VanJess24 Interview

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Self described “eclectic R&B” sister act Ivana Nwokike and Jess Nwokike, otherwise known as VanJess on YouTube, have always had music around them. These Lagos, Nigerian natives have been around music and performing very early on whether it was “singing in school plays, piano lessons, [or] choir.” Coming from parents who are avid music lovers, the singing bug bit them early and Ivana and Jess have always sang together but when exactly did they discover their sound? “We always sang together so in a sense we were already a duo, but it wasn’t till YouTube that we really discovered our sound and knew exactly who we wanted to be as artists” Jess says.

What started as something fun to do eventually grew into a fan base of almost 200,000 YouTube subscribers. Some people may question how it is possible that two sisters can accumulate such a huge following but it’s simple to Ivana and Jess. You need to love working together. On what it’s like to make music with your own sister, Ivana says that “we work together really well because we know each other so well. So we know our strengths and weaknesses which helps in deciding who gets what part, etc.” Jess adds that “We love working together because it’s comfortable and always fun!”

“In the last 3 years we’ve discovered ourselves so much as artists, just through our covers and that because of that we’ve created a sound pretty unique to us.”

“We want people to see us as real musicians not just cover artists.” When it comes to their song covers, these girls are focused on one thing: making sure their cover sounds original. Jess says that when they hear a song, they think “’What kind of twist or flair can we add to it?’ Of course not in a way that takes away from the greatness of the song, just in a way that people can distinguish our sound, we want people to see us as real musicians not just cover artists.” Ivana adds, “Like adding harmonies where there maybe weren’t harmonies in the original, making a different arrangement of the song, and adding certain little chords on the piano.”

Sometimes we write songs in 10 min, sometimes over a couple of weeks. When these girls aren’t out shopping (we waste a lot of money on clothes), hanging out with friends, or at concerts, they are working on their own original music. Jess spills that VanJess will be releasing original music soon, and “A LOT” of it, but unfortunately, they can’t say more than that. They did however let us probe their minds and get the details on how the creative process is for them. These girls “just write whenever [they] get inspired.” Jess says that they luckily “get inspired a lot.” The songwriting process varies for them though, there is no set in stone formula they follow. “It really depends. Songwriting is something that is so individual based that there’s no real technique I guess, you just do whatever feels right for the song and it happens in different ways” Ivana says.

Ivana and Jess’ final message to their fans:
You all are our drive, we wouldn’t be ANYTHING without your support so thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and we promise to continue to strive to be better!


Be on the lookout for more covers and original music from Ivana and Jess!

Follow Nancy Hoang:

Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (She's basically a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.

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