HOLYCHILD Talk Upcoming Album, The Importance Of Art & Breaking Down Pop Culture Standards: Idolator Interview
We at Idolator are always on the hunt for new artists, and our latest discovery is the totally fun HOLYCHILD. The duo, comprised of Liz Nistico and Louie Diller, are ready to take on the industry with their forthcoming LP — The Shape Of Brat Pop To Come (out on June 2).
But don’t let their wild, bratty style fool you! This duo is very intelligent (they met at George Washington University, after all) and have compelling thoughts regarding societal standards and pop culture.
I first met the duo during this year’s SXSW, and I got the chance to recently catch up with them about their upcoming debut album, collaborating with other artists and how they master the conversational art aspect in their music. Read on to see what HOLYCHILD had to say in our conversation below!
So how did you two first meet?
LIZ NISTICO: Louie and I met when we were in college. We only knew each other towards the very end because it was such a big school [George Washington University]. It was right before I graduated, and I was in the dance department. Louie was the musician for my senior year of dance class. We just started collaborating immediately, but through painting first. Louie asked me to paint this practice space and there were instruments all around so we just started jamming. Some of the songs from those sessions are on the album now, which is crazy. “Best Friends” and “Diamonds” are from those days.
Were you guys the ones to call your music “Brat Pop,” or did the media tackle that on to you?
LOUIE DILLER: About two years ago, someone described our sound as “Brat Pop” and we were like: “Wait, that’s it! That’s what we do.” Up until that point, people have been calling [our sound] indie pop or they had no idea how to describe it. Brat Pop definitely stuck, and we’ve been riding on that since. I feel like genres and categories in general are kind of antiquated and an unnecessary evil. So I think this is how we’re playing the game. We do have to have a genre, so why don’t have fun with it?
For the upcoming album, what kind of lyrical themes can we expect?
LN: The Shape Of Brat Pop To Come is defining this new genre that we have — Brat Pop. It’s really heavy with social commentary of gender expectations, power dynamics, money and class disparities. We just released “Money All Around,” which is a sarcastic song about things that we value in our culture right now — in particularly how we view bodies and money. We have a song called “Regret You” that is the one love song on the album. The end of the chorus goes, “Ill always let you know, I won’t regret you when I go.” It’s a love song from the point of view that love doesn’t actually exist. It has a bittersweet feel to it.
Ultimately, [the album] is trying to understand the greater truth. Like, is there something that we can all be on the same page about? Are my relationships [with people] true or all they all altered by these things? Is there even a kernel of truth that exists there? That’s the theme of the album. At no point are we calling anybody out, I feel like we’re totally victims of the world as well. Human equality is really interesting to us and necessary, like what we talked about at SXSW. It’s huge and I think if we all start thinking about these things in different ways or just a little bit more than we do now, we can realize that everyone is influenced by these larger pop cultural influences.
Cool! I feel like pop music at the moment doesn’t have much heart to it and no one is really saying anything. So when you put out your album, do you think people will take the themes into consideration? That section of pop is vacant right now.
LD: There are a couple of people who are doing it who come to mind, like Stromae. He has a lot of success, and his message is totally consistent with ours. Charli XCX to a certain extent too. The “Famous” video she came out with was pretty rad, that is along the lines of what we’re doing.
LN: We’re also trying to build a platform to let people know, “Hey, what we’re doing is art!” I really want to be candid with social media, and it takes a while to evolve and be that honest with people. But I think we’re there now, which is nice. When you’re interpreting our music and visuals, please interpret it as art and have that in the back of your mind. We’re about to release the video for “Money All Around,” and in it we pretty much spell it out. Like, this is what we’re doing in case you don’t get it!
LD: Going back to your question, I think time will tell. I don’t think anyone out right now are doing pop music while trying to change anything.
LN: I like making people uncomfortable and I like when people make me uncomfortable with art. I think that’s necessary.
Do you guys have a favorite song off the album?
LD: Mine would be “Barbie Nation.”
Nice! That was one of the titles that stood out for me.
LN: “Barbie Nation” is essentially a letter to my future daughter in which I’m telling her that she would not be as fucked up as I am, because I’m going to expose her to things that will teach her how to be a woman at a younger age. For instance, I’ll get her all the Vogues and Cosmopolitans when she’s like two [years old]. Then I’ll restrict her diet so she doesn’t eat as much, and dress her in skimpy clothes so she understands this world better than I do. Obviously it’s sarcastic, I would never put a child through those things! But it was inspired by a children’s cut-out doll book that I found, and it was so fucked up! Girls were in like Agent Provocateur lounging out in these super-sexual poses, like who would buy this? It made me so pissed! It really bothered me, so I definitely want to expose that kind of absurdity. But my favorite song right now is “Regret You,” it’s like Destiny’s Child plus Gorillaz.
I know you worked with Greg Wells for “Money All Around.” How was that experience?
LD: He’s so down to earth for how talented and amazing his discography is. I have nothing but good things to say about him. We felt so creative working with him in studio, and we recorded half the album with him. Before that point, we were on the clock and had to be as efficient as possible. With Greg, it was just like “Who cares about time?” It was revealing, like this is how it’s supposed to be.
