Guest Post: HOLYCHILD Comes Full Circle Upon Return to D.C.

Sydney Gore

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Louie Diller and Liz Nistico of HOLYCHILD hanging out in Washington, D.C. / PHOTOS BY NATE COVER

After entering the 9:30 Club hours before doors, Liz Nistico can be seen sitting on the wooden floor in a vibrant pink, patterned Lazy Oaf dress. In front of her is an open suitcase full of colorful t-shirts with HOLYCHILD printed on them. She carefully pulls out each shirt one at a time and quietly counts them in her head before spreading them out and separating them by size. Louie Diller stands above her, piecing together the band equipment with shimmering, metallic streamers hanging off the sides.

Before the interview begins, Nistico scouts a location for the photo shoot. She points to the gas station across the street from the venue and eagerly runs inside the convenience store. Diller follows suit, and the two pretend to examine products on the shelves, nervous that the clerk behind the window might kick them off the premises.

In the past two years, HOLYCHILD has come full circle. When they studied international affairs as undergraduate students at George Washington University, Nistico and Diller used to frequent the 9:30 Club as spectators in the crowd. Now, they will have opened on the same stage where they have witnessed some of the best concerts of their entire lives for the second time.

“As time goes on because we were here in college, a lot of our college friends now are going to different cities all over the U.S. so it still feels like home,‰” Nistico says. “Even though we had a huge crew when we were in college and it‰’s dwindling down to the few people who are living here now, but it‰’s so nice to be back in D.C.‰”

Nistico and Diller sit down on the edge of the sidewalk. They seem comfortable just about anywhere, especially in places that they are technically not supposed to be. Diller starts picking at the grass while Nistico talks about swimming, another one of her favorite past times. That morning, she went for a dip in the pool at The Hilton— in her college days, Nistico used to sneak into the pool at Donovan House on Logan Circle. Ask them about where all the cool spots in D.C. are, and they‰’ll give you a list of locations like Marvin, Patty Boom Boom, U Street Music Hall and 18th Street Lounge.

“I loved [college]. It‰’s just so cool. I mean like GW and college in general is a great time to do whatever the fuck you want,‰” Nistico says.

HOLYCHILD has a lot of ties to Washington, D.C., so the fact that they got to kick off their fall tour with MÌ÷ here was a happy coincidence. The GW graduates (2011 and 2012) first met on campus in a modern dance class; Nistico was a dancer and Diller was the music accompanist. Nistico happily lets Diller tell the story about the origins of the band‰’s name while she twirls her pigtails around her finger.

“It was a spur of the moment trip on part of ways going from D.C. to New York one weekend,‰” starts Diller. “It must have been the winter or fall or sometime cold when Liz needed a sweatshirt…‰”

As he divulges all the details about how an “eccentric‰” family friend gave Nistico a “huge, oversized sweatshirt that said ‰HOLYCHILD‰’ in big, bold letters on the back‰Û, she smiles widely and nods to confirm that it‰’s all true. After she brought the sweatshirt back to D.C., Nistico modified it so it resembled a boxing sweatshirt and began wearing it everywhere.

“She would romp around in modern dance class and all over campus in this absurd oversized sweatshirt, and quickly became the HOLYCHILD girl on campus. You could spot her a mile away in this sweatshirt,‰” adds Diller.

Eventually, Diller and Nistico started making music together and needed a name for their project. “And thus, HOLYCHILD,‰” Diller said. Nistico dramatically opened her arms and Diller chuckled at the gesture.

Even though Nistico and Diller are literally living the dream of their post-grad lives, it didn‰’t happen without initial struggle. When the two moved from D.C. to Los Angeles to focus on their brat pop project— a rebellious form of “pop music to make people think‰Û— they were essentially broke because the DIY nature of it required them to spend all of their “money, time and energy‰” on it. Diller recalls his family telling him that he looked skinny all the time, concerned that he wasn‰’t properly feeding himself.

“It‰’s obviously subjective, but I guess for me, I think for everybody, when you first get out of college it‰’s a struggle,‰” says Diller as he rubs his face. “I mean, it was hard to buy toilet paper, and I know that‰’s too much information, but that‰’s how much of a struggle it was.‰”

Before the move, Diller worked in D.C. as a music teacher, but he never envisioned himself as an educator and left that profession behind once HOLYCHILD started traveling to perform.

“It still takes a year or so to figure out how to make your passion your career,‰” Diller says.

After Nistico graduated, she moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. and found an apartment in Borough Park. For eight months, she was living in a Hasidic neighborhood. “I lived in this basement and studied opera with this amazing opera coach in New York, and had this weird experience living in this place.‰” Diller doesn‰’t let her forget that she picked HOLYCHILD over grad school though.

“It‰’s crazy. Liz got into grad school. We had begun recording our first song and it was so conceptual at that phase, and I was thinking about that today,‰” says Diller. “How Liz— sorry to interrupt— turned down grad school for this conceptual project called HOLYCHILD.‰”

At that point, Nistico and Diller hadn‰’t shown anyone their music. It was a studio project and they didn‰’t send it out anywhere because they wanted to make sure that their songs and recordings were legitimately good before moving forward with HOLYCHILD. Evidently, the risk was worth it though.

This year, HOLYCHILD released their debut MINDSPEAK EP and a few months later, the band was signed to the label Glassnote Records.

“They‰’ve been really flexible with our vision and it‰’s nice,‰” says Nistico. “I feel like they signed us for us, not for us to become the next something that we‰’re not.‰”

The next step for HOLYCHILD is a full-length LP, which Nistico is already conceptualizing. Right now, the main theme she wants to explore is vulnerability.

“I really want to be aware of when I‰’m vulnerable and why I‰’m vulnerable, and really tap into that,‰” says Nistico. “I also feel like when other humans are vulnerable, it‰’s such a nice place to connect with other people and I really want to just try to connect with people on that.‰”

HOLYCHILD has certainly come a long way, but without all the missteps, they wouldn‰’t be where they are today. Throughout their journey, Nistico and Diller have had so much support though, from their family and friends to each other, and that has made all the difference.

“It‰’s always in your lowest moments like you‰’re just like ‰I don‰’t know what I‰’m doing with my life‰’…‰” Diller pauses, looking for the right words to finish his thought, but Nistico interrupts him.

“That‰’s when you learn the most. I feel like most inspiration comes from those points,‰” Nistico says.

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Guest Post: HOLYCHILD Comes Full Circle Upon Return to D.C.