DAN MONICK / COURTESY EMI MUSIC
Twins can be twice as nice but double the trouble. Just ask the first boyfriends of international music sensations Liv and Mim Nervo. As teenagers, the gorgeous blonde Ivanhoe girls decided to see if they could fool their beaus, who were good mates.
“It was like school holidays and they were over at my parents’ house,” recalls Liv, now distinguished – just – by her longer locks. Mim has the cropped do. “And we switched jumpers and then one of us went and sat on the lap of the other boyfriend.
“This was a time where the extent (of physical contact) to our boyfriends was just holding hands, so that was a pretty big deal. And then of course I think he tried to hug me or something like that and I totally freaked out.”
Luckily for potential suitors the Nervo twins decided to stick to being twice as nice, concentrating instead on modelling and music. Soon after finishing school, the Genazzano FCJ College old girls established themselves as electro-pop singer-songwriters, producers and DJs.
Known as the Nervo Twins or Nervo, they have since travelled the world, collaborating with Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Hudson, Rachel Stephens, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Ke$ha, DJ/producer David Guetta, the Pussycat Dolls and Miley Cyrus. They have also worked with DJs Roger Sanchez, Armin Van Buuren, Deadmau5, Kaskade, and Laidback Luke.
In 2011 Nervo spent the US summer supporting Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears on their Femme Fatale arena tour, while jetting to Las Vegas for a monthly DJ residency with the Wynn Hotel Group. They also joined the Identity tour, the biggest travelling electronic music festival in the US.
If that wasn’t enough, last September they released their first single, We’re All No One, featuring Afrojack and Steve Aoki. Their EMI deal also enabled them to tap into their underground club scene roots and sign artists to their new imprint, Nervo Records.
Speaking by phone from LA before their recent Australian tour, a bright and bubbly Liv says being a twin has helped her cope with the rigours of the music industry, which often sees her and Mim live and work in each others’ pockets. While their connection is not quite telepathic, it is special.
“People are always like ‘do you have that weird twin telepathy’?,” she says. “We’ve never had any kind of weird (incident) … when Mim hurts her arm and I’m on the other side of the world and I’m like ‘I need to call Mim’. But we are certainly very close and can definitely get a good read of each other’s moods.
“I would say that if there’s anyone on Earth who could read Mim’s mind then I would be the closest to that and vice versa, purely because we’re really close. There’s no secrets between us. We’re always together so we kind of do know what’s coming.”
Mim and Liv are based in London, a world away way from leafy Ivanhoe, where they grew up with older sister Adele, now a Hong Kong-based mother of two, and younger brother Morris. Mum Flaviana is a dentist and dad Garry is an endodontist.
The family moved to Ivanhoe from Whittlesea about 20 years ago. Both Italian, Garry and Flaviana encouraged their daughters to be musical but didn’t think they would make a living from it. To them, a solid career had an academic base.
“Mum and dad always thought music was more of a luxury and a hobby,” Liv says. “I don’t think they thought we’d make a career out of it. There is that academic school of thought where you study and get a real job.
“(But) they were very encouraging of us to learn musical instruments. We’ve been learning piano since we were like seven years old and … we always sang. We always liked to make music. First and foremost we both really liked music. It kind of came naturally. It was just natural that we turned it into a career.”
Their Italian heritage is important. “We’re very proud that we’re Italian-Australian,” Liv says. “Our parents were … working-class immigrants that worked very hard, very moral, good people and very hard working. We speak Italian, so whenever we go to Italy that always helps. It’s definitely a part of our equation.”
Monozygotic twins share the same egg, but not always the same tastes. As a teenager, Liv liked heavier music. “I went a little bit more rock,” she says. “I kind of became obsessed with Nirvana and Pearl Jam. We had an exchange student who lived with us and she liked that kind of music so I thought she was the coolest thing ever.
“People are always like ‘do you have that weird twin telepathy’?”
Both girls, however, loved everything from Cole Porter and Gypsy Kings to Mariah Carey, Kurt Cobain and Tom Tom Club.
After sneaking out to clubs, they gravitated towards house music. “From when we could really get into music ourselves … we both really loved house music,” Liv says. “Mim and I both shared our love of dance music, and that’s where we I guess started.”
