Madeleine Dalla Torre Castillo
Nigerian-American sisters Jessica and Ivana speak with ESSENCE about their upcoming album, who deserves the Iron Throne, and finding solace through self-care.
Nigerian-American sister duo VanJess should be on your list of acts to watch. The twosome recently released tracks “Touch The Floor” and “Favor,” required listening with vibes perfect for music’s current genre-blending R&B.
ESSENCE spoke to the sisters, Ivana and Jessica Nwokike, who dished on their upcoming album, what makes a bop, and Game of Thrones.
Back in July, the duo dropped the video for their track “Touch The Floor,” a fun summer jam featuring Masego. So, how do the two know a bop when they hear a bop?
“I think for us, like we always have been saying this from the jump, it’s just the feeling that a melody gives us first and foremost,” Jess told ESSENCE. “It’s like something that makes you kind of do this groove and just makes you feel something, whether it’s just dancing or honestly even a song where it’s, you know, more emotion or whatever. I think a song like ‘Touch The Floor’ once we heard the production, we just knew, OK this just feels right. And we knew we had to write a melody that just matched that same vibe.”
They followed the video up with single “Favor,” a sexy R&B anthem that will, hopfeully, get a video of its own. And, they’ve recently dropped a new track featuring GoldLink, “Through Enough.”
Collaboration is key in the music industry and being sisters makes it a bit easier for VanJess. “Being sisters, we know each other so well,” said Jess. “When we’re writing, I know when Ivana’s feeling something or when she’s not feeling something. She’s not scared to be honest with me and be like, ‘Look I’m not feeling this.’ I’m not scared to be like ‘Maybe we can try it this way.’ It really does help in a lot of ways. I mean, obviously we have moments where we disagree, but I think the good thing is we have two different perspectives, so when we come together, there’s certain things Ivana will hear that I don’t hear. Or, I’ll hear that Ivana doesn’t hear. When we both come together to create something, we’re just like, ‘Wow, how’d we do that?'”
Ivana adds, “We always bounce ideas off each other. The greatest thing about it, because we are siblings, we are super honest with each other about this doesn’t sound good here or this is dope here. Or, Jess is feeling one way about something, go for it. Don’t feel like that doesn’t sound great, it does. We’re each other’s biggest support system, so we trust each other. It just makes everything easy.”
The two are currently working on their debut album, a process that’s coming along pretty quickly, but both sisters are taking their time with. “It’s definitely 95 percent there. So, we just want to put it out when it makes sense. We’ll definitely figure it out in the next few weeks, I think,” Jess told ESSENCE.
Later, during the conversation, as we discuss their style and concepts for videos, the sisters reveal their love of HBO hit Game of Thrones.
Jess is still far behind in the series, but Ivana is all caught up. Both sisters hope to see Daenerys Targaryen take the Iron Throne. It’s breaks like these, moments to just relax and enjoy a television series, that allow the sisters to breathe for a bit.
The two add that self-care is important, which for them takes the form of skincare and social media breaks.
“I definitely had a social media break last year, which is … it should be at least once a week,” said Ivana. “I think that’s something that I’m going to practice, taking at least a day away from social media. Obviously, when you are an artist, you should always be on social media. But, I think it’s important to just reset. I don’t know, you can get so caught up and lost in the sauce.”
“It’s so important to shut it off because it’s a whole world in itself. You wake up, first thing I’m going to do is get on my phone, you know, and check what other people are doing. It’s become second nature, but it’s actually not … it shouldn’t be,” she adds. “Sometimes you just need a break.”
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