This week, two exciting funk workouts have been blowing up my speakers. The first, a surprise track leak by Prince & 3rdeyegirl called ‘What If…‘; the second, ‘We’ll Be Free’ by fresh faced twin sister act, Nalani & Sarina. As good as the Prince track is, it’s a bit of a mess with way too much stuff going on in the mix. The sisters, on the other hand, out Prince Prince with their sexy, fresh, sonically-tight, new power soul throwdown.
The classic rock contingent of the Popdose readership might look at their picture and dismiss the Bolton sisters as another tween pop act — in doing so, they will miss out on what just might be their favorite record of the year. While any American Idol contestant can imitate the masters, Nalani and Sarina bring a masterful blend of old school rock, funk and soul sonics into the modern age of pop.
Grab onto your seats, here is the WORLD PREMIERE of ‘We’ll Be Free’:
There’s a reason the music is as hot as it is. The sisters got a little help from their friends. Will Lee’s sinister bass drives the track and revival-worthy keys from Tommy Mandel (Bryan Adams) brings it all home. Oscar Rodriguez, who is currently on tour with A Great Big World, turns in the blistering, Prince-worthy guitar solo at the apex of ‘We’ll Be Free’.
Lee’s cohort, Tom “Bones” Malone (of Blues Brothers fame) provided horns on the girl’s 2014 debut album Lessons Learned. Malone and Lee are wrapping up their decades-long gig with Paul Shaffer & the CBS Orchestra on The Late Show With David Letterman, so perhaps the sisters have a ferocious touring band ready to go!
Popdose was so intrigued with the new EP that we shot some e-mails back & fourth with Nalani & Sarina — they answered in unison except where noted.
POPDOSE: How did you connect with rock legends like Will Lee and Tom “Bones” Malone?
NALANI & SARINA: Our manager/producer has been a friend/colleague for many years – he introduced us to them. Will offered to play bass on our first EP back in 2012. Bones always said if we ever need a horn section, he would be our man! The song he played on our full-length album, ‘Hung Up’, is our version of a Sam & Dave/Stax song. We are huge fans of that style of music.
Had you seen The Blues Brothers before meeting Tom?
We had not seen the movie prior to meeting Bones. We feel humbled and honored to have worked with him.
What’s your live show like? Do you have a horn section… yet?
We perform both as a duo and occasionally with a full band. Our live show has a nice balance of high energy rockers and intimate songs. The two of us do a lot of musical chairs throughout the show and like to showcase keyboards, guitar and ukulele. We would LOVE to have a horn section, and most certainly plan on having one sometime in the future.
In the year ahead — who would love to tour with?
Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty, Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones. We would love to play for the biggest crowds possible. With these names, you can tell we’re shooting big!
Nalani — describe Sarina — as a sister and bandmate.
NALANI: It is so great being able to work everyday with my twin. I can’t imagine doing this without her, because she brings a comfort and security to the whole process. We push each other to be better, yet there’s never any egos involved – and I think that’s what keeps me grounded, especially since this industry can be so toxic.
OK Sarina, your turn to dish about Nalani.
SARINA: Thanks for asking our individual thoughts! Being twins we don’t get that much, it’s very refreshing! I am proud to get up on stage with Nalani every time we perform. She is a best friend to me, and getting to do what you love with someone that’s been there for you your entire life is a pretty special thing.
Our fashion sense is definitely not couture, or Target! We like to be unique for our everyday style, thrifting most certainly being a favorite for us. We’re drawn to the innovative way of dressing and love being able to reinvent clothes to make them our own. For live shows, we try to edge it up a bit while still maintaining a sense of class. We’ve always strayed from the stereotypical “twin” image. Although we are identical, we’d rather emphasize our different stylistic personalities.
Who are your pop role models? What path do you intend to take with your image now and into the future?
Stevie Wonder is a huge inspiration in the way he plays so many instruments, arranges almost all of his records, and has a clear artistic purpose. Bruce Springsteen is the prime example of this, a visionary who has always stayed true to himself and his audience. Although these are male artists, the way they present themselves is what we strive to emulate. No BS! Just great music. And on top of all of that, they’re charitable artists who are socially conscious, which is evident in their music and daily lives.
Our modern pop role models are Haim and Taylor Swift. We admire the way Taylor Swift started off her career not focusing on her looks, but instead emphasized songwriting at such a young age – which is one of the reasons why we think her fans have stayed with her for so long. We also admire how Haim works the sister angle without being hokey or cliché about it. They have an edginess that is intriguing and rock hard playing their own instruments – we have a lot of respect for them.
Taylor Swift bucks a lot of trends, including the pressure to be more provocative with her fashion. She’s gone the more elegant route. Will you do the same?
We like to look put-together, edgy, and classic, but despite what you might think (aside from photo shoots) we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what we’re wearing…we’re too busy thinking about new songs and music. Fashion is very important, it is your self expression. But when it comes down to the music, we want to be known for writing our own songs and playing our own instruments. We didn’t take all those music lessons so people could judge the way we appear and we want young girls to grow up thinking that way too. Perhaps it’ll encourage them to focus on more valuable and rewarding things other than how short they can wear a skirt.
What’s next for the two of you?
We are looking forward to supporting our new EP, continuing to write and record, and building our profile and fan base. Our ultimate goal is to keep playing for as many people for as long as we can.
ALBUM REVIEW: Scattered World EP
Nalani & Sarina’s Scattered World EP will be released in June, 2015. While album artwork has yet to be revealed, POPDOSE has heard it and confirms the mini-LP has a mighty big sound that is well worth the wait. In addition to Rodriguez, Lee and Mandel, the sisters (who sing, play piano, guitars and ukulele) recruited drummer Jim Hines (Brian Wilson) and renown guitarist Leni Stern to help bring their songs to life. Producer Greg Drew and co-producer/engineer Julian Herzfeld deliver a high energy soundscape that is much headset candy as it is a good album to show off your new Sonos speaker array.
Power funk workouts ‘We’ll Be Free’ and ‘Scattergirl’ kick things off with a quick one two punch. In lessor hands, the ballad, ‘Runaway’ could have derailed the momentum, but the production swells to meet the weight of the lyrics and delivers the EP’s emotional high. The girls rap on ‘Get Away’ to a Santana-esque rhythm bed and a rock chorus that recalls early Heart. ‘Love Who You Want’ is a straight up freedom to love anthem that would make Aretha proud. ‘Shadows in the Shade’ closes the affair way too early with a little nod to LedZep before morphing into a low key 80’s rock deep album cut. When it’s done, you’re definitely left wanting more.
As an added bonus, check out the girls duetting with the legendary Sam Moore last April: