Nigerian-American sisters Ivana and Jessica Nwokike make up the R&B singer/songwriter duo known as VanJess. Following their viral success on Youtube, where they covered songs and made them their own, the two began to create their own sound, pulling together harmonious soul, R&B, electronic and jazz themes.

As they get ready to release their debut album, we got the chance to chat with the sisters and hear what they've been up to. The two instantly started to relay stories about their childhood and moments in the studio. Playing off of each other’s words, and making small jokes at the other’s expense, the two revealed the whimsy of their sisterhood, but also the curious and buoyant synergy that is VanJess.

Our conversation zips from their opinions of this year's Grammy's Awards, to their creative process and multiple collaborations. Read our Q&A and watch their new video for “Through Enough” below.

Were you raised in California?

Jessica Nwokike: I was actually born in South Carolina, my sister was born in New Jersey, but we stayed there for like a year and then went back to Nigeria for about eight or nine years. We lived in Nigeria until I was 8 and my sister was almost 10. That's when we moved to California and we've been here ever since.

How was the transition for you from the U.S. to Nigeria and then moving back?

Ivana Nwokike: It was definitely a culture shock. Obviously when you're that young and you have a whole change of pace, you really have to get used to it quickly. But honestly, we knew that us moving was only to help us out because our mother got really sick, and you know, life in Nigeria can be difficult. While we were a bit better off than most, it was still really tough, so I think making that move was honestly the best thing we've ever done. And who knows, we might've never been in music if we had stayed, so... you never know.

What were you influenced by growing up?

Jessica: We were always influenced by the music our mother listened to, what was playing in our parents' speakers, things we would watch on MTV, going to church and being surrounded by that music, we just had such a love for music. Even though we came back to America, we always immersed ourselves in everything, so every time we moved around it always had some sort of impact, whether consciously or subconsciously.

So what were your parents listening to at home?

Jessica: We listened to a lot of different things, although my mom was probably the most eclectic. She'd listen to Elton John and Madonna, but she would also listen to Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder... even some rock artists. My dad would listen to Nigerian music, gospel, soul music... so it was a lot of different kind of sounds coming up, and we'd obviously listen to stuff on TV at that time. So I remember being 5 and watching "No Scrubs" on MTV.

At what point did you both realize that you wanted this to be your career?

Ivana: We always had a passion for music growing up and we were in a lot of group choirs, we'd sing around the house, and our parents really did have a love for music too. But I think during high school was when we started doing a lot of arranging in our school choirs, and then YouTube came about so we watched a lot of people on there. So I was like, "Hey Jess, I think we should try doing this" and initially she was not with it at all, but now she's on board! So I think it's always something we wanted to explore but it was when we really started posting on YouTube that it became more real.

How did you go from trying YouTube out as a possibility to then getting all this attention from it? How did that affect you and your direction?

Jessica: That was something I don't think we really even understood, it was just happening, so we kind of just embraced it. Obviously at that time it was hard to think about it as more than just a website; there were no ads and it wasn't the platform it is today, you weren't able to monetize things. So it wasn't even a feasible thing to do as a career then. Nobody really knew the possibilities that could come from it yet, you know? So I think for us, the simple things like getting attention on the website showed us that people were responding to it, so it made us wanna keep going and see what it could become. It helped us to continue to foster our talents and abilities because we were seeing the feedback we got. It gave us confidence to continue building our craft and pursue that, fully. I think it wasn't until later that we realized, "Wow this could be a platform for us to grow and could actually lead to more opportunities".

How does your creative process of writing and recording work?

Ivana: Honestly it really depends, sometimes we'll be in the studio and the producer will be in there and start making something from scratch. I may hear a melody and then Jess will have the lyrics. It's always super collaborative. I feel like whenever we put our heads together we really create something amazing; that's the beauty of working with your sister because you can be as real as you want to be! You trust your sibling, you know they're not gonna lie, they'll tell you if something sounds whack. It always works out.

You recently hinted at creating new music with Bizness Boi and you've put our work with Masego and Goldlink as well. How did these collaborations come about?

Jessica: It's funny because we actually met both [Masego and Goldlink] at the same time. We got the opportunity to be extras on Goldlink's video shoot and it was interesting because we actually didn't know about Masego, but he was at the shoot and he came up to us and told us he was familiar with our stuff. So we exchanged contacts. Basically about a week into working on "Touch the Floor" we were listening to the song and thought it would actually be dope with some more stuff on it. So we reach out to him - he was still in town at the time - and asked him what he thought. That's really how it came about, it was really organic. With Goldlink, we connected with him obviously because of the shoot, but there was a day that we had the opportunity to do some background vocals for him. Nothing came of that in the end, but at the end of the session we showed him some of our music and there was one track he really liked, so he sent us a verse for that later on.

What can we expect from your forthcoming album?

Ivana: I think sound-wise obviously we released really upbeat songs but the album is a lot more eclectic, it's definitely rooted in R&B, so you're gonna get the more mid-tempo, hip hop and R&B production. It's gonna be kind of a journey sound-wise and production-wise.

How involved do you tend to be in the creative direction of your visuals?

Jessica: We were super involved. On "Touch the Floor" we styled ourselves and Danny really understood the vibe and energy we were going for, so he let us do our thing. On "Through Enough" it was pretty similar, we had a vision for what we wanted it to look like and we asked our friends to be part of it. Danny came up with the treatment which was awesome, so so far with our visuals it's also been a really collaborative process.

What did you think of the Grammy's this year?

Ivana: The Grammy's is overall a great show, a lot of amazing performances with Kendrick, Bruno Mars, Cardi B those were really amazing. Even seeing Logic and Khalid was again, the subject is really important. Obviously being friends with Khalid, I was really bummed out that he didn't get that award, same with Goldlink, but I think they're all really talented artists and I know that there's more to come for them.

Jessica: Yeah, I think that what's frustrating is that they don't support Black artists a lot of the time, and I think this year we all got really excited, we all were really happy to see people of color up there, Daniel [Caeser], Khalid, all these people... not just Black artists, but new Black artists getting nominated. But the fact that even people like SZA and Khalid went home without awards, it does show that sometimes it's like, "We wanna bring you guys out but we just want y'all to come through so that we can reach a certain demographic" but not actually reward us. All that said, at the end of the day I know that these artists are really talented and will eventually get what they deserve. It sucks, but you can't let the politics and that side of things keep you from having hope that it'll change one day, that we'll be rewarded for our effort, you know?

How are you feeling about going on tour with Little Simz?

Ivana: Oh my gosh, it's gonna be so, so fun. It's been a minute since we've been to Europe so it's gonna be great to perform all of our music for everybody and travel. Honestly, I've always had the dream to travel the world but for it to happen now, it's really amazing.

Jessica: Simz is such a good person in general, on top of being a great artist. And I'm not just saying that! She's really awesome and I think for us to be able to go on our first tour with somebody like that, it's just such a blessing. It would suck to be thrown on tour with someone who was awful or someone who was just not warm or inviting. She's been super supportive of us and she's definitely been doing this for a while, so we're just really honored that she's taking us on tour with her.

Ivana: And it'll be a Nigerian girl link up!

Make sure to catch VanJess with Little Simz at Roundhouse and on their European tour