So when I’m around you guys, you have such a different vibe compared to other artists out right now — from the visuals to the way you dress. Where does the inspiration come from?
LN: Right now I’m really inspired by this concept called “disco sport.” A world that exists on disposable cameras in the ’70s. I’ve always been really attracted to those colors, like orange, dark green, cherry red, bubblegum pink, even brown. It’s such an ebb and flow. Just two years ago I was into pastels, which Meghan Trainor is kind of doing right now. I really love high fashion. The current collections by Miu Miu, Dior and Louis Vuitton are so on point. The only artist who I’m inspired by right now is Diana Ross. I’m in love with her style and I’ve been collecting so many photos of her over the past few months.
I personally can’t picture the typical musical collaborations for you, so would you guys ever consider working with an art show or a museum?
LD: Actually last year the MoMA featured our EP and our short film in their Pop Rally showcase.
LN: That was definitely a life validating moment.
LD: But we do want to have collaborations with other artists once the album is out!
LN: We recently did a song with this band from the Netherlands called Keljet [“What’s Your Sign?”], it’s a nu disco vibe that was really fun to do.
So if you could collaborate with any artist — I’m thinking a Basquiat or a Warhol — or a musician, who would you choose?
LN: I would love to do a film with Wes Anderson circa 2003. If I was in The Life Aquatic with him, that would’ve been amazing. There’s another director called Luca Guadagnino who I really want to collaborate with. He’s Italian and directed this film called Io Sono L’Amore, or I Am Love, with Tilda Swinton. As far as musicians, I’d love to work with Battles. Wouldn’t that be tight?
LD: We have a list of people, like Greg Kurstin, James Blake and George Reid [of AlunaGeorge]. For artists, I was thinking of Mexican directors. Like guy who directed Birdman [Alejandro González Iñárritu], and also Guillermo del Toro Gómez who did Pan’s Labyrinth. That would be so cool to do a music video with him.
The original artwork for your upcoming album was met with some controversy, and I know you plan on writing an op-ed piece to accompany the project.
LN: Yes, the fact that it was such an issue makes it an even greater reason to talk about it.
LD: I thought it was a good wakeup call. As you said, we’re kind of in our progressive LA bubble.
Yes, I was just talking to one of my editors about this. There are 50 states, yet we only think about New York and California. My mindset is totally different compared to someone from say, Oklahoma.
LN: The amazing thing about New York City is by virtue of the subway, people are much more aware of different types of people. But in LA, it’s very easy to be in your own world. I really like that you can’t really avoid people in New York, it’s inspiring and what I think is the best part about the city. You don’t get that interaction in LA. The interesting thing though is class. On the subway there are different classes. Like wealthy people ride the subway because it’s the easiest way to get from point A to point B. But so are people with no money because it’s like two dollars. That’s the amazing part.
So as we are talking about body image and controversy with the album art, currently there has been a lot of issues with pop stars and they way they look. Like Kelly Clarkson, Selena Gomez, Pink and Madonna for example.
LN: I think until we get to a point where being objectified as a woman is not a coveted endeavor in our culture, then this is still going to exist. I know this 13-year-old girl whose aspiration is to become a model. I mean, go for it because I’m sure you can get there. But that aspiration is so frustrating. When I was growing up everyone wanted to be an actress, and I’m sure that was still coming from a place of vanity. But at least there’s more of a longevity as an actress than a model. To me, that showed me we are in a new place where little girls are saying “I want to grow up and be good-looking.” If that’s where we’re at now, then body shaming is still going to exist. Someone was telling me that in hip-hop right now, it’s pretty taboo to have really homophobic lyrics — which is cool that we’ve gotten to that point. However it hasn’t necessarily progressed where shaming or degrading women is called out, and that’s still okay in hip-hop. But of course that’s still okay because it’s still something that women kind of want. Even if you don’t want to be degraded, you do want to be the one giving the guy head and have it be super sexual. There’s a slight desire for that. But until we get rid of that shit, I think body shaming is not going to end. It’s a major undertaking to get to that point, and I don’t even know how it’s possible.
Awesome response! So let’s shift gears here. Everyone is talking about Tidal, and I don’t approve of it. These big artists are claiming that it’s for the artists, and I feel like that kind of service does not cater to up-and-coming musicians.
LD: I appreciate the effort, and time will tell. I think the Internet is so crazy and such a Wild West thing. When you look at our revenue stream — obviously we’re not making anywhere near Jay Z’s money — but the money we’ve made comes from countless number of streams. He and all those other artists seem a bit out of touch with the struggle that we are facing. I think it would’ve been cool if Jay Z included some more mid-level artists, because he has the power to do so. It would’ve been like someone in the 1 percent reaching out to lower artists and saying, “I respect the work that you do and I’m willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with you.” If we’re going to be artists, let’s be artists! I think it shows how out of touch he is.
Look out for HOLYCHILD’S debut LP The Shape of Brat Pop To Come on June 2 via Glassnote Records.
Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.