Back Issue__ Nina Sky: Cosmic Connection
Photos: John Roman
Styling: Julie Clark
Nina Sky have come a long way, from writing lyrics on their stoop as little girls to touring the world.
Some twins are competitive with one another, and some are close for life. Nina Sky, Puerto Rican identical twins hailing from Queens, New York, fall into the latter category. Since the womb Nicole and Natalie Albino have pretty much been inseparable. “I mean, we were born together,” Natalie jokes. “We always played together. It was always the only friend we always had around, so.” Nicole chimes in “We’re best friends.”
As talented as they are beautiful, Nicole and Natalie have music running through their veins. After their foray into songwriting on their stoop (their version of the Brill Building) and recording sessions on their brother's cassette player, Nicole learned how to DJ. Probably one of the youngest female DJs around, she was mixing at the age of 13. “By the time I was 15, I was DJing in like clubs and lounges around, in small clubs and lounges in New York—places that I couldn’t even get in to because I didn’t drink. I was 15.” And even though the two have now performed as Nina Sky around the world—they recently performing on the Ivory Coast and their favorite place to play is now Zagreb, Croatia—this year Natalie has joined her sister behind the tables. “Nicole taught me—like, I actually paid attention and I’m okay. I made my debut—we did a pride party.” Nicole backs her sister up. “Natalie’s a better DJ than a lot of the DJs that claim to be DJs.”
The twins continued living together after leaving their parents’ nest. That is, until Nicole got annoyed by Natalie’s new friend. “Natalie got a dog, and I got really annoyed,” Nicole says. So Natalie moved out. But being twins, it wouldn’t take long for their interests to realign. “A few months later, I got my own dog.” When asked the twins if they miss living together, the answer is simple and the same from both of them. “Nope.”
Though they're no longer roommates, the two girls get along tremendously. They do all the things you would expect of two people that are as close they are: they finish each other's sentences, laugh at each other’s jokes, tell the other one honestly when something doesn't look good, but that doesn't mean they always agree. “We disagree about everything!” Nicole says. “I mean, we’re not the same person. We have different ideas, you know. Different ideas of how things should be, but we compromise a lot.”
Nevertheless, they say twins can have a cosmic connection with one another—like when one gets hurt, the other can feel it, and so on. “When I’m sick, Nicole can tell,” Natalie says as she recounts a story from when she was in college. “She called me and she just knew something was wrong and she started crying and I started crying. I was like, ‘Wah, I’m in the hospital,’ and she was like, ‘Ah, I’m so sad I can’t be there with you. I knew something was wrong.’”
Musically, it’s hard to pinpoint Nina Sky’s sound or categorize them “We’ve collaborated with people like Diplo. We’ve collaborated with Sean Paul. Aventura, who’s a Bachata group. We just love music that much,” Nicole says. “If we like something, it doesn’t matter if it’s hip-hop, reggae, R&B, jazz, opera, whatever—we’re gonna do it.” But what direction is their music headed now? “We went through a period of time where we were just making, like, real hard, like, not happy music. So I think this time around, we’re in a better place. We’re writing all our own music, co-producing it. So it definitely is fun, happier music than we’ve made,” Natalie says.
By that "period," they may or may not be referring to a time earlier this year, when Nina Sky had some problems with their record label, Polo Grounds Music. "We finished an album, and we were under the impression it was gonna be released, and it never was released, so we got kind of upset about that because, when it came to communicating, we didn’t feel like they were communicating that they weren’t gonna release the album." Instead of lying down, Nina Sky took their issue to the fans. "We vented out on the Internet, and it kinda like got out of hand,” Nicole says.
Social media—you know, Facebook, Twitter and the like—can spur a movement, and even though the album has yet to be released, Nina Sky did rally their troops in support of their cause, garnering much press in the process. This may have given them the confidence to keep it moving. Nina Sky kept making music, releasing an EP, The Other Side, this past August.
And Nina Sky likes that with social media, they can connect. "I feel like it’s the most direct contact we have with our fans, and they’re the ones who make us Nina Sky," Nicole says. Natalie adds, "It’s really important that everything that comes from Nina Sky, comes from Nina Sky. Like, even if it’s just a simple ‘Good morning’ on Twitter, we’re writing it. Or, ‘Hey, check this out,’ it’s really us asking you to check it out. It’s not label stuff."
Like their music, the girls’ fashion sense is hard to place. From long hair to short dos. From more of a hip hop look to New York City eclectic. "We first came out when we were 19. We’re 26 now. It’s been a while. If I looked the same way I did when I was 19, people would be like, Oh my god, those girls," Natalie says. “Traveling the world, you’re influenced by everywhere you go. You see people rocking something, you’re like, that’s cool, or, like, it doesn’t even have to be someone wearing something. You’re inspired by everything. We’ve just grown.” Nicole says.
But unlike some musical acts that have become glorified clotheshorse shows, these girls never let their clothes wear them. "If people like it, we think that’s cool, but we’re not trying to wear what’s dope—it’s, like, what’s comfortable," Natalie says. Natalie and Nicole like to stick to the basics. Nicole says, "For some people that’s their whole jam, like that’s their whole focus, like, ‘I’m a fashion icon and I put everything together." "They have a huge influence on what’s going on in fashion, not only music anymore,” Natalie says. “But I mean, we’re not trying to do that. If people like what we wear that’s cool.” Nicole adds to Natalie’s sentiment. “I would much rather someone appreciate our music first.”
Near the end of the interview I ask Nicole and Natalie, where their hearts are at. The two ladies give similar responses. “My family comes first before everything," Natalie says. "Music is cool. You know, music is amazing. But my heart is also with my family.”
“Yeah, I’m just gonna take your answer,” Nicole says. “Since we’re twins!” They laugh. “There you go. You know, that cosmic thing you were talking about."