HOLYCHILD Talk Their Apple Watch Commercial, The Bay Area And More

Photo: Shervin Lainez

If you made it to South by Southwest, you may have seen Liz Nistico and Louie Diller of HOLYCHILD, a Los Angeles-based pop band. As performers, they're provocative; as young and up-and-coming artists, they're affable and down to earth. Here's what they had to say about their artistic influences, and how thrilled they were that Apple chose their song to represent its new watch!

KQED Pop: Congratulations on having one of your songs chosen for the Apple Watch! Can you comment on what the selection process was like and how you both felt when you heard the news?

Louie: Thank you! From what I have been told, apparently there were a few ideas being tossed around for the first commercial, but when Apple heard our song and saw the ad cut to it, apparently it was a no brainer decision for them (which is so nice!).

When we first heard the news, it was one of those surreal moments where it felt too good to be true. Our manager, Nicky, who usually is always very poised and calm in all our conversations, was a little giddy when breaking the news to us, which is adorable to think about now in retrospect.

We all had to sit on this news and not tell anyone for an entire month before the commercial first aired so it was a little nerve-racking at times thinking about all the what if scenarios. Thankfully, it came out! The response to the Watch ad and song has been overwhelmingly positive so we couldn't be happier in terms of an ideal set up for our debut album release this June.

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When the two of you teamed up, Louie was the musical accompaniment for Liz’s modern dance class. How did you come to form a band, and how do you see your college selves in your music these days? 

Liz: Yeah, it’s crazy that we met that way. It was all so natural and it’s crazy to think of how it evolved. We were both studying International Affairs. That was our main focus and then Louie studied Jazz and I did Italian and Dance on the side, but we were both very concerned with political science and history and the state of our world at large. These are still things we are concerned with and I feel like our art would not be what it is, if not for the academic slant.

We talk about economic reform, class disparities, global anthropological issues, the demise of the American Dream, the advent of Westernization and Globalization; these are all things that we studied. In our lyrics, we might not be throwing around these buzz words (I would find that lame), but when you listen to what we’re saying, that’s the crux of it. And that really came from our time in college.


Your forthcoming album is billed as brat pop. What, for you, are the defining characteristics of this genre? And how has your style evolved to what it is today? 

Louie: The album is called The Shape Of Brat Pop To Come, which is a nod to Refused's The Shape of Punk To Come, which in turn is a nod to Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz To Come. Brat pop to us is rebellious pop music. It uses familiar themes, sounds and hooks to lure people in, but then challenges the listener. Whether it be some unruly lyrics, syncopated rhythm and/or an unexpected chord progression, brat pop does not spoon feed the listener. It intends [to entertain], while simultaneously provoking thought.

Since we first met four to five years ago, Liz and I have shared an obsession with artists that straddle the line between pop and experimental art smoothly. Basquiat, Bukowski, Fiona Apple, St. Vincent, Thelonious Monk and Wes Anderson are some examples.

Liz: Brat Pop is thick with social commentary. It’s definitely pop, but we like to talk about the sad/weird/exciting/depressing state of our culture in a way that is evocative and will hopefully spark change.

There’s a hint of pleasant irony in the title of the song selected by Apple, “Running Behind.” Was this intentional?

Liz: Isn’t that funny? No, it was not intentional. The song was completely done and recorded months before we knew it was going to be in the Apple Watch commercial. I don’t know if I will ever want to create art for the sole purpose of an advertisement. It seems like that would kind of be demeaning for the art.

Since graduating from GWU, you have established yourselves in LA. Many artists attempt this, but you’ve actually achieved it in less than five years. What’s in store for the next five?

Louie: We actually have only been in LA for just over two years so it's kind of crazy to think about where we were when we first moved here in the fall of 2013, and where we are now. We're still very far from where we would like to be, but it's a privilege and dream come true to be able to make art full time.

Five years from now, I think Liz and I would like to establish HOLYCHILD to a point where we could collaborate with anyone in any capacity. Whether it be making music in a completely different genre, or doing some live performance art, or directing music videos/films (Liz directs our music videos). Another dream of ours is to make a LOT of money through HOLYCHILD and give it all away to public education. Personally, nothing else would make me happier.

Okay, this next question is for Louie, a Bay Area native. Do you have any words of wisdom for young local musicians?

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Louie: Yeah! When looking back at my time cutting my teeth on the local Bay Area music scene, I would recommend just having no fear in putting yourself out there, whether it be artistically with your songs and recordings, or professionally (i.e. picking up the phone and calling all the live music venues and promoters in town to play a show). Unless you have your parents or someone else doing all that for you, no one is going to do all this grunt work for you. It is all up to you! I started doing all the above when I was 13 or 14 years old and feel so lucky to have been based out of the Bay at the time, since the culture there is so amazingly supportive and nourishing of the arts (especially local artists). You can't really go wrong trying to do something creative there.

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