Twin sisters Natalie and Nicole Albino, 18, who grew up in Marine Terrace, spent five years trying to break into the music business before their independently produced hit caught the attention of Universal Records this spring.
"Everything happened very quickly for us," said Nicole, munching on a slice of pizza at her record company's Manhattan office recently. "Now our album's dropping June 29. It's exciting."
Indeed, the dark-haired songbirds are giddy to be on the cusp of stardom with "Move Ya Body," a smooth hybrid of hip-hop and reggae, getting heavy rotation at radio stations in Miami, Chicago, New York City and Boston.
The single is a hot item at local record shops.
"It is selling very well," said a man who works at Sound City Records in Astoria, just blocks from where the girls spent their childhood hanging out on Shore Boulevard and swimming in Astoria Park. "We have people who come in and play it on the turn-tables in the back."
The girls said it seems like all of Queens is behind them, with locals following them to club shows throughout the five boroughs and beyond.
In fact, the teens were playing in Cancun, Mexico recently when the crowd began chanting "Astoria! Astoria!"
"A lot of New Yorkers were there," said Nicole.
"It was cool," added Natalie.
Back home, the girls are frequently running into former classmates from IS 141, where Natalie was an honor student who sang in the choir and Nicole starred in school plays like "Beauty and The Beast."
They said that growing up in one of the city's most diverse neighborhoods made an indelible impact on their sound. Walking up Ditmars Avenue as children, they said they were peppered with a spectrum of sounds - from hip-hop blasted by passing cars to Italian arias and Indian sitars wafting from store-fronts.
"Astoria is such a mixed neighborhood," Nicole said. "I think it did affect our music."
The girls, who have eight siblings and live with their mother, moved out of the neighborhood when they were 14 but still have strong ties in Astoria. Their grandmother still lives there as well as one of their younger sisters.
The two were raised to put family first, they said, and plan on sticking together when they move out of their mother's home. After all, the identical twins consider themselves two halves of a single whole. Rather than trade verses, they sing in harmony, with Nicole's alto voice blending perfectly with Natalie's soprano. And their band name "Nina Sky," reflects their bond with "Nina" being a combination of their first names.
Wherever stardom takes them, they said they plan on sticking together.
"It's better that we're together," Natalie said. "It'd make no sense to be very far from each other.
Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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