Nimmo kick-start the night with mid-tempo hi-hat driven ‘My Only Friend’, a track full of the characteristic syncopated synthesiser accents that place the band firmly in the electro-pop genre. However despite the instrumental busy-ness, it is a clean, well-organised soundscape that reaches our ears.
Song #2, ’Dilute This’, is a lovelorn longing for something that is no more – ‘what have we become?’ – but the stick clicks and bubbling synth arpeggios give it dance energy. The only instruments that could be classed as acoustic on stage are William’s drum kit and Sarah’s Fender telecaster; Nimmo these days is far removed from its first incarnation as folk duo ‘Nimmo and The Gauntletts’.
While at high school in South London, best friends and now front-women Sarah and Reva “basically decided [they] would be in a band”. Armed with a couple of acoustic guitars and exactly zero writing and playing experience, they embarked on a dream that would take them years to realise. After meeting the rest of their would-be bandmates at university in Brighton, their sound began to morph into its current electrified state, thanks to the producing skills of drummer Jack Williams. Seven years of playing to empty rooms and “Camden pubs on Friday nights” has made them into visceral, dynamic performers who never let go of such a hard-earned audience. With their entire bodies, Sarah and Reva emanate enthusiasm and excitement for their art.
Sarah and Reva show off their incredibly tight harmonies in this interview – no doubt a result of their folky beginnings.
The flip side to being such a good 100% live act is the difficulty they’ve had in navigating the unfamiliar environment of the studio and authentically translating their show onto record. “We even had to learn to sing differently, instead of shouting just down the mic”, Sarah said. To their credit, Nimmo’s studio releases are as full-bodied and intense as they are live, although with the addition of the duo’s onstage personae, the energy is kicked up several notches.
A combination of classically-trained and self-taught musicians, Nimmo have an perfect mixture of technical knowledge and pop instinct, and a diverse range of inspirations to draw from. Not wholly surprising is the influence Grime music has had on their band; growing up in London (Grime’s birthplace), it was the genre Sarah and Reva bonded over at school, and is present in Nimmo’s almost aggressively energetic stage presence. All these elements have distilled down to produce the fully cohesive sonic world belonging to Nimmo in 2016.
Their set manages to fluctuate in musical energy so as not to tire the ear, and yet also never really stops; songs bridged by nifty segues and extended by full-on instrumental raves. ‘UnYoung’ is a highlight, Sarah punching the air in time to its pulse, and its delightfully off-kilter rhythm interjected with march-like snare fills by drummer Williams.
The gig also marks the release of music video for new single ‘Dancing Makes Us Brave’, “something [they’re] really proud of, especially because of its all-female production team”. Sarah stressed how exciting it is to work with “so many women at the top of their game”.
Their perfect balance of showmanship and down-to-earth-ship will carry them far, as you’d be hard-pressed to find many lead singers and instrumentalists with such genuine likability as Sarah and Reva. Their candid interview style translates on stage, addressing the 100-strong crowd as if they were their closest friends and dancing gleefully with abandon throughout their set.
If Nimmo were a brand, ‘Dancing Makes Us Brave’ would be its slogan. The yearning chorus has Sarah and Reva singing ‘I need to feel something that’s real’; perfectly demonstrating their penchant for “singing about sad things while jumping round like a loony” – an experience they describe as “cathartic”. This is their version of the power ballad, said power coming not from swathes of strings and overblown operatic vocals, but instead from driving synth lines and euphoric dance floor melodies.
Lead by musicians who don’t stop moving for their entire 45-minute set, this band are geeks of their industry – they try hard and want us all to know it. With hooky melodies and beats to kill, Nimmo are going places.