How the NERVO Sisters Conquered EDM

The Australian duo brings energy, volume, and a little something extra.

Professional ravers turned hit songwriters turned top-ranking female DJ act on Earth, Liv and Mim Nervo—born Olivia and Miriam in Ivanhoe, Australia—hustle as good as they look. With residencies at Hakassan in Vegas and Ushuaia in Ibiza and sets at every major EDM festival, the bombshell duo gets down at the center of a scene that just went public. The $9 million they banked last year is going to seem like walking-around money if this year goes according to plan.

And there’s no reason to think it won’t. When you’ve got 3.5 million Facebook fans and friends like Calvin Harris, Afrojack, Tiesto, and Skrillex, you’re sitting, well, pretty. Did we mention that they also have Covergirl contracts? Everyone needs a hobby.

After playing the World’s Largest Paint Party, Colombia’s Life in Color, NERVO told Maxim about their leap to the main stage, partying with 200,000 ravers every weekend, and how napping saves lives.

What’s your personal goal going into every show?

Liv Nervo: Oh, to just have the best night in your life.

How do you guys prepare your music for a show like this?

Mim Nervo: Well, because this is only an hour-and-a-half set, we prepare our set by knowing our beginning and our end. And in between it’s really feeling the crowd and seeing what they want. We’re constantly changing it up with different mash-ups and bootlegs, taking our own records and revamping them. For example, if we’re going to Brazil, we’ll start with a few records that we know Brazil will like. So we always definitely alter the sets for different countries but at the same time, we can’t alter it too much cause it still needs to be a NERVO set that has all of our records in it.

Do you prepare differently in different countries?

MN: Different cultures do party in a different way. In South America, you’ll get people jumping backstage and running into your green room, but with other countries, like Germany, you just wouldn’t get that.

How does America compare to the rest of the world?

LN: When we started playing here, I would say three years ago, we just really felt the difference. We really did. I think rave culture…it’s about what you wear, it’s about the signs and people coming together. It’s really alive and kicking here.

What defines a NERVO set?

LN: I would like to think…I mean, I don’t know. Other people are the judge of it, really. But I would like to think that it’s uplifting and has a sexy element to it.

What does that feel like when you’re up on stage?

LN: Well, we play this ambient intro now, so it brings the scene down and then brings it back up. And we always stay behind the DJ booth for the start, and then halfway into the intro, we stand up and see the crowd. And it’s that feeling right there, when you first see the people. It’s insane, beautiful, amazing. Can’t get enough of it. And that really sets the tone, and then it’s just go, go, go.

This wasn’t always your life. Can you talk about how you got here?

MN: We had some hard years in London, waitressing every night. I think that’s what taught us not to sleep now that we’re DJs. Our shifts would start at six o’clock and the restaurants would close at midnight, so you’re there until 1:30 polishing glasses. And then the next day wake up early and sit at your computer and just do work.

We’d be listening to what we created and we loved it, loved it, loved it. And we’d listen to it from the radio, and it just depressed us that our music wasn’t on the radio because we thought our music was better, and then we just had some lucky breaks.

David Guetta reached out.

MN: He literally just called our mobile. We could not believe it. We almost thought it was a joke, out of the blue with no warning, not even a text message saying, “Hi, this is David Guetta.” I hung up and I was like, “Liv, that was David Guetta, and he really likes ‘When Love Takes Over,’” and she was like “No way.” So I gave him my email address and he emailed 10 minutes later.

What were the first shows like?

MN: That’s where we were really lucky. All of our friends are DJs, so at first we would hire private villas in Ibiza and literally would be fighting over the decks for a whole week. Everyone would just laugh at each other and then play the next record. Then what happened is we had to start taking our deejaying seriously and professionally, so we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.

We basically went from playing at friends’ house parties to playing Pacha Ibiza and that was nerve-wracking and very scary.

What is the biggest misconception people have about the dance music world?

LN: This is a little bit of a negative comment, but I don’t want it to come off a negative way: People think it’s easy and it’s quick. But, no. I think it’s a lot of work. I think the harder you work, the luckier you get.

You spend a lot of time on the road. Has that been difficult?

LN: We’re professional DJs, but we’re also professional nappers, and we’ve got professional packers. We travel out of two suitcases, for the whole year, and that includes all seasons. We need some summer wear, some winter wear, even—you know—things we’re going to wear on video shoots and the red carpet.

It’s a trade-off. 

LN: You take the good with the bad. But the second the good doesn’t outweigh the bad is the second we stop.

NERVO will release a new single in November and their debut album in Spring 2015.

Photos by Sonia Recchia / WireImage