Nalani & Sarina's 'Young And Inexperienced' Is An Anthem For The Student-Debt Generation

Nalani and Sarina
Sandrine Lee

Nalani and Sarina

Is it too ambitious for a young duo, on their first single with global distribution, to write an anthem for their generation? Nalani and Sarina don’t think so -- and they’ve delivered the goods.

“Young And Inexperienced” is a radio-ready pop song on which the young twin sisters and singer/songwriters shout out for a generation deep in student debt and often searching in vain for steady employment in the new gig economy.

Multi-instrumentalists who front their own touring band, Nalani and Sarina are releasing the track through AWAL, Kobalt's music distribution and services partner for independent artists. "Young And Inexperienced” is the lead single, out Jan. 12, from the duo’s as-yet-untitled album coming this spring.

“A lot of our friends were going through this struggle of finding work after college,” said Nalani during a Facebook Live session on Jan. 8 with Sarina. “This song actually started from hearing that timeless phrase, 'you can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a job.’ That jump-started the song.”

But wait, didn’t the federal Department of Labor just report that the U.S. unemployment is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent as of December?

Not quite.

As a unique setup for “Young And Inexperienced,” Nalini and Sarina offered a daily countdown toward the release of the song by posting pointed statistics about college graduate underemployment and student debt on social media:

“About 44% of recent college grads were employed in jobs not requiring degrees.”
“44.2 million Americans are in student debt, owing over $1.48 trillion.”
“Student loans typically take 10 to 25 years to pay off.”
“85% of college seniors expect to move home after graduation.”

The two sisters translated those tough numbers into compelling pop lyrics, working with tried-and-true pen and paper and filling black-covered journals with lines like:

Move back home
Heavy as a stone
Boxes filled with clothes
And piles of student loans...
I don’t know why
I don’t know why
They think we’re worth nothing...
Everyday, we all say
Can’t get no job with no experience!
No experience without no job!

While “Young And Inexperienced” is the duo’s first single through the AWAL/Kobalt Music deal, the two natives of west-central New Jersey self-released their indie debut album Lessons Learned in 2014, followed by the EP Scattered World a year later. Fronting a full rock n’ roll band, they’ve been gigging at clubs, colleges and festivals up and down the East Coast. (They’ll play a single release party at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall on Jan. 17.) Onstage, the two harmonize as only siblings can; when talking, you’ll notice them finish each other’s sentences.

During the past few years, they’ve collected some fans in high places.

“To see and hear them now,” wrote veteran music critic and SiriusXM Radio host Dave Marsh, “it’s hard to imagine they might not always be this cute and fresh—but listen to their music and you’ll realize they won’t have to be.” Marsh featured the two on his show Jan. 10.

David Bianculli, a critic heard on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, noted that “in addition to being charismatic and confident singers and musicians, rotating among guitars, keyboards and ukuleles, their secret weapon is their songwriting.”

Bassist Will Lee, longtime member of the house band on Late Night With David Letterman, played on the Scattered World EP. He said “it seems easy to predict they’ll be with us for a long time,” praising the duo’s “musical wit and wisdom.”

Both are evident on “Young And Inexperienced” as the sisters sing:

Four years
Slaved away
For a piece of shiny paper in a frame
Parents are proud
—at least for now
I’m just one among a hungry hopeful crowd

Like other great songwriters, Nalani and Sarina are channeling the emotions of their era. But they are not writing autobiography, as they freely acknowledge.

"We didn’t go to college,” says Sarina who began pursuing a music career with her sister right out of high school. “We don’t have a bunch of student loans to pay off. But in any songwriting, you take on someone else’s role and you have to see how it relates to yourself.”

But Nalani quickly notes the parallels for two young women starting out in the music business.

“You automatically get this this feeling we’re not worth as much or taken seriously. So that’s what we channel when we’re singing the song.”

We’re all waiting for our time to come
I’m just trying to be someone
We’re all waiting
We’re all waiting

“This is actually the first time we actually mentioned an “us” in the song,” notes Sarina. Nalani adds: “We almost envisioned that whole section of the song as being about this underground basement of millennials.”

“This whole gang,’” says Sarina, completing her sister’s thought.

“It’s really this point of being fed up,” says Nalani.