In The Middle with Nimmo
Sarah Nimmo and Reva Gauntlett have been making music together for well over 11 years. “It’s been like ten years, I guess, since we started,” Sarah says over the phone. “Well, ten years since we’ve been in that band, but we’ve been making music in hilarious formations since we were eleven.” The two met in secondary school, and have dipped their toes into hip-hop, garage and drum and bass—Sarah describes her teenage self as “a massive drum and bass head,”—but once the two picked up guitars and started playing as a band, the decision was instant: “We’re gonna be a band, we’re gonna write songs, we’re not MCs anymore.”
That brings us to where they are today: Nimmo and Gauntlett, along with two other friends from home, Josh Faull (bass) and Hannah Rose (keys), started to play together in secondary school/college. The four added drummer/producer Jack Williams to the line-up when they met him at university in Brighton. Now they’re Nimmo, a fully-realised five-piece electro-pop band.
One of their earliest breaks was when actress/model/director Agyness Deyn offered to direct a video for their song ‘Change’, which they had posted up on their MySpace account. “It was a demo basically, it was all we had, and she played it on the radio and it was literally such poor quality, and we thought ‘what the hell’.” Sarah laughs as she describes the situation. “We tweeted her saying ‘Thank you, we appreciate your support, do you wanna be in our music video?’”
“We spent like an hour composing that tweet, it was ridiculous. We were wondering ‘Is this just what you do?’” The two weren’t expecting a response—Reva explained that the demo was so basic that “you could hear the metronome in the background”—so were surprised when Deyn responded. “She was like, ‘Oh you know, I really love what you guys are doing, and I’m not modelling at the moment, but I’m living in LA and I’ll happily just make you a video’” Sarah recounts.
For many, like Agyness Deyn, it’s hard not to love what they’re doing. Their sound is a cross between The xx, Florence & The Machine and the best of 90s pop. ‘Dancing Makes Us Brave’, one of six original singles they have online, is a powerful, energetic electro-pop dance song about how music and dancing can be emotionally cathartic, making us ‘brave’. It’s sincere and optimistic, without being sickly-sweet and overly-cheerful.
There’s also a sense of non-conformity to Sarah and Reva. The two present more androgynous than most, and on stage they seem fully confident with how they come across. “I’m pretty gay, and I guess I look pretty gay. I’m probably at like one of the furthest ends of the spectrum,” Sarah says. The two join the likes of Olly Alexander of Years & Years, Tegan & Sara Quin, and Frank Ocean as musical figures who wear their LGBT+ identities on their sleeves.
In contrast to today’s musical landscape, Reva describes a lack of LGBT role models to look up to when she and Sarah were growing up. “Most of the artists we listened to were like garage and hip-hop, and actually the problem was the fact that there was no one there to look up to.” Now that they’re slowly becoming those much-needed role models, Reva says that “a lot of fans from the Years & Years tour kind of reached out, and you’re kind of aware that you’re making an impression on people and that you’re responsible to a certain degree.“
It’s clear that the two take this newfound responsibility seriously. Sarah talks about “the people that feel like they’re lacking, in terms of inquiring young people and stuff, people who censor their self-image a bit” and reaffirms just how important it is to normalise LGBT identity. “It’s made us really conscious of the fact that we’re not going to censor ourselves, and we’re not gonna limit our identities.You’ve got to be totally true to who you are, musically, sexually, everything about you. If you can be completely honest then at the end of the day people are gonna get more from that and appreciate that more.”
Reva punctuates Sarah’s thoughts; “It was so obvious when we went on tour with Years & Years, you know, it clicked just how important Olly is for a lot of young people. And actually, that seems like such an incredible thing, so yes, it seems amazing if we’re contributing to that as well.”
The band is confident about their identities, both musical and otherwise, and it shows when they talk about their work. “There’s a lot of pop songs, in a sort of classic sense,” Sarah says about what to expect from their upcoming album. “There’s some 5am vibes, there’s songs about paying the rent, there’s celebration of life songs, like ‘UnYoung’. There’s a good range of pop, basically. It is fundamentally a dance-pop record.”
Recently, the band have been busy; in the past year, they’ve have been on tour with Years & Years and MØ, played festival sets and have a slew of upcoming UK tour dates. Reva, throat still sore from a weekend of partying in Berlin, excitedly mentioned her favourite gig. “The one that we played for Years and Years, we played Wembley, which was just ridiculous. Definitely gonna be one that we’re never gonna forget.”
The band is riding high on their upward trajectory and, if all goes to plan, they’ll have lots more gigs that they’re never going to forget.
Don’t miss Nimmo at Headrow House on November 22nd.
(Image: The Windish Society)