In conversation with NERVO, KREWELLA & RAJA KUMARI
Krewella x NERVO featuring Raja Kumari release a badass, empowering collab ‘Goddess’! And we had a chance to speak to them about the collaboration.
Hey guys! Tell us who you are, how you define what you do in the industry and a little about the music you make!
NERVO: We are sisters - Mim and Liv, and we make up the electronic group NERVO. We are from Australia and have been global citizens, touring the world for the past 10 years. We started our career as songwriters, we have both recently had babies and we love tiramisu, schnitzel and cheese and pickle sandwiches.
KREWELLA: We are sisters, seekers, creators, creatures, whose dreams have somehow been fulfilled by the universe. We’re about to arrive at the decade-long point of our career of making music together, and as both family, collaborators, and business partners, it’s been quite the journey. While the dynamic of collaborating and building a business with a family member can be complex through constantly putting our relationship to the test, it has most definitely pushed us to keep the ourselves in check. As a result, the patience, awareness, and dedication to work through the personal struggles and artistic challenges together have brought forth emotional and creative breakthroughs that have been the fuel for Krewella’s evolution. The music we make has always embodied some sort of juxtaposition, whether that be soft with the aggressive, dark with light, ethereal with mechanical, confidence with confusion. A few years ago was a turning point, as we transitioned from releasing through a major label, to self-releasing. That decision opened us up to having more time, space, and confidence, to explore our multi-cultural upbringing, being half-Pakistani American. This fusion of East meets West has grounded itself as a pillar of our visual and sonic art, alongside our electronic roots.
RAJA KUMARI: I’m Raja Kumari, I was born in Los Angeles and started my career as a classical dancer, who later developed into a songwriter, writing hits for Gwen Stefani, Fall Out Boy, Fifth Harmony, and more. I’m also a judge and mentor on MTV Hustle,a rap battle competition show to help groom up and coming rappers!
You guys have a bad-ass, empowering new track out ‘Goddess’ – we hear that NERVO and Krewella were looking to work together for a long time and this was six years in the making! Tell us how the idea came about, how it has evolved from the early days and what you want people to get from the track!
NERVO: We have known the girls and been fan of the girls since they started. We always spoke about getting in the studio together but due to our crazy touring schedules it was very difficult. Then sure enough, in 2019, the Krew sisters sent us an idea they had been working on. We immediately loved it, added our parts and the creative back and forth went on for about 5 months. Fast forward 10 months and here we are today releasing it. Sadly we were never able to actually get in the studio with the girls but hopefully that will change for the next collab. And who knows, perhaps if we are all stranded in LA due to COVID-19 we can make use of the time and make some tunes together, organically, how we all used to before we were touring machines!
KREWELLA: Liv and Mim of Nervo are such legends. We’ve been looking up to them since we were babies in this industry, and always appreciated their songwriting, sister-connection, ambition, and support of our project. Talks about collaborating were loosely thrown around on social media, or as we saw each other in passing at festivals. But when Yasmine and I started working on Goddess, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to bring other bad bitches on the track. We wanted it to feel like a party. Our fellow sisters Mim & Liv brought in their perspective with the songwriting, and we made edits over Skype. They did a killer job of recording and producing their own vocals. It’s such a jam to dance too, and we just want listeners to feel their inner goddess and move their bodies freely while listening. Empowering oneself through body movement can be such a liberating way to tap into that spirit.
RAJA KUMARI: The girls in Krewella sent me the track about a year ago and said they wanted to create a female-empowerment anthem. They had sent me a few verses already written and I added the feature after I had heard the chorus. I wanted to name check some of the bad-ass female warriors of our past to complement the song.
And how did a talent such as Raja Kumari come to be on the track?
NERVO: That is all down to The Krewella babes. They had the connect and of course we were thrilled about it!
KREWELLA: Raja was the icing on the cake. When she signed on to write her bridge and join the party, we felt even more connecting to the record. Her presence, being a badass Indian rapper, writer, and singer, integrated the cultural fusion that Yasmine and I live for.
How great is it to have a full female cast of artist for the collaboration?
NERVO: It’s a dream come true to feature alongside so many great fierce women ! Not only are we female performers but a co-writer on the track is an extremely talented lady called KARRA. Love how these days girls are more and more involved in the making music. It hasn’t always been like this!
