- Words Alexia Radkiewicz
- Photography Keinde ‘Kenny’ Ogunneye
The sisters of darkness are proudly dancing to the beat of their own drum, reverberating with integrity, to empower women through their stellar new record, 'Resurgence'.
The KTNA leave all their cards on the table with open hearts as their artistry is built on unbarred emotional expression fuelled with an unapologetically formidable Northern spirit. Born in Kenya and raised in Manchester, twin sisters Hope and Millie Katana have flourished straight from their roots with an organically cultivated soulful sonic fusion.
Their debut EP, ‘Life Under Siege’, kickstarted their musical project in March 2019, brimming with raw honesty to explore the depths of the psyche, unravelling traumas and delicately handling mental health. The project truly resonated throughout the pandemic as listeners sought solace in their earnest lyrics, reaching and moving souls across the world. The KTNA are a testament to normalizing emotional vulnerability as they speak for a generation through their unguarded and openhearted songwriting.
Self-written and self-produced, ‘Resurgence’ marks the return of the duo with a new lighter sound that oozes through the darkness to emulate their own rejuvenation and transformation into a new epoch. “’Resurgence’ has given us a new lease of life, it’s the start of the new KTNA era… it’s our first evolution. Although we’re still essentially the same sisters of darkness, we wanted to show the world a more upbeat side of us, dare we say… a grown woman sultry side!”. The lead single ‘Can’t Stop It’, is a celebration of the dawn of this powerful new era with its uncompromising, emphatic beat and soulful vocals flecked with their unmistakable Mancunian twang. The track is an awakening and moment of enlightenment for the duo, through this timeless record The KTNA flower with confidence and untapped ambition — the sisters of darkness are a force to be reckoned with and will no doubt be turning heads, “this time around we aren’t holding back for anyone!”.
Catching up with the twins only affirmed their natural naked authenticity, they truly are a beautiful bundle of honest energy, and their infectious light radiated through the Zoom screen. Read on to delve deeper into their story, uncover the power of sisterhood and discover some seriously dark alchemy used to concoct their favourite cocktail…
You are certainly two women proudly dancing to the beat of your own drum, why is this important to you both?
Hope: I think for us we have had a few experiences in our own lives where we haven’t been in control and we had to dance to somebody else’s drum which really didn’t suit us very well. I mean you’ve only just met us but I’m sure you can tell that it’s really not our style to…
Millie: Not to be ourselves.
Hope: Yes, and we got into a situation where we couldn’t be ourselves for years. Now in our adult lives, it’s really given us the power to stand in our own truth and be who we are and not really give a shit who cares, excuse my French.
Your songwriting brims with an incredibly raw honesty and you don’t shy away from really exploring the depths of the psyche, unravelling traumas and handling mental health. Does it come naturally to you to combine your artistry with such personal narratives?
Hope: Millie and I put our all into our music. We write it, we produce it, we engineer it, we do everything so it is imperative that we are able to communicate our own struggles and have people like you were saying before, “MBD” is such a big song for us that we never ever expected would be a good song. When we put “MBD” out people were like “are you ok?”, everyone was worried about us! But it was because we were being so honest and I think that’s why it’s our biggest song. People can connect to it. I also think that when you’re a woman it’s very difficult to try to balance being sexy, being attractive but then also being honest with who you are as a person. Especially within “MBD”. I think that’s why it’s such a popular song for us.
Millie: I think that’s why it’s so important for us because it’s our own perspective, it’s our own point of view. Being honest is our main focal point.
Hope: It’s our USP isn’t it!
Over the pandemic, your fans sought solace in the emotive themes explored in your last EP ‘Life Under Siege’, you saw your streams skyrocketed. How does it feel to know you have the capacity to move so many souls?
Millie: I just wanna say firstly, it makes me wanna cry sometimes when people send me messages saying “thank you for writing “MBD” (mental breakdown), it means a lot to me”, but for people to relate to that song and the other songs on Life Under Siege means they’re in a bad place, so it’s heartbreaking in a way. I know that when we wrote it we were in a very bad place, so having hundreds and thousands of people reaching out to us over the pandemic saying, “Life Under Siege” has saved my life or changed it — it makes me get up in the morning. It’s incredibly sad because I understand the predicament that people are in but also it makes me, us — sorry I say me but I always mean us…
Hope: We speak for each other.
Millie: We do. But going back, it makes me proud. Before Life Under Siege, we didn’t really have a tribe of people, me and my sister always kinda felt like loners. But now I feel as though we’ve got a tribe of people and although they may be sad or heartbroken, it’s something to be very proud of. It’s been a strange pandemic for us.
