A Q&A with Holychild
by Kelly Subin (Marketing), published October 22nd 2014
Holychild is a music and art collaboration between George Washington University graduates Louie Diller and Liz Nistico. The Los Angeles-based duo integrate relevant messages into their own brand of sugary-sweet, experimental pop music – they call it “brat pop.” Their songs are catchy and dance-able, but dig deeper than most Top-40 fare. Currently, they’re supporting Danish pop singer MØ on her North American/European tour. Tastemakers caught up with them at their September 24th show at the Paradise Rock Club to talk feminism, brain freeze and their debut EP, Mindspeak.
Tastemakers Magazine (TMM): How did you guys come together as a band?
Louie Diller (LD): I was the musical accompaniment for a modern dance class at George Washington University, and Liz was in that modern dance class. And Liz proposed that we get together to do a collaboration which I still feel like we should do.
TMM: This isn’t a collaboration?
LD: It’s a dictatorship. No, anyways…
Liz Nistico (LN): But yeah, so there was this collaboration that I wanted to and we didn’t end up doing that, but we did end up jamming and writing a bunch of music together.
LD: Then one thing lead to another.
LN: And you convinced me to move to D.C.
LD: Yeah, it didn’t take much convincing though. We recorded one song. Thankfully that song was sounding pretty good. I feel like it was probably more the song than me that convinced you. Because it was sounding really good. We were both really excited about it. So Liz turned down grad school at that moment. We recorded one song, and she had gotten into this school called CalArts in L.A., a pretty prestigious art school. And she turned it down for Holychild.
TMM: What were you guys studying?
LN: I studied International Affairs and Dance and Italian literature. And Louie did International Affairs and Jazz Studies.
TMM: Where did the name Holychild come from?
LN: So, about the time that we met, I was going back and forth between New York and D.C. a lot. My aunt’s friend had given me this sweatshirt that said “holy child” on the back. And it was huge for me, and I took it and cut it straight down the back and cut the sleeves off and it had this huge hood, and I just wore it everywhere. And I wore it to my dance classes where we met, and then I wore it when we were writing together. So I was living in New York, flash forward a year, and Louie was in D.C. and he was like, “Hey, you should move back to D.C., and we should start a band.” And I was like, “Okay,” and he was like, “Well, then we need a name.” I was like, “Okay, how about Holychild?” And by that point we had been saying it so much, that it was on our tongues already. It just felt right.
TMM: So, can you explain “brat pop?”
LD: Yeah, brat pop is our affectionate term for the style of music that we play. We feel like it’s pop music at the end of the day, but we feel like within pop music’s structures, we rebel against those structures in subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) ways. So, whether it be some weird lyrics or a syncopated rhythm or some unexpected harmony, we just try to find ways to keep it interesting for ourselves and interesting for the listeners, to challenge ourselves and ultimately challenge our listeners to think differently about their roles in the world. But, initially we use pop as a vehicle – hence, brat pop.
TMM: I think that’s really accurate. Who are your influences?
LN: Oh, wow. We have so many influences. I’m definitely influenced by a myriad of artists. Everyone from Bukowski and Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joan Didion, Wes Anderson, this Italian director, Luca Guadagnino, another director, Fellini. And then musically, everyone from, like, St. Vincent to No Doubt to Fiona Apple and Outkast, and 4 Non Blondes, M.I.A, Katy Perry. Like, literally everything. I feel like at the end of the day those are the artists that I look up to, but a lot of the time I’m really influenced by my interactions with other people. I’ll feel very sensitive about something and I’ll be like, “Why do I feel this way?” It’s kind of like an analysis of that that will inspire what we’re making.
TMM: That’s a great list of influences. From what I found when I listened, do you try to include a message of feminism in your songs?
