard to show people that we’re diverse. As much as the bubble was a great thing, on the flip side it can have its challenges to navigate around.”

So is there indeed an EDM bubble? And has it busted? 
Liv: “I think EDM is dance music. I think it’s alive. I think it’s kicking.” 
Mim: “I don’t think electronic dance music should be a dirty word. Even when we speak to promoters and they all say to us, ‘The EDM bubble has burst! We’re not booking any EDM artists anymore!’ And we’re like, ‘Oh OK, so what do we play then? What’s our sound?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, uplifting dance music!’ So maybe we might be called UDM.” 
Liv: “I love that!”
Mim: “[EDM] was a time when dance music and European dance artists really started to break America. That should be celebrated, but I think that bubble has moved to a more urban side. And now dance music has returned to... 
Liv: “Uplifting!” 
Mim: “UDM!” 

You have a lot of collaborations coming up this year in the pop and dance music worlds. Do you have to switch creative minds when you’re approaching these two distinct sounds? 
“Creatively, there’s no difference. When we’re just working in a studio on a track, it really doesn’t bother us if it’s 110 or 126 BPM. I think where you have to put on your different hat is in marketing strategy. That all boils down to working with the labels and collaborating with someone [and] what they bring [and] their avenue [and] the box they fit in. Creatively, we love it.” 
Mim: “It’s really exciting, musically and creatively, because it keeps you on your toes for all elements. But the nice thing about us not fitting anywhere is that we do get to perform on Fallon and TRL and the VMAs.”

Speaking of Fallon, you just had your first-ever late-night TV performance in America. How’d it go? 
Liv: “We played on X Factor, but we DJed. [On Fallon], we were singing, we had microphones, we had dance moves.” 
Mim: “And we only found out the day before that we weren’t gonna play behind a DJ booth.” 
Liv: “We thought we were DJing. And we get there and they’re like, ‘Nah, we’re all singing.’ And we’re like, ‘Whaaaaat?!’” 

That’s quite the curveball. 
Liv: “Scrambling to get it all done, it’s pretty crazy stuff. But looking back, it was good fun.”

It’s Miami time! What is it about Miami that makes artists bring their A-game? 

Liv: “With us, Miami just fits perfectly in our music touring schedule. By March, you’re just ready to hit the road running and you’re ready to vibe up and hit the year with new, fresh tunes and the summer ultimately.” 
Mim: “It’s a real checkpoint in the year where everyone tries to have the new sound, the new flavor that they want to represent for that year.”
Liv: “And also, above all, it’s just a hell of a lot of fun. Everyone’s there. You’re bouncing into everyone.” 
Mim: “You’ve missed everyone because you’ve become a hermit for the last three months in the studio.”

It’s kind of like Christmas, when you see all your family and friends who you never see during the rest of the year. 
Liv: “Totally! Also, Europe is freezing right now. So Miami is just good vibes—people getting ready to leave the cold, hang with your buddies and play new music.” 
Mim: “I’m nostalgic about Miami. We used to be ravers. We’d go to Ibiza, go to Burning Man, go to WMC. That was the yearlong goal — your party goals. We have a great feeling going there all the time.”

After Miami, you’re hosting your #NERVONation stage at Tomorrowland over the summer. Any special surprises? 
Liv: “We’re really pushing for a live element, because we always love a live element on our shows. We’re really excited to work with the Tomorrowland crew to build the line-up.”

Let’s get serious for a moment: In this post-Weinstein world, what kind of year should women expect in 2018? 
Liv: “I think it’s the beginning of something huge. I think women no longer need to be afraid to say anything. I think that’s where it starts to change. We’re finally in this place where women can tell their truth. I think it’s great. I think it’s so hard for the girls that have come forward. I also think girls need to be smarter as well. They need to not put themselves in scenarios that are jeopardizing. However, if it does happen, at least now I feel like the window has been opened and they can actually say something happened. They can talk about it and then that’s when the change will come.”
Mim: “If you start sniffing out a scenario where you’re not going to feel comfortable, where you’re going to be compromised, you get out before it gets to that point. I think it starts early on. You got to teach women, and other women have got to teach women, that you’ve got to set boundaries.” 

What is the role of men in all this? 
Mim: “Men have to be gentlemen, as always. A good man is a gentleman. The manners make the man. It’s just up to strong women to teach weaker women, and it’s the people to be taught from young ages what respect is, what boundaries are. It’s horrible that a few men in positions of power have muddied the waters, because there are a lot of good men out there as well. So it shouldn’t be a man-hating decade or year. It should be [about] uplifting women.”

As one of the largest female-fronted acts in dance music, do you feel any sense of responsibility to your followers? 
Liv: “If we can be an example to people, then great. If it’s positive, brilliant. Bring it on.” 
Mim: “Sometimes we do think a second time before we make decisions based on where we are and what other women look up to us for. I will say the techno DJs, they’re great. They set the example. I think they’re great female pioneers. Sadly in the more commercial space of dance music, there are [fewer] credible women.” 

This month we’re celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. What message do you have for all the young women and all the little girls in the world who want to do what you do? 
Liv: “Go for it!” 
Mim: “Don’t be scared about this Harvey Weinstein hysteria. You, yourself, lead the way and make your path.”
Liv: “There are wonderful people out there, men and women, who will support you. Just have your wits about you, work hard and be honest. 
Mim: “Let the music do the talking.”

Want more cover stories from DJ Mag? Check out our previous DJ Mag North America cover features with Porter RobinsonAlison WonderlandPaul van Dyk, and Monika Kruse

John Ochoa is the editor-at-large of DJ Mag North America. You can find him living his best life on Twitter.

Photos by Chloe Paul. Find her work online and follow her on Instagram.