Hope: It’s been nice to feel a part of something.
Millie: Exactly, that’s our tribe. Feeling like we’re part of something, it’s gorgeous.
‘Resurgence’ feels like a rejuvenation, you say “it has given us a new lease of life, it’s the start of a new KTNA era.. it’s our first evolution”. There is an evident sonic evolution but tell us the story behind your personal flourishing.
Hope: Yes! This music journey has been quite a difficult journey for us, it feels like we have to die many deaths constantly as artists. There’s been no other time when I felt that more than in the pandemic. Our EP had only been out five or six months before the pandemic hit and it was a very difficult time for us, you know we were stuck in our house and as a creative person you need to find inspiration and it’s impossible. Then all of a sudden, we started getting streams, people started messaging, following and DM’ing us and it really felt like “you know what, we didn’t put Life Under Siege out for nothing, let’s give the people what they need”.
Millie: It’s like that circle and cycle of the last time we put out an EP it was one feeling and now it’s just a completely different feeling — that’s where Resurgence came from. We had a resurgence of streams and I was kinda like “Hope, let’s just give ‘em what we got but at two point speed, let’s give it to them fresh out the dome”, and that’s where the record came from.
You both have written and produced a new, lighter sound that has oozed through the darkness on this EP, how does the sound emulate the narrative weaving through the tracks?
Millie: We wanted to be brighter and completely change our perspective but we wanted to show that we were growing and that although it might not be the place we wanna be, we’re doing a lot better now. Sonically, we’re trying to channel lighter tones into our sound. ‘Life Under Siege’ was very guitar-heavy with electric guitars layered on top of each other and kinda aggressive. I felt like in ‘Resurgence’ we really tried to give a more laid-back, groovy feel, which I think reflects how we are in life at the moment. We’re just moving through life, we’re not perfect, we’re not fixed or saved…
Hope: But we are trying, putting one foot in front of the other. It is a rebirth for us, so I’m proud of it. I’m proud of our production, we’re always improving and writing too. It is a beautiful thing to see. But we’re still dark-sided bitches! We’re hella dark-sided! Don’t get twisted.
You could never lose that, you’re sisters of darkness through and through — which brings us on very nicely to talk about your badass bitch visuals!
Hope & Millie: Yeeeeesss!!!
How did it feel to create that video and what message are you giving to your audience?
Hope: Well I think it was our woman empowerment video, and as we said before, for ‘Life Under Siege’ we were in a different place, we didn’t want to show any skin, we weren’t trying to sell that, it wasn’t what we were trying to do. Now we’re much more comfortable, we’re a little bit older and thought we’d show a bit of skin, be a bit sexy you know show our other side. It’s our empowerment record, we felt “we can’t stop now” and the only people that can really stop us are ourselves. The only fact in life is that you will not get what you want if you stop, that is where we’re coming from.
Millie: We really pushed ourselves with the visuals, it was our first grown woman fantasy and I’m not gonna lie to ya, on the day we were pretty nervous about it.
Hope: We got one take!
Millie: Yeah, one take on every scene.
Hope: It was perfect.
Mille: I mean it’s the first time I’ve ever been oiled up in latex and very worried!
Millie: I wasn’t feeling sexy on the inside I can tell you that much!
Hope: It was scary.
Millie: But we’re just trying to push ourselves with this project.
You should know it looks effortlessly sexy! I’m sure you have inspired each other in cultivating your sound and your story. What does it mean to you to be sisters working together and how does this affect you as artists?
Hope: Well, I think the number one thing is for all my artist friends that are solo artists, I feel very sorry for them. I think honestly, even though it’s been a very difficult road for me and Millie and it’s horrible to see your sister upset when you’re upset, when something hasn’t worked out the way you wanted it to, or people don’t treat you with respect — it’s so difficult to look at your twin sister understanding the pain that they’re going through. But in the same light, to be alone and do this would be one of the most difficult things in the world and it’s not to be downplayed. These solo artists are doing this by themselves with no backbone and nobody to trust. I can trust my sister no matter what.
Millie: I think for me, the thing I love the most about working with my sister every single day is I feel as though we are two sides of the same coin. Whenever we write music together I’ll give my perspective but Hope will give her perspective and there’s a duality in the way we write, think and feel that nobody else can have. *turning to Hope* I appreciate the artist you are every day and you inspire me every single day to be a better artist myself. That’s one of the things that I enjoy the most about it, it’s working with someone who I truly believe in and will go down as one of the greatest artists of all time.