KREWELLA: It’s been a long time coming. And hopefully more to come. As our project continues to evolve, our future vision is becoming more clear in that involves more efforts to bring together voices who are still minorities in the dance community.
RAJA KUMARI: I’m really proud of the song,both for the feminine aspect but also because this combines three different cultures from across the globe, and shows that music is universal.
How do you think Covid-19 will affect the music industry both long-term and short-term? How do you see the impact of Corona crisis on the general perception of music? Do you believe everything will just go back to normal after Covid-19, or how do you see it will be?
NERVO: It’s true that COVID-19 has completely crushed our industry’s live business but, it can never destroy it as our love for music and our need to dance will prevail. Short term, we will probably retreat to our previous lives as music makers and spend a lot more time in the studio. And long term (once a vaccine is found) I’m sure we will recover and the live business will return to it’s full glory, if not stronger as we will all have a new found appreciation of the freedoms we once took for granted. It has been difficult to see many of our team loose their jobs, from our agents to the promoters who have become our family over the past ten years, but change can bring a new perspective and hopefully this means we can all spend time with our families and think deeper about what we are grateful for and what is important to us. It’s clear that the world are showing a new found appreciation for our health workers and this is wonderful to see. Our thoughts are with everyone who has suffered through this virus. We are united in our pain and our will to overcome it.
KREWELLA: Honestly, I find that question to be so difficult to answer..there are so many different theories and projections being thrown around out there, and if anything, it’s just been making me feel like I don’t know shit about what’s going on, what’s to come, how to plan, and what to make of this whole experience. There’s so much confusion, lack of valid data, and uncertainty, to even speculate what how this pandemic will reconfigure the psyche of the community. And I don’t know if what I am personally experiencing is a reflection of the collective. I’m a bit all over the place emotionally, and my music choices are such a reflection of that. Maybe the general population is getting bored, overwhelmed, or numb to the constant churning out of music content that feels like a desperate attempt for relevance, and they’re seeking authentic, personal stories, created from a spiritual place outside the pressures of the industry. Or maybe the general population is just gobbling up all the content and spending more time browsing online to bide the time, or because entertainment is healing them. I think it might all be happening at once. At this point for music artists, the inability to plan and schedule our future almost seems to be becoming the “new norm,” and the vibe I’m getting is that some creatives are leaning into this. Like what can be created during this time when we remove the veil of “time.” Some might not even be creating yet. Just taking it slow. Taking it day by day, feeling the feels. Processing what thoughts, themes, emotions, and imagery, surface from the subconscious, as we are not busying ourselves with the hustle bustle of maintaining our positions. As I’m trying to be patient with my own creative process, I’d like to think this period of re-calibration and self-discovery as fertile soil for seeds of art to flourish. If you look at history, art and poetry flourished in such revolutionary ways after pandemics, wars, global disasters...There’s a quote by Egyptian cultural commentator Ahdaf Soueif that I often romanticize when I think the collective’s relationship with art and music: “...art shows your your own feelings, your own thoughts and impulses, articulated, transmuted, given form. And it shows you, in that act of mutual recognition, that you and the collective are one.”
RAJA KUMARI: I think there will be a significant conversation about mental health, and we need to be more open about what people are going through. I don’t think we’ll ever return to the routines we had before, and we’ll take a more cautious approach to things like live events and daily activities.
What is the coolest new thing you have learnt since being quarantined and how did you learn it? How have you been spending this time?
LIV : I am at the home we grew up in in Melbourne, Australia. Our grandmother has moved in and one person per week leaves to do a grocery shop. We have 5 people in our family who could be high risk to COVID-19 so we are all doing our best to stay isolated. So far we wake up, all have breakfast, watch the news (we are glued to it these days!) and then someone starts to prepare food. I have been playing the piano again which has been really lovely and my baby Ace has a lot of love around her :)
MIM : I am in Barcelona with my partner, his parents and our baby Ithaca. We are on complete lock down. We do not use the elevator, we stay indoors and we try not to watch too much news. I slowly chip away at emails and yesterday felt like being creative so worked on a small idea which I sent to Liv before I went to bed, so she can develop it further. These are the times we live in. It’s hard but thank God for skype, whatsapp and all the technology that makes staying in touch with family in Australia and work possible!
KREWELLA: Learning to un-learn. Learning to open the heart and mind (Work in progress).
