HOLYCHILD is a force to be reckoned with. The Los Angeles duo, made up of vocalist Liz Nistico and instrumentalist Louie Diller, specializes in “brat- pop”: a genre characterized by addictive beats and tongue-in-cheek social commentary. HOLYCHILD hit the ground running in 2013 with the release of “Happy With Me,” the single that had outlets like Billboard and Nylon instantly dubbing them the next big thing. Since then, they’ve released two EPs and an album, opened for pop superstars, and rocked the festival circuit. Now, following the release of their intimate single “Wishing You Away,” the duo is gearing up for their Brooklyn, NY show on 9/8.

Through her glammed-out lyrics and presentation, Nistico weaponizes femininity– a concept that is foisted upon girls but is also cause for their ridicule. HOLYCHILD’s music is a soundtrack for navigating this paradox by deciding to take down the system from the inside. Nistico’s no-holds-barred lyricism reflects pop culture’s misogyny back to us, while Diller’s production mimics the pop we’re all used to consuming without a second thought. Their ethos is almost like positive nihilism– acknowledging that everything is terrible, partying anyway.

With the bustle of Los Angeles behind them, HOLYCHILD chatted with me about “Wishing You Away,” the commodification of feminism, and brat-pop alter egos.

Are you excited to perform in New York this fall?

I love the scene in New York. I was doing a lot of performance art in New York City, actually. I was part of this performance group and we would do weird pieces– like a bunch of girls wearing all black veils, holding hands, standing around a guy while he metaphorically killed himself with baby powder. And we would all be monotone harmonizing with each other for like 3 hours while this man slowly died in a gallery, and people walked around us. I like that kind of stuff.

Liz

Congrats on the release of your newest single “Wishing You Away”! This song is your most personal yet. How did you decide to open yourself up to your audience like that?

I don’t even know if it’s worth it, honestly. I hope it is. It’s so personal, and it really is effecting me and my family. My mom’s saying passive aggressive things about it, like, “I support you. I know everyone else doesn’t support you but I do.” And I’m like, “Oh! I didn’t know everyone else was mad about that!”
It’s definitely making me think, how personal do I want to be in my art? I used to look at artists and think, “They’re such cowards, how can they call themselves a true artist if they don’t put themselves on display the way that I, a consumer of their art, would like to see.” And now that I’m in that position, it’s like, well, I put it all out there, and I definitely understand why people would want to protect their private lives now. Maybe it’s just because it’s so new and people aren’t like, “Just so you know, that helped me”. But I’m not there right now, I guess.

Liz

It’s really interesting to think about the expectation for artists to bleed onto their art and the personal repercussions of that.

I know! On one hand I’m like, “This is necessary to be spoken about, this is larger than you and your small ego that’s nervous about your family and these small things.” I do know that theoretically, but there’s such a dichotomy. I don’t want to deny it and act like I’m a god and therefore I don’t feel those human things, because I’m definitely affected by it.

Liz

The “Wishing You Away” video is both bubblegum and haunting. How did you decide on this balance?

I think everything that we do has that balance, but it’s not intentional. That’s just how things come out for us, musically. And then I directed that video… I knew that I wanted it to be all black, mixed with the pink. I knew that I wanted the black eye and domestic abuse aspect since that’s what the song’s about. And I knew I wanted the over-the-top Madonna eighties dance scenes. I was also really inspired by Kate Bush for this video. The balance is really just so innate for us.

Liz

You coined the genre “brat-pop”, how did this concept and subsequent sound come about?

A UK blogger described us as brat-pop back in 2012. It just felt right, sonically. We’ve always had a tendency towards absurdist pop art, so that informs the genre. And we try not to take ourselves too seriously whilst expressing ourselves.

Louie

Your song “Nasty Girls” was released in 2015, but it seems especially timely in the era of Trump and Me Too.

Our first EP we wrote in 2013, and it was a feminist EP all about the role of the female in our culture. But it wasn’t until really recently, with these new songs, that it started turning more personal. Part of the reason I started writing about that was because of my dad, honestly. I felt so much pain from the way he treated my family, and as a child I was always so sympathetic. I was like, “I understand, you did this because of toxic masculinity, you have all these pressures on you, and you deal with it by turning on those around you.” But then I would always turn it on myself– how do I deal with being a female, and what does that make me? That’s why I started analyzing the female role.

