After graduating from GW in 2011 and 2012, respectively, alumni Liz Nistico and Louie Diller have put all their energy into their brat-pop duo, Holychild.
Now touring with Danish indie-pop singer Mø in what will be their third national tour this year, the two took some time to chat about 9:30 Club memories, using an international affairs education in the music world and defining “brat pop.” The interview was edited for length.
You’re playing at the 9:30 Club on Sept. 22. Is this your first time performing there?
Louie Diller: This is our second time.
Liz Nistico: But we’re really excited about it a lot. I mean we saw so many shows at the 9:30 Club.
Diller: I spent all my money in college at the 9:30 Club. It’s such a special venue. It’s kind of like a dream come true every time. I guess we’ve only played there once, so that was a dream come true. I’m sure I’ll have the same butterflies playing this time.
What’s your favorite memory at the 9:30 Club?
Diller: Oh, Andrew Bird was so good. That was a good show. I had just taken my last final at GW as a senior, and we went to the 9:30 Club that night, but the opener was insane and I just felt so happy to be alive at that moment.
Nistico: I always used to get in trouble at the 9:30 club though (laughs). Because I would go before I was 21, and like every time I would go I would always get in trouble and not even for doing anything. They’d be like “You, you’re drinking obviously,” and I’d be like “Actually, I’m not.” I usually wasn’t, but somehow I would always get in trouble. Then when I turned 21, I think I actually had my 21st birthday there.
In the time between graduation and when you signed to a label last year, what was it like trying to get your music out there?
Diller: GW helped a lot. We definitely look back at GW, and one of the things we’re really happy about is what we learned in the Elliott School [of International Affairs]: Be methodical and deliberate and just plan ahead and execute in all of your plans, and if you kind of do that, you usually succeed in whatever you’re trying to do. So we applied the principles to Holychild, and we would make five-month plans for ourselves and how to get our music out there.
Nistico: But at the same time, it was hard. There were a lot of times where I was like, “Uh, should we be doing this?” We were putting all of our money into recording and making music videos and doing photo shoots, so when we would see our families, they would be like, “You guys aren’t eating, clearly,” and we were just like, “Uh, yeah.” It was a rocky period. But, yeah, having a plan really helped and putting things in motion really helped.
Your website describes your music as “brat pop,” and I was hoping you could talk about how you started to develop your specific sound.
Nistico: As we wrote and recorded more, it started to come to fruition. We’ve been recording an album, and I feel like now it’s so clear what our sound is and what makes up that sound. And we’re really trying to define ourselves and define brat pop because it’s actually like pop music that rebels within pop form. So sometimes the chord progression might be kind of weird or not normal or expected within pop music, but essentially we want to make pop music that makes people think.
I want to talk a little bit about your music videos because they are representative of that pop vibe, but they’re also artsy and smartly put together. And I wonder if that’s playing off of what you’re doing with your sound.
Nistico: I’m directing most of them and it really definitely goes hand-in-hand with our music. We want everything to be accessible on first glance or first listen. So you listen to something or you look at something and you’re like, “Oh, that’s pretty,” but then while you’re watching it you’re like, “Wait a second, that’s weird.” That’s what I want with everything.
When you’re back in D.C. for the show, is there a certain place that’s at the top of your list to visit again?
Nistico: We lived in D.C. for so long that I’m definitely very excited to just be back in the scene and soak it in. I feel like every time I go back there, there’s new stuff, so I’m totally down to explore and see what else is around there. And the last time we played the 9:30 Club, there were a bunch of friends and fans in the audience, and it’s just so nice to be back with our D.C. crew and D.C. people in general and GW people.