RAJA KUMARI: I’ve been watching a lot of Trevor Noah and becoming more educated on what’s going on in the world, current events, and how people are being treated.
How do each of you find inspiration – is there anything particular such as art, fashion, family, or your heritage that you draw inspiration from?
NERVO: Inspiration comes from everywhere. Lyrics are drawn from stories and experiences in our lives or the lives of our friends, and musically we are constantly evolving. We get bored of sounds very easily so are always pushing to make something different. Different places we travel inspire our fashion tastes, food and has an impact on so many aspects of our lives. Being able to travel the globe, interact with fans, meet different nationalities, and experience cultures has given us all the inspiration over the last 10+ years and we hope it can pick up again soon!
KREWELLA: Inspiration sometimes arrives at the doorstep of our souls as an unexpected visitor, and sometimes it can be discovered in places in the external environment. World music, Islamic imagery, nostalgic albums, nature’s enigma, taking deep breaths, slowing down, love, human connection, vivid dreams, novelty, dawn, golden hour...those are some things that stimulate my imagination. I get really down on myself when I go through creative droughts, and I’m working on being patient with myself during those internal seasons. But sometimes you just have to do some shit out of your norm to stir up stagnant energy and come up for air.
RAJA KUMARI: I’ve been learning a lot from the younger generation and next wave of musicians on how to create. After signing to Nas, I’ve been a;sp spending more time learning and studying the greats, how they approached mixing, melodies, and lyrics.
As all festivals are for now canceled across the globe it seems until the end of 2020, what new ways have you found of performing and reaching your audience?
NERVO: We try and stay creative. Try and enjoy this forced vacation. It’s actually really lovely to be home with family and our babies. We have never had this much time off! With all the hours in the day it’s easy to be creative! The main issue we have is it is difficult not being together as we feel we create the best when we are together (it’s also a much quicker process when we are together). We will be releasing new music still, doing live stream events, and staying active on socials. It’s important to stay connected and we will do our part the best we can! Hope you enjoy the new sounds until we can get back in front of a live audience again, as there is nothing like it!
KREWELLA: Yasmine set up system for recording video and audio from her home studio, and we went pretty hard on streaming DJ sets, chats, and entertainment at first. Every week the energy of ourselves as individuals, as well the the collective Krew is different, so we’re constantly recalibrating our sense of balance with how much to put ourselves out there and engage online.
RAJA KUMARI: I’ve loved being able to connect on different live platforms. It’s such a great way to have a one-on-one connection with people across the globe and check in with my fans.
Leading on from ‘Goddess’ – who are your favourite powerful, strong goddesses in your lives, or who are some women you guys look up to?
NERVO: Our Aunty Mary is an inspiration. She is so giving and humble. She takes care of our 97 year old grandmother (who will likely live until she is 120 at this rate!). She has devoted her life to her family. In many ways we think this is very powerful and we certainly feel very grateful for her. Our Nonna (grandma) Laura is another inspiring woman in our lives. She has lived through war and hardship, immigrated from Italy to Australia, separated from family, worked full time while taking care of a household, widowed - twice, yet through all of this is still so positive. Her resilience is awe inspiring!
KREWELLA: Our mothers. Our grandmothers and ancestors who are no longer with us in this physical reality, but are woven in our DNA and have left a trail of spiritual seeds for us to follow. Our sisters Aisha and Nida. Esther Perel, Malala, Nadia Murad, Brene Brown, Nadya Okamoto, our manager Fiona (god bless that woman).... oh gosh....Too many too name, and too many I’m not even aware of. But major shoutout to the low-key goddesses in our lives. Like the ones the masses don’t know about, the ones who quietly radiate these beautiful vibrations that seep into your subconscious that influence and inspire you. The mom who rings me up at the grocery store, she calls me "honey" and gives me good blessings every time I check out. That's a goddess.
RAJA KUMARI: My mom is definitely the Goddess in my life. She’s always been my hero, and she’s always approached everything with class and grace.
Thank you for taking the time to speak to us guys, any final words for your European audience? Best of luck with the release!
NERVO: Thank you everyone for the constant support. We feel you, we love you and we cannot wait to get back into things when this COVID-19 era is done diddy done! <3 <3 <3 Liv & Mim <3 <3 <3
RAJA KUMARI: Europe I miss you! I had a secret European tour scheduled that we had to push due to Corona-virus, and I can’t wait to re-schedule and see you soon!