Hope: Same… Don’t make me cry now oh my god! It is beautiful having a co-pilot who is so spectacular and talented that you can admire, it’s the greatest gift in the world. But I’m gonna stop now because you’re gonna make me cry!
Nothing can penetrate that sisterhood bond, there’s something very special about it and as twins I can only imagine the connection is tenfold.
Millie & Hope: Exactly.
This is a difficult one but can you describe sisterhood in a sentence?
Millie: For me, sisterhood is someone who knows what you’re thinking without even telling them. It’s from a look, that instinctive nature that I can just look at Hope and she knows what I’m feeling immediately.
Hope: I wanna say it’s like a safe haven, you’re own little piece of heaven on earth. You can go there and just be safe and be happy and then leave if you want…
Hope: And also it can be a little slice of hell too! Don’t get me wrong!
*A lot of laughter*
Of course, you inspire each other but who else has inspired your sound and your story?
Hope: Well our mum is a massive person for both of those. Honestly, I think we have supreme taste in music but my mum is the only person that could trump my taste in music. She is the reason why we have the references, sounds, and instruments that we do and like the sounds that we do, she’s why we write the way we do because she fed us with top-tier music all of our lives.
Millie: Also, with that same token, this is why we are who we are. My mum was a single parent and she raised us by herself, we never had a man in the house and no men ever told us what to do — which is probably now a bit of a problem in later life…
Millie: But you know, she taught us to be strong and to lean into our quirks and not let anyone push us around. I think when we were in our mid-teenage years we didn’t quite understand that but now we’re fully fledged women I can’t thank her enough for showing me how to be a strong woman who listens to her own voice. We owe it all to our mum to be honest with you, from our music to who we are as people. But in terms of musical people, I always say this but Stevie Wonder has been that person, that kind person.
Hope: Stevie’s our dad. He taught us how to be good people, along with my mum.
Millie: And write good music and not compromise on your sound. Cause some of those Stevie Wonder albums… crazy! He was definitely doing drugs for some of them but what I appreciate is his expression and his freedom to be who he is and say exactly what’s on his mind.
Who are you listening to at the moment, have any new artists caught your ears?
Hope: Loads! I like the Free Nationals, we love SAULT and Anderson .Paak.
Millie: Little Simz’s new album is amazing, I love Hiatus Kaiyote; Thundercaat!
Hope: But anyone who is individual and has their own perspective — we rate it, don’t we? It’s difficult in this world, nowadays, to be an individual so you gotta rate it and respect it.
Are there any plans in the pipeline for the sisters of darkness to take over the stage?
Hope & Millie: Yesss!
Hope: We have a BBC Introducing show on 17th October, we’re playing Liverpool Sound City Festival on 2nd October and we have many other dates to be announced, including a big surprise! And we’re going on a little tour of our own next year which is pretty exciting!
Your Mancunian energy emanates through your sound, how would you describe this energy and how does it fuel your creativity?
Hope: The energy is powerful but also humbling. You know some artists can be very uppity and think they’re very important but I think being a Mancunian person, which means to be open, funny, able to speak to anybody, to be kind, makes you realise within your job that you are just a person. We’re just Manc girls who sing, it’s not that deep.
Millie: And we can just be ourselves, we don’t need to put on a show for anybody and pretend to be other people — that’s what being a Mancunian is.
Finally, we’re going out in Manchester — where are you taking me and what drinks are we ordering?
Hope: You don’t wanna come out with us I’m telling ya! You’ll never be seen on the streets of London again!
*A lot of laughter*
Millie: So, we’ve gotta go to the Northern quarter and Hope and I have a special drink that we drink. I don’t know whether I want you to publish this because I might get hate mail but I’m gonna go on and tell you anyway… Basically we have red wine and CocaCola…
Hope & Millie: SANGRIAAA!
What is going on there…
Millie: I’ll give you the measurements just in case you wanna test it out. So you do half a glass of red wine and half a glass of coke, together. Make sure you’re generous with the CocaCola, and that is a bit of cheap sangria. We’re gonna walk around Manchester, the Northern quarter, we’re gonna hit up a few different bars, maybe we’ll walk into a gig cause there’s always a gig going on. Then I’m thinking, where will we finish Hope?
Hope: We’re going Deansgate. There’s so many places we can go on a crawl, as long as we end up in Mojo at 5am doing air guitars…
Hope & Millie: On the tables!
Hope: That’s a sisters of darkness night out, that’s all I’m saying. So come, you know where we are!