One of the best sets I saw this summer at the Black Potatoe Music Festival in Clinton was by one of its youngest acts, as well as one of the acts that had the shortest distance to travel. Nalani and Sarina Bolton, 22-year-old identical twin sisters from Flemington who perform together as Nalani & Sarina, presented a set of catchy (but cliché-free) pop-soul songs with explosive energy. Since then, they have released an EP of six original songs, Scattered World (a followup to their 2014 debut album, Lessons Learned), and on Friday, they will perform at The Saint in Asbury Park as part of the 15th anniversary party for the South River-based company, HIP Video Promo (visit TheSaintNJ.com for tickets and information).
It will be their first Asbury Park show with a full band. Will Lee (of the Beatles tribute group the Fab Faux and David Letterman’s house band), who played bass on Lessons Learned and Scattered World, will be among the musicians.
The Boltons both sing and play guitar and keyboards, and they co-write their songs, which often have to do with confronting the frustrations of life and rising above them. Their onstage charm begins with how free and natural they seem making music together: They have been focused, they say, on creating a career for themselves in music for as long as they can remember.
“We were always doing some kind of music, and it’s always been a big part of our lives,” says Nalani. “It was never a question.”
“It never really seemed like a specific decision of, we’re going to do music,” says Sarina. “It was kind of inevitable for us.”
It was also inevitable, they say, that they would do it together. When they perform, they never seem to be pushing the music in different directions, but always seem to be on the same page.
“People always assume whenever there’s a duo, that one person is in charge of one thing, and one person is in charge of the other,” says Nalani. “But we both share the same amount of talent. We started off on piano, and naturally, we just gravitated toward different instruments. So we play musical chairs onstage, and trade back and forth.
“That’s sort of our thing: We try to make sure that we’re both featured. It’s not one does melody and one does harmony. We both try to be a part of everything.”
That goes for their songwriting, too.
“There’s a part of both of us in each song, whether one of us comes in with a melody on the guitar or the piano, or has a lyric idea,” says Sarina. “Sometimes we have almost telepathy, and finish each other’s thought or sentence or melody.”
They put out Lessons Learned and Scattered World independently. But it’s hard to imagine that it will be long before an established record company sees their potential and signs them.
“The ultimate goal is to play for as many people as we can,” says Nalani. “We’re putting ourselves out there as much as we can, but we’re trying to do it for the love of music. We find that if you aim toward something that’s kind of short term, then you get too caught up in that, but if you look in the long term and do everything for the love of music, then things will just come toward you.”
Friday’s lineup at The Saint is:
8:15 p.m.: Val Emmich (acoustic)
9:15 p.m.: Nalani & Sarina
10:15 p.m.: Brian Mackey
11:15 p.m.: Ryan Brahms
12:15 a.m.: Will Wood and the Tapeworms