Interview: HOLYCHILD suckerpunch the pop world

HolychildWith the release of debut album The Shape of Brat Pop to Come, Los Angeles power duo HOLYCHILD have cemented their importance on the pop scene, as well as their colossal presence on DrunkenWerewolf's periphery. Addressing pop culture's detrimental influence over society with lyrics that - in our own words - give "an almighty huff of girl power, doughnut dust and hyperactive adrenalin," needless to say they're an essential addition to any socially conscious music fans' catalogue.

Now ready to take on the UK live circuit, ahead of their as-of-yet unannounced European tour Tiffany Daniels spends some time chatting to front woman Liz Nistico and everything man Louie Diller about the band's formation, coming of age, and how they've reached their inspiring sound.

Are you in London at the moment?

Liz: Yeah we’re in London! We’re not taking the Tube.

What are you up to over here?

Liz: We just released our album in early June, so we’re just over here meeting with some people – mostly just press stuff, but it’s good. It’s nice to do something when we’re not on tour. It’s nice to talk to you because we’re such fans of DrunkenWerewolf!

I’m a fan of yours! Being in London, do you reckon you’ll come over here for a UK tour soon?

Liz: Yeah absolutely, we’re thinking about that. Before the fall is what we’re thinking.

That’s coming up!

Liz: You’ll have to come.

You’ve toured loads in the US this year and last year.

Liz: Yeah we tour a lot in the US. We’re leaving to tour the US on Saturday, and actually our first time in Japan [is coming up] as well. We’re due to play shows in the UK. Shows are so much fun. It’s such a raw connection between us and the audience. It’s such a shame we haven’t done any [in the UK] yet, but I’m excited to come back and do that.

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How do you think UK audiences will compare? Have you managed to get a feel for it?

Liz: You never know. Hopefully it will be cool. The people who are attracted to our music are pretty progressive, and they’re pretty open minded, so usually our shows are wild just by the nature of the people who are into [our music]. I would assume it’s going to fun. Everybody’s so nice too, I think during our shows people are really keen to just be themselves. I would imagine once we get over here, the audiences will be pretty open – similar to the way they’ve been in the US. But you never know because you can never anticipate a show. That’s what I’ve learned.

Kind of aptly considering your name, you’ve followed the holy bible of touring – with some larger bands and some residencies. What’s been your experience of doing that rather than touring as a headline band?

Louie: It’s pretty much amazing touring with other artists that are more established than us – just learning from them, how they do their shows, how they put together everything. For us, it’s definitely a fun challenge to play our music to lots of people who have never heard it before. With the residency, it was pretty pivotal I feel like for us, getting down a solid 45 minute to an hour headlining set. That was a new challenge for us, and it was kind of our first time headlining and playing the album. I feel like we grew a lot over the course of that month, and now we’re still learning, but we’re more settled and having fun with it.

Not a negative at all, but your fan base especially in the US seems to be quite young. What do you think nurtures that – your attitude, or your music?

Liz: Yeah, I know. I’m still trying to put a finger on the age of our fan base. I think the most vocal are younger. I’m into that. When I was 15/16 I really heavily started getting into music. I guess I was always really into [music], but that period of my life was really influential for me. It continues to affect me and how I view the world. With our music, we’re talking about brat pop which is social commentary on gender roles and expectation, and age discrimination, and our culture’s obsession with fame and beauty and money... These things are really inspiring and it’s really amazing that younger people are attracted to those ideals as well. The hope is to make something that changes the collective conscious. I’m really inspired by that. Everyone we’ve met – it’s crazy, you know, personally when I meet these people who are into our music, I would hang out with them! I feel like we’re friends! I think that's because we’re all attracted to these same ideas. It’s pretty inspiring, we are definitely attracting a progressive group of people.

You mention pop culture, but you also reference writers such as Hemmingway and Bukowski, and also there’s some philosophical talk – even then, you obviously know your stuff when it comes to pop culture and how it interacts with society. Did you find it hard to get the right balance on the album?

