On Stage: Nalani & Sarina are twice as nice

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JMSN, Doomtree hit local stages; Michael Franti forced to cancel local gigs due to injury

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

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Nalani & Sarina take the stage at the World Cafe at the Queen, Feb. 13.

Years ago, there was a popular slogan used in commercials for a chewing gum brand that is still ranked in the Top 10 for “recognizable ad slogans.” The main hook was “Double your pleasure, Double your fun with Doublemint Gum.”

It could be slightly revised in 2015 and used to refer to a musical act that is destined to break into the national spotlight soon — “Double your pleasure, Double your funk with Nalani & Sarina.”

Nalani & Sarina — twin sisters Nalani and Sarina Bolton — are the real deal. They are vocalists, songwriters, multi-instrumentalists who know how to rock, write insightful melodic songs and how to get their funk on.

On February 13, Nalania & Sarina will visit the area for a show at the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com). They will be the headliners of the “Ladybug Festival Presents Ladyfingers” show.

“We were just in the studio again all last weekend,” said Nalani, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from the twins’ home Flemington, New Jersey. “We were finishing up the new album and we’ll be mixing it next week.

“It’s actually going to be an EP with six songs. We’ll be releasing it in March starting with a single. The whole EP will be available digitally in May.”

Sarina said, “They’re all new songs — all of them written in the last six months. We had a new approach this time. The songs on our last album were based on personal experiences. This time, it’s other people’s stories — more of a world-wide approach.

“Over the last few months, we went to concerts by Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac. They inspired us lyrically and musically. The new EP has more of an emphasis on lyrics.”

Nalani said, “We really focused on the lyrics. And, we finished each other’s sentences during the process.”

With roots based in rhythm-and-blues, soul and rock, the sisters create vocal harmonies that only twins can make.

“We’re sonically alike and there is this telepathy,” said Sarina. “We’ll be singing a new song and when one of us gravitates to a harmony, the other knows exactly where to go. We’ve been singing together ever since we were three. Being twin sisters, there was nothing else to do. We started singing professionally when we were 15.”

Nalani said. “It was a different experience taking on other people’s stories. It was sort of like playing God — writing stories about characters and deciding what they do. Some of the stories were based on friend and others were based on fictional characters.

“One of the songs was about a teenage boy going through different foster homes. It was like writing a movie. We wanted to make sure every story we told had a universal message so it could connect with people on other levels.”

The songs tell stories but they still are tight songs — not long rambling stories set to music.

“We’re telling a story and using choruses to look at people’s emotions,” said Nalani. “One of the songs came out of thin air when we were playing in our basement at 2 a.m. one night. The lyrics just came in and it took on this perspective in our lives. It also had a different production aspect — a Beatles influence with weird sounds.

Sarina said, “We’ve definitely become more comfortable in the studio. We’ve gotten used to the studio environment and gotten better with how to handle vocals. We try to recreate how they’re done live. We really emphasized on making vocals different so they can relate to the stories.

“When you’re writing in the third person, you’re able to go anywhere you want. When you’re writing about personal experiences, you can get too attached. We treated each song as a separate piece of work.”

Nalani & Sarina have been making music together for a long time.

“We’re identical twins,” said Nalani. “We graduated early from Hunterdon Central High a few years ago and we’ve been doing music ever since. Actually, we both started playing classical piano when were six and then studied operatic vocals when we were in sixth grade.

“Classical music and opera provided good basics for us. Our mom was a folkie so we listened to a lot of folk music when we were young — great songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. And, we’ve listened to a lot of classic rock.”

Nalani & Sarina list acoustic guitar, piano and ukulele as their main instruments.

“Our new music still has that pop-rock-funk feel,” said Sarina. “We started writing our own songs about six years ago and really started to delve into soul and funk two years ago. We love all the Stax artists — Sam & Dave especially.”

The “Ladybug Festival Presents Ladyfingers” show also features Alexandra Naples from the band Lovebettie, Michelle Ley and Sarah Koon. The show is slated to start at 8 p.m. with tickets are priced at $10.

Other upcoming shows at the Queen are Marty Mitchell on February 12, Spokey Speaky on February 13 and Eilen Jewel on February 14.

Michael Franti’s “Acoustic One Heart, One Soul Tour,” which was scheduled to stop at the Queen on February 17, has been cancelled.

In a phone interview two weeks ago, Franti said, “We just did a West Coast tour and it was super-exciting for us musically. We played the songs stripped-down. We pulled out a lot of acoustic songs we hadn’t played in a long time. Bow, we’re looking forward to bringing it to the East Coast.”

Both Franti’s and his legion of fans were looking forward to the shows along the Atlantic Seaboard but fate had different plans.

In a press release, Franti said, “Michael here!  While performing last weekend on Rock Boat, I tore my meniscus and require a surgery in February. I’m sad to report that I need to reschedule my plans for my tour Feb 9-20.  I’m so grateful to all of you who bought tickets.  I apologize to everyone who was looking forward to the shows as much as I was, but we will see you later in the year.”

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