For a group with only two proper albums, identical twins Nicole and Natalie, or Nina Sky, have gone through more than their share of career transitions. From their childhood aspirations of stardom to a bumpy ride as major label artists, they’ve now chosen to continue on their musical path as free agents. Their story is a compelling one, but one that seems to be becoming more common in our more democratized media world. We talked to Nina Sky about what it's like to be an independent artist with major aspirations working today.
Ad Hoc: How do you think the rise of social media has changed what it’s like to make music or perform?
Nicole Albino: It has changed things, mostly in that we can get more feedback from our fans now, which is awesome. We can gauge the reaction in real time, and now we can always drop something else if we want, but I don’t think it’s really changed the way we release music or how we decide what to release.
Ad Hoc: Do you think labels are still necessary for artists today? How has it been for you guys since being independent from a label?
Nicole A: I think labels are beneficial to artists because they have a lot more money than an independent artist might have to put into their own, but I think even when you’re signed, you still have to grind like an unsigned artist anyway, you know what I mean? I don’t think artists need labels to put out material, because with the internet and with the technology that’s available, you can record something and mix and master it and put it out yourself. But I do think that labels provide the machine and the money that a lot of artists need to put out physical albums.
Natalie Albino: And the staff. Because when you’re an independent artist, you’re hiring people yourself to do things here and there. When you’re part of a label you have the staff, you have the resources.
Nicole A: But that’s all they have that you don’t have, because labels don’t provide the creative input that artists really need. If you know what you’re trying to do and the sound you’re trying to make and you have your vision—if you’re looking for a label to provide that for you, then I don’t think you’re ever going to get that. The label provides the money backing, but aside from that, I think artists today can do it on their own with technology and with the internet and the way that you can connect with your fans on the internet.
Ad Hoc: So how has it been for you guys since being independent?
Nicole A: It’s been awesome. Because we’ve always been ones to record non-stop. We’ve always been recording, we’re always collaborating with people, we never stop working. Like today, after this, we go over to the other side of the apartment; we have a little studio set up and we put down all our ideas there. And we’ve always been like that. When we were signed to a label, we were writing songs and producing songs on our own too.
Natalie A: Yeah, we’re really hands on and we’ve always been hands on.
Nicole A: It's awesome when you put in your heart and soul and know that everything is happening because of you and your hard work. Being signed to a label, everyone has their own opinion on who you should be, what you should sound like. Now it’s just me and Natalie and we have a really small team of people around us whose opinions we really trust and value, and they’re friends of ours as well, so it’s really different when you’re working with your own team and creating your own music together as opposed to having all these business people saying, “You should do this."
Ad Hoc: How does your visual appearance/aesthetic play into your music?
Nicole A: We just really try to be ourselves, you know. We’re always changing, but we are always basically just trying to be ourselves, and we don’t think too much about it.
Ad Hoc: Which artists currently making music are the most inspiring to you?
Nicole A: I think Beth Ditto is always super inspiring.
Natalie A: Yeah, we just saw her at Brooklyn Bowl, and she’s just always amazing and inspiring.
Nicole A: And Frank Ocean, but who doesn’t love Frank Ocean?
Ad Hoc: Which producers are you working with these days, or do you prefer doing the production yourself?
Natalie A: I would say we co-produce a little bit, but Nicole does most of the producing. I would say we find people who are our friends, who we’ve met along the way. A lot of them are people we meet online, or who just send us tracks.
Nicole A: Talking about social media, that’s how we collaborated with Lauren Flax and Lauren Dillard, CREEP—we hit them up on Twitter, and that was how that happened.
Natalie A: Whoever we vibe with, it’s all about good energy. We’re not trying to recreate something that already exists, so it’s not about who has the hottest track right now.
Ad Hoc: What do you think about where women are in the music industry right now?
Nicole A: I’m always excited about women in music. I think when you start talking about it like it’s…. I don’t know. I feel like the way you presented the question you don’t think there’s anything good happening for women in music. Do you think that?
Ad Hoc: No, I just always want to see more representation for women in every genre.
Nicole A: But there are a lot of awesome artists who are women! So I don’t necessarily think that they are underrepresented. And I always feel like there is more room for more women to come out and do more shit, but I don’t think they’re underrepresented. People love women in music.
Ad Hoc: Are you guys gonna be touring in 2013?
Nicole A: We’re always touring. We’re doing 7 dates at the end of January, and we’ll be doing those dates with a DJ and a drummer. It should be fun. We haven’t toured for the last project we put out, so this will be sort of for that project.
Natalie A: Yeah, it’ll be a lot of the new stuff. Some old stuff, but a lot of the new stuff we’ll be performing. And we’re planning on putting out a mixtape this year.