When we first started releasing this music, people were like, “Why are you doing this? You call yourself a feminist? That’s lame, why do you do that?” And now that term is so prevalent. It’s really inspiring to see, because this is something that we’ve both been watching for 5 years now. When we started it wasn’t really an issue, and now it’s something that we’re all talking about, and I’m glad we’re at that place. With “Wishing You Away,” that’s another reason why I’m like, hopefully this will be part of the initiation of that conversation.

Liz

It’s cool that as feminism is becoming more mainstream, there’s hopefully less gatekeeping in terms of what sound or creative medium is feminist, as long as the creator is a woman who is using her platform to advocate for women’s rights.

That gatekeeping comes from the commodification of a social movement. And that’s something that I would like to study a little bit more, actually. You go to Urban Outfitters, and maybe even Walmart, and you can buy a shirt that says “feminist.” They’re capitalizing on this movement, like that Kendall Jenner Pepsi campaign was capitalizing on a current movement. As an artist, I don’t want to be associated with that commodification, but at the same time I do want to have my voice heard. I feel really sensitive to disingenuous people pushing that agenda. Someone like Taylor Swift, I don’t know how I feel about that! Do I really feel that she’s feminist? I don’t know, maybe! She’s a female doing her shit and that’s badass, but if it was 5 years ago, I’m not sure if she would’ve said the things she’s saying now.

But at the same time it’s all for the betterment of humanity, so I’m happy for that. And that’s where the gatekeeping comes in. You have this word that’s thrown around, and a lot of people hear it but don’t necessarily know what it means. That’s where a lot of the misuse of that word can come in. I think it’s like that for all political movements. So it’s a pretty interesting thing to watch.

Liz

Your songs and videos are very tongue-in-cheek. What part does humor and satire play in the conception of HOLYCHILD?

That’s the balance between cute and creepy, or cute and substantive. I feel like satire is another one of those things where it just feels really innate. That’s how I express myself– on a daily basis, I’m pretty sarcastic. It was just what came out when I first started writing lyrics. I think now that we’re being more direct, that’s another aspect of it. But I feel like even with that directness, there’s a satirical aspect. It’s really something that’s very natural. But I love Orwell, I love Vonnegut, I love Terry Gilliam, we love the movie “Brazil”… that kind of stuff is just so interesting to me. That’s the art that I do, so it kind of makes sense.

Liz

Do you ever feel like, singing these high-energy, in your face songs, you’re embodying almost a brat-pop alter ego?

For awhile I used to have a persona, and when I would perform I would try to get into that character, but now I’m all about being the truest version of myself. That’s kind of my new vibe. But the performance is definitely a different experience, and there’s something else that happens when you’re onstage.

Liz

It’s like a satanic ritual, everyone dancing around the stage naked

Louie

Is it sometimes hard for you to embody this persona during performances every night?

It’s really hard for me to have self-worth, and be like, “all these people are here to see me right now.” I think I’m pretty shy, and the hardest part is to feel worth it in that moment. But then it just happens, then I’m just onstage and I’m thrashing around. I like to have this really unpredictable experience when I’m onstage, I don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t know how the songs are going to feel.

But I think it’s hard to feel deserving for me. I used to be really distrustful of it– like, these people don’t love me, they just love the thing that I’ve created. And there’s this big separation between me and that thing, and that gives me protection. But I’m curious to see how i feel this time around, because we haven’t played shows in a while. I think in the past 2 years I’ve learned a lot spiritually, and I’m excited to see how it feels to perform with these new spiritual energies.

Liz

What’s next for you? Any new releases, or are you just touring for a bit?

We have a bunch of new songs that we wanna start releasing! We’re releasing one new song in September, and I’m literally sitting down to edit this video right now. And we have some more songs to release by the end of the year. But we’re gonna be back at it!

Liz

Don’t miss HOLYCHILD’s explosive live show on 9/8 in Brooklyn! Grab your tickets here