At 16 they were modelling when a local producer offered them a job as demo singers. This led to songwriting, a move to London and more work. After a lean period working in a bar, things literally took off, and they have been in demand worldwide since.
Nervo toured Australia last month as DJs, and plan to spend much of the European summer in Ibiza, the legendary party island off the coast of Spain, and in the US, spinning discs and developing their second single. “And then I think the next time we’ll be home is over Christmas. We make it home every Christmas,” Liv says.
Liv and Mim base themselves in London largely due to the network of friends they have built up since leaving Melbourne. They love their new life but miss home.
“Oh yeah, I love Melbourne, love, love, love, love Australia,” Liv says. “We get home a few times a year, which is good. Every time we get home I realise again how much I love the city, and that doesn’t go away. Luckily I’m busy and enjoying our work … so it doesn’t get me down, but we do love Australia, (we’re) very proud to be Australian, very proud actually to be Melburnians.
“I like the café scene, I actually think the fashion is brilliant. I just love Brunswick Street, I like St Kilda … I love Melbourne’s down-to-earth vibe. I think one thing that Australians share or Melburnians … is a very open thing. They’re open to new shows or live theatre in the Botanic Gardens, things like that. I always find when I come home there’s always something fun to do.”
They may have arrived just minutes earlier, but first-born twins often make sure everyone knows who is “older”. Not so with the Nervos. “I’m two minutes older,” Liv says. “(But) there’s no ‘respect your elders’. I don’t think it really affects who’s bossier or anything like that. We take it in turns to boss each other around.”
The twins are close but not immune to disagreement. “We get asked a lot ‘do you like being twins’, ‘do you like working with your sister, do you fight?’ and all that kind of stuff,” Liv says. “We’re normal sisters like any other sisters. We do squabble. I just think the dynamic we have … creatively in the studio it’s very free and very honest and very open.”
“We have disagreements when we’re in the studio. If we’re being creative we feel quite passionately about things, so … I might really give Mim a hard time if she’s not letting me have a go at developing an idea and vice versa. When we leave the studio it’s all over. We’re very good at dropping it, actually, and just getting on with it. If we both agree on things, it’s the biggest high ever.”
Life is full-on but Liv, who describes herself as “sort of” single, says they will find time if either meets someone special. “If one of us finds somebody that we like we call it ‘living time’,” she says. “We take time off or we go on a holiday or we try and tailor some tours around wherever they live. We’re pretty good at that.”
Garry and Flaviana, who still live in Ivanhoe, are now right behind their daughters’ careers. Flaviana travels a lot and visits the girls at least once a year.
“Now they’re happy that we’re happy and enjoying life,” Liv says. “I think when they came to see us DJ, they worked out that we could make a career out of it. I think all parents want is for their kids to be happy in their jobs and have a little bit of financial security, so now that we’re not both waitresses I think they’re both happy for us.”
Australia has about 400,000 twins, about 2 per cent of the population. The Nervo sisters are doing their bit for science, having been on the Australian Twin Registry since 1994. They have participated in studies on asthma, epilepsy and understanding twin competition and comparison.
Registry marketing officer Lynette Walker says the registry has about 66,000 members and is always looking for more. “Twins help us to better understand genetic and environmental factors in diseases from cancer to epilepsy,” Walker says.
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How do you tell the Nervo twins apart? Easy(ish) – their hair.
Liv has flowing blonde locks while Mim favours a shorter crop.
“We just say Liv has the long hair and Mim the minimal hair,” Liv says.
“Mim cut her hair when we were about 15 and now I think she will kill me if I cut my hair. We can’t both be looking too twinny and identical. Mim’s hair looks great on her.
I think she’s really grown into the style and maybe I’ve grown into my style.”
ROBERT CIANFLONE / GETTY IMAGES
After writing for the likes of Ke$ha, Kylie Minogue, the Pussycat Dolls and Jennifer Hudson, Nervo released their first single, We’re All No One, in September 2011. The song was a marked departure in style and sound from their previous underground dancefloor productions, described as “setting its sights on the future of pop, electro and dance synergies”.
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