Inspired: NERVO on New Mix Compilation, Influences, & Songwriting
London — If you’ve had any exposure to dance music over the past few years, it’s hard to miss NERVO. The Australian-born, London-based sisters—Mim and Liv, who sports the longer hair—have become electronic titans after a cavalcade of anthemic tracks, main-stage festival performances, and high-profile collaborations has made them near ubiquitous, amassing a dedicated set of fans the pair has dubbed NERVO Nation.
This week, however, the girls are revisiting their roots with the release of their two-disc Inspired compilation: the second installment of Ministry of Sound’s mix series that sees artists telling their stories through key dance tracks of the past and present. We talked to the pair about the new release, as well as their influences and upcoming album
DJ Times: You began as songwriters, having written for Kylie Minogue, Ke$ha, Armin van Buuren, and more. How did the move to production happen?
Mim NERVO: We were writing pop music, and we actually decided we wanted to produce because we wanted to gain control of our work. Instead of just locking up in other people’s studios, showing song parts, and obviously singing a vocal, we wanted to be able to control that in our own space and finish it the way we heard it. It started as just trying to get control of our work, but we enjoyed producing more and more as we kept doing it.
DJ Times: What went into the process of choosing which songs to include on the Inspired collection?
Liv NERVO: We first wrote a massive list of about 60 records that we really liked. Of that list, we got back about five that actually got cleared through licensing, so we had to go back to the drawing board and go back and forth quite a bit before ending up with what you hear on the final album.
DJ Times: When did you decide that music was the path you wanted to take?
Liv: Music was the only thing that ever came naturally to us and we had always hoped that we could one day turn it into a career. There was a time there that it looked like that wasn’t going to happen, but we kept going and kept persevering until we got our big break and started to gain some traction.
DJ Times: Is there a specific song, artist, or event that particularly stands out as your dance-music baptism?
Mim: I’d say Armand Van Helden’s “U Don’t Know Me,” but sadly we couldn’t get the clearance for it on this compilation. It’s just such a record and came at a time when I discovered house music. I think it was around 1999 when it came out, and it was the start of this love affair!
DJ Times: You’ve got a new track on the mix called “Sunshine Thru Rain Clouds.” With an electro-percussive heavy drop, it’s quite a departure from your older material. How did the track come to be?
Liv: Duane Harden—the vocalist on the record—was actually featured on “U Don’t Know Me,” so when the opportunity for the Inspired project came around, we thought why not combine the two worlds: the big room house world we’re in right now and the old school house world via Duane Harden. We didn’t want to do anything too old-fashioned; we wanted something that would work in our sets. It was nice to be able to be able to release a soul vocal, because there’s not always a lot of space for a soul vocal in the current big-room house scene.
DJ Times: Your sets tend to lean toward an anthemic sort of big room sound, but your Inspired mix features a couple of deeper house cuts—including Tchami & Dusky. Is there an outlet through which you’d like to further explore this sound?
Mim: We’ve always been massive fans of deep house and that’s why we love living in Ibiza during the summer. It’s really alive there and is in so many clubs. We’re glad we could put it on the album, and we often put a deeper track or two in our monthly radio show. Deep house doesn’t fit in our sets because it doesn’t have the same energy as the music that we make, but we love it all the same.
DJ Times: You grew up in Australia and moved to London. What were the main differences between the dance music/clubbing scenes of both places?
Liv: London at the time we moved there was the mecca of dance music. There were a lot of dance artists breaking into the pop scene like Fatboy Slim and Basement Jaxx. That was a big change we were seeing; there wasn’t a lot of that happening in Australia when we left 10 years ago. Now, though, there’s a lot of electronic music coming out of Australia: Knife Party, Empire of The Sun, Flight Facilities. It’s really good to see that change.
DJ Times: Has revisiting your influences and roots affected your current creative mindset?
Mim: It’s always been there; we know where are inspiration and roots come from. However, this has been a lovely exercise to step back in time and listen to those records.
DJ Times: How’s work on your debut artist album coming along?
Liv: Good. It got increasingly bigger and bigger throughout the process. When we initially started on it three years ago, we thought it would be electronic, but not necessarily big-room. Now looking at all the tracks, though, it’s got a definite big-room heartbeat running through it. That being said, we definitely wanted to show a few different textures. There’s one track on there featuring Jake Shears [of the Scissor Sisters] and Kylie Minogue that’s got a definite disco vibe. Overall, though, the album is a progression from what we’ve released so far.