Liz: It felt pretty natural to do that with the album. We are pretty steeped in literature, we’re definitely history nerds and yeah, I spend a lot of time reading. We love learning. We’re very familiar with pop culture, so therefore when we make our own art, those influences come in subconsciously. It’s not something that we’re thinking of, but I think it’s a result of obsessions with Fitzgerald, and George Orwell, and Vonnegut, and Sylvia Plath. We definitely spend a lot of time amercing ourselves in artists' work, so then when we go to create our own [art] – we’re naturally inspired by those things.

What about the genre – in most cases, musicians naturally go towards the genre they prefer, but pop music particularly creates juxtapose with criticism of mainstream culture. Was that ever an issue?

Louie: I think as much as we’re into other styles of music, we’re as into pop music, and for us pop music is definitely one of the best and most exciting mediums. It’s such an effective way because it’s so familiar and everyone knows that form, that genre. It’s a fun challenge to create within the perimeter of pop and do something that’s our own, but at the same time connect with people through it.

Liz: But making the music in this way happened similarly to how we’re kind of obsessed with all these different artists and authors and directors. I think that we listen to so much music; it’s equal part pop, equal part avant garde jazz, equal part obscure indie artist, and yeah - the inspirations have just formed what we’re making right now. I think our goal was just to make something that was idiosyncratically us.

Louie: It took time though. It took like three or four years of writing 30 or 40 songs, to settle on the right 12 that feel the most exciting to us, and we feel have the biggest chance of allowing us to connect with the world and trying to have some sort of positive impact on it. It didn’t happen overnight.

You two are obviously quite a secure unit – I didn’t actually realise you had that much material already. Did you work with anyone in the run up to the release of the album?

Liz: We did, we wrote a lot on our own and then we got signed, and our label set us up with some other people to start writing with. It was a really interesting learning experience. At the end of the day, I think it made us realise we love collaborating with different artists and writers, it’s really fun to work with other people. Collaborating with other writers was an interesting challenge. It’s interesting because so much of it came from us, and even when we were in these writing sessions, it was us kind of driving. It was nice to have another person in there as another energy in the room. That influences the songs in a very subtle way, but it was kind of cool to have that impact as well.

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Was there anyone specific who you feel really influenced the sound of the album in the end?

Louie: Yeah, I think the two producers that we co-produced with – one was Greg Wells, the other was Cian Riordan - they definitely had a pretty big impact. Greg was probably the most fun person I have ever recorded with. Up until Greg, whenever we recorded it was usually just on a budget, and we didn’t have that much time and it was kind of stressful. We were just in there executing premeditated parts as quickly and efficiently as possible just to get it done.

Liz: Yeah we wouldn’t have enough money to have unlimited time.

Louie: With Greg we were able to explore so much, and creatively that was pretty liberating. With Cian, he’s kind of an engineering freak! As we’ve said, we’re both nerds and I can definitely nerd out to engineering stuff. Cian comes from one of my favourite music engineers/producers in the world, and works out of that studio. It was just fascinating to learn from his process and see how they go about achieving the sound that they do. I definitely feel so honoured that they worked on our music, and I feel like they achieved a sonic quality that’s unbelievably high for my standards. I feel really lucky that we had the time and money to afford their expertise.

For the foreseeable future are you just going to focus on Bratpop, if you’ve written forty songs in the past?

Liz: We’re writing a lot more actually right now. Yeah we do have a bunch of songs that we haven’t released yet, and they have a special place. I’m starting to have a lot of dreams with songs again, so I’m starting to put them out. We’ll start playing with those, and Louie has a bunch of ideas, so we’re continuously creating. But it’s nice to have our album out, to have such an establishing work of art. This is who we are, and what we’re doing. Now we can build on that.

Find out more about HOLYCHILD here, and win a copy of their album The Shape of Brat Pop to Come here.

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