“There are less women DJs, so the odds are against us,” said NERVO in a DJ Mag interview last year for its annual Top 100 DJ list. The sisters, Miriam and Olivia Nervo, debuted on the list in 2012, peaked at No. 16 and currently rank No. 24, which are record highs for any female artist on the male-dominated list. The duo deserve acknowledgement for pioneering new paths for female EDM artists, but NERVO seeks to be the best DJs, not the best female DJs. While they have inspired countless young women to become artists, the twin sister are defined by their music, not their gender, and their behind-the-scenes talent is what originally got them noticed.
The Aussie duo started out as songwriters penning tunes like David Guetta’s Grammy-nominated “When Loves Takes Over,” Miley Cyrus’ “Let’s Get Crazy,” Ke$ha’s “Fuck Him He’s a DJ” and Avicii’s “Enough Is Enough,” among many others. Only after establishing themselves as hit makers did NERVO sign a recording deal as artists. The duo started dropping singles in 2010, and the following year, “We’re All No One” cracked the Top 10 on the U.S. dance chart. NERVO followed with big singles like “Reason,” “Hold On,” “Revolution,” “Like Home” and the 2015 dance chart-topper “The Other Boys” with Kylie Minogue, Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters) and Nile Rodgers (Chic). Gentlemanly manners aside, there’s no need to open a door for these ladies when they’ve already kicked it down.
You primarily released singles for several years before putting out Collateral in 2015. What led to releasing a full album after so many years focused on singles?
Miriam: Releasing an album was always a dream of ours. We were able to make records that weren’t necessarily aimed at the dance floor or to chart. I guess you could say it was an indulgence of ours to make the album.
How did “People Grinnin” evolve as a song? What was the original idea, and how close is the final product to that idea?
Miriam: We were given some acapellas that we instantly fell in love with. When we discovered that the singer —The Child Of Lov—had actually passed away from a rare disease that affects the voice, we felt more compelled to finish the ideas to make them see the light of day.
Gender discrimination is a theme in the music video. What type of gender discrimination did you experience coming up as studio engineers, and how can women fight against it?
Olivia: We never experienced gender discrimination. In fact, we only ever received a lot of support from people when they knew how involved we were in making music.
You have worked with many of the top male artists. When the topic of discrimination comes up, how do male DJs and producers characterize it?
Olivia: Most of the male DJs fully supported our journey. The ones that didn’t support us had a hard time understanding why we wanted to transition from writers—who would work for them—to DJs, who would work for ourselves. It took some time, but I think everyone can see that we were serious about our careers, and we worked very hard to get where we are.
“Boob Job,” one of your first singles, asked if female artists experience more commercial success when they get implants. What sparked the idea for the song, and was part of the fun knowing that journalists like myself would experience discomfort searching online for “NERVO Boob Job” at work?
Miriam and Olivia: Ha! Hilarious. We had just moved to The U.K., and we were super shocked that there were topless girls on page three of the newspapers. We wrote “Boob Job” for another artist, who ended up passing on the track, but somewhere along the line a radio station in Australia heard the demo, and it was being played on Nova and a few other radio stations. There was no label behind this release and no artist either, so that’s why you can’t buy the record or see a music video. The concept behind the lyric is asking whether getting boobs out would help your song reach number one. We think it’s probably still a relevant question today as annoyingly there are still a lot of female DJs that flash their private bits to get attention.
Your involvement in the fashion world includes everything from a contract with CoverGirl to Fashion Week events. How has being immersed in the music world influenced the way in which you see fashion and your goals in terms of personal style?
Miriam: We love the fact that our job allows us to dress up and get creative with fashion, and we have been lucky enough to work with brands that align with us, and vice versa. We think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to express yourself through fashion. Why not, hey!
Various groups, religious leaders and politicians attempt to prohibit a whole lot of stuff based on personal moral convictions they wish to impose on others. Besides governments that deny certain rights to females, what would be another prohibition—proposed or currently in place—that you are against?
Miriam and Olivia: We think women should have the same rights as men. Full stop. The fact that in some countries today women are not allowed to drive a car is just crazy to us. And it makes us realize how lucky we are to have been born in a society that welcomes and encourages women to work where they want, live how they choose and ultimately be who they are without having to consult their gender.
Omnia Nightclub in Las Vegas has made you a regular. How are the Vegas shows different than what a person might experience on your current European summer tour?
Olivia: We definitely play a different set in Vegas to what we play in Europe. We get to play slower tempos and trappier beats [in Vegas]. We also get to play a little longer, which is always fun.
Your success has you performing around the world. What have your travels taught you about humanity?
Miriam and Olivia: Wow. Great question. Traveling the world has shown us so much. On a career level, we realize that we are so fortunate to be born in a first-world country because the opportunities that we have had access to are so much greater than many. Than most, really. And for this we are eternally grateful. We cannot take one second for granted. We are so, so fortunate. We see more in one year than what people see in their whole lives. On a life level, we are so, so lucky to have basic needs—water, food, electricity and a roof over our heads. We are some of the luckiest people on earth.
David Jenison (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD. Main photo by Dan Monick.