LN: Definitely. I guess all of this for me and making art in general is more of an exploration of thoughts than it is me sitting down and writing a song about this. You know, I usually sit down and I’ll be like, “Ugh, I’m dealing with this thing and I’m so frustrated and I’m so annoyed,” and then I’ll write all the lyrics and look back at it and be like, “Oh, this is definitely about feminism.” This is clearly what I’m dealing with today. Or, like, moving on it will be about something different. But the EP in general is really an exploration of the role of the female in our culture from different angles. It’s like, one song is a love song, but about being pissed off that I’m in a relationship and being called “girlfriend,” and liking making dinner for my boyfriend. But then being angry that I like that, because like, am I being domesticated? And ew, why would I like that? And just having that weird cycle go through my head. And then another one is like a hedonistic love song where it’s like, “I want to be the only person who exists to you, like I want to be everything to you.” And it’s just such an all-encompassing, unhealthy thought and, like, why would I feel that way? And, I really feel like it’s right out of our culture that I feel that way. And it’s fostered from mass media and advertisements that kind of teach me to feel that way. So yeah, feminism, definitely. I’m really into equal humans all around and humans being treated equally. And I think feminism gets a bad rep because it’s just for the ladies, but I really like the all-encompassing sense of feminism. I feel like we’re at a nice revolutionary place right now where people are talking about it. And feminism for a while was kind of like a dirty word, where it’s like, “Oh, you’re a feminist?” and you’d be scoffed at a little bit. But we’re kind of entering a phase where more people are talking about it and more people are identifying with it. And that’s important. It’s crazy, I mean, you guys know. When you go out and you’re dressed a certain way, you’ll get creepy vibes from a guy, and why do you feel that way? And should you therefore not be wearing what you’re wearing? But its kind of our culture to dress that way. And its just like this weird paradigm in which we live, and I definitely want to make art to help move out of that. And I think we’re in a good place right now where a lot of people are talking about it and a lot of people want to move forward and evolve.
TMM: That’s incredible. I love that. So, the “Playboy Girl” video, that looked like a lot of fun. How was making that?
LD: That was fun, we shot it in our house in LA, and our house stank like sugar for like 24 hours. But that was fun. I mean, that was more Liz’s brainchild than my brainchild. I just sat there and ate some food and had some food stuffed in my mouth. I played some drums in the kitchen.
TMM: Did anybody get sick?
LN: Yeah, the girl who was eating ice cream in the sink in one scene got sick. I kind of have an obsession, and I may be getting out of it a little bit, because it kind of seems popular now and I’m one of those people who, like, as soon as something is popular, I’m done with it. But for a while I was really into using food in photo shoots. I like doing it because I feel like our culture has such a fucked up relationship with food. I personally feel like if I eat too much then I feel super guilty or if I eat the wrong thing it’s like, “Oh my god! Oh no! I ate, like, more pizza than I should have.” And it’s like, who gives a fuck? Your body is fine. It will all bounce back. But I definitely have a weird thought about it. So I really like using food because it’s kind of like saying fuck you to that whole concept in our culture. So by that point I really knew how to use food in photo shoots and not actually eat it. You put in your mouth and chew it and just spit it out and who cares because it’s a photo shoot and you’re not going to see all of that. So when she was in the sink, I was like, “Don’t eat the food! Don’t really eat it, please!” And, she was just eating it and getting brain freeze after brain freeze. I felt so bad. But yeah, that video was really fun. We worked with this really great DP, Jancarlo Beck, and he’s so talented and that was really fun. I’m really happy with the way it came out.
TMM: That was a really cool video. It was disgusting, but you really wanted to be there at the same time.
LD: That’s Holychild in one sentence.
TMM: So, what’s next for you guys? What’s in the future?
LN: We’ll be releasing a new song before the end of the year which we’re super excited about. And we’ve been working on our album. I’m really excited about it. We’ve been writing a ton all year and really recording all year. So, it’s going to be out in 2015. We’re doing a national tour right now, and then we’re going to lay low for November and the holidays and then I’m sure we’ll be releasing things in the new year. We’re still really working on spreading the world of Holychild. We’re still so new. We didn’t release our EP that long ago, and so we’re just going on tour across the country spreading the word, which is a really fun process for us.
LD: It’s nice to see where we’ve come since our first tour this year, if you think about it. It’s been good. It’s been awesome. So thanks for spreading the word.