When Liz Nistico and Louie Diller first joined forces at the behest of the former’s dance instructor, they never expected much to come of the partnership. Diller served as a backing musician provided by their school, George Washington University, to collaborate on a single dance performance. But when the two started working together, the chemistry was immediate.
Though Diller was a year younger and Nistico lived in Brooklyn after graduating, they found the time to work on their music. They would head into a D.C. studio at odd hours four days a week, which meant Nistico had to find her holes in her waitressing schedule to take the bus down from New York.
Sitting next to each other at a Silver Lake cafe, the duo now known as Holychild excitedly discuss those lean early years. In between sips of soup and bites of apple pie, they finish each other’s sentences as if they were siblings, animatedly telling the story of the pivotal day when they finished their first song.
“That day I got into graduate school at CalArts,” Nistico explains. “I ended up declining the offer, and believed in what we were doing and was committed to music, even though we weren’t sure of what we were doing at first.”
After Diller graduated, the duo moved to Los Angeles in the fall of 2012. Then things came together quickly. Based on the strength of two early songs, “Best Friends” and “Watching Waiting,” which they released on Hype Machine, Holychild were offered a number of label deals before deciding to go with Glassnote, the indie powerhouse that's also home to Chvrches and Mumford & Sons.
Eventually Nistico and Diller two down those two early songs, because they didn't reflect their burgeoning sound, an edgy yet sparkly variant on electro-pop they dubbed "brat pop." In November, they released "Running Behind," the first song off their forthcoming debut album.
Nistico’s lyrics come from a strong feminist and socially conscious perspective. Despite her savvy use of sexuality and vulnerability on the band’s social media platforms, she hopes people look beyond that and the bright sound to understand the message of her words.
“Ultimately I would love to reform the way our culture thinks about topics like beauty standards, gender identification, but there’s a lot to change,” she laments. “You can’t change something by just saying something. People need to come to the conclusion themselves and I really like using pop as my means to do it.”
“If people can’t understand the message, then they’re not the right audience,” Diller adds. “We’re not the type of people that are complacent, and it might be polarizing to have this type of message to say, but that’s who we are.”
As bright as the future may appear for the duo, they’re cognizant that there is room for improvement, especially with their live show. In 2014, they had high profile opening slots for Fitz and the Tantrums and MØ that helped them observe what makes a dynamic live show, and they're planning to incorporate a grander vision into their sets.
“Singing in front of a crowd wasn’t natural for me,” Nistico explains. “I hated talking to the audience. It was something that I wasn’t excited about.”
“We strictly did what we rehearsed and then we’d get off-stage,” Diller continues. “We record every show, and watch our shows, so we realize how important it is connect to people and what we need to do to improve. It’s evolved over the past year.”
As they’re set to open up the year with a Monday residency at the Echo, Holychild have put a lot into convincing people that there’s substance to them beyond a glossy image and a few catchy songs.
“Last year, we played our first headlining show at Bardot,” Diller says. “We weren’t prepared then — sonically and emotionally — and it didn’t feel right. Now that we’re settled, we’re ready to prove to people why they should care about us.”
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Holychild perform every Monday in January at the Echo. Admission is free. For more info and to RSVP, visit www.theecho.com.