Lollapalooza Portraits Pt. II: Sylvan Esso, HOLYCHILD and Jack Novak


Lollapalooza Portraits Pt. II: Sylvan Esso, HOLYCHILD and Jack Novak

Sylvan Esso
Jack Novak

Photography: Kohl Murdock

For part two of our Lollapalooza portrait series (See part one), we sat down with more of our favorite artists from the weekend-long fest. Sylvan Esso share their weirdest tour moment (spoiler alert, it involves genitals), HOLYCHILD defines “Brat Pop” for us and mega-babe Jack Novak tells us why she’s tired of being labeled, “Female DJ.”

Sylvan Esso: Electro-folk duo, buzzing off their debut self-titled LP


You’ve been touring now for almost 20 months. What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened so far to you guys on tour?

Nick Sanborn: “Last night was pretty vibey. After our Empty Bottle show last night, I DJ’ed at Berlin and there was a side show happening in front of the DJ booth.”

Amelia Meath: “We were completely unaware that would be happening. I was watching Nick play and I saw a girl get Lollapalooza passes staple-gunned to her ass, a girl stapling a dollar bill to her vagina, and a guy stopping a fan with his dick.”

NS: “Meanwhile I’m playing Four Tet and Caribou records…”

When are you planning to start on your next album?

NS: “We’re done touring in December so that will be the first time we’re able to really start working. It’s so tough to do on the road.”

Stylistically, do you have a specific direction in mind for the album?

AM: “There’s so much more to explore in the direction that we’re currently in. I don’t think that we necessarily need to make a reggae album yet.

NS: “We figured out what the first track will be, and we are very album-centric people, so figuring out where it’s supposed to start really helps with all the other decisions after that. We never really want to make pre-emptive stylistic choices.”

AM: “Because what if you feel differently later on? It’s like being what you wanted to be when you were three, in which case I would be one of the women on the elephants in the circus.”

What would you be Nick?

NS: “I wanted to be in the Marines for a long time when I was a kid because my uncle Jack was a Marine. I think Amelia’s so close to being one of those women on an elephant. She’s just one life choice away from that, but I’m definitely so far away now from being a Marine.”

Speaking of your childhood, what kind of music influenced you growing up?

AM: “I liked everything coming out of Anticon, the label: Modest Mouse, Janet Jackson and Busta Rhymes.

NS: “I was a huge They Might Be Giants Fan, and all that weird NY pop. I liked a lot of weird electronic music. Anything that came out of warp records. Mostly ‘white kid from Wisconsin’ shit.”


HOLYCHILD: “Brat Pop” duo, glistening with childlike gloss


I overheard a girl in the crowd at your show saying “I don’t know get why they are called HOLCHILD, because that girl is not holy.” Can you tell us the meaning behind the name?

 Liz Nistico: “The name came from a sweatshirt that I was given a few years ago and it said ‘Holy Child’ on it. I thought it was so absurd and I was obsessed with it. We adopted the name, and I feel good about it because for me the only spirituality I can find is through art. I love the paradox of our group being called HOLYCHILD, but yet I’m basically humping people on stage.”

 Speaking of your live show, is your over-sexualized stage performance commentary on anything?

 LN: “For me personally I’m not really thinking ‘Oh, I’m going to be sexual right now.’ I’m a dancer, so I’m being pretty free and open with my body. Whatever comes out, oftentimes people interpret that as sexual because I move so much with my hips and I’m very fluid. To me, that’s based out of the fact that our culture generally isn’t open to things like that or not completely comfortable about it, so they’re labeling it as such. I’m happy to make people think about that.”

How do you define Brat Pop?

LN: “It’s essentially social commentary based on the role of gender expectations and our culture’s obsession with fame, and beauty, and money. Therefor, everything we do we’re essentially encouraging people to be critical of how they’re viewing a show or listening to a song. We being critiqued with our own art, but would love for it to be applied to all aspects of our culture. Not in a negative way, but in a discerning way, critically thinking.”

Are there other bands that you think fall into the Brat Pop genre?

Louie Diller: “PC Music. Their style of music is a little bit different than ours, but they are basically absurdist dance pop. They are really amazing musicians, but they’re making music that’s super pop-y and really fucking with it. Those guys are really smart and make you really think about pop music and EDM. Also, Madonna’s Material Girl, and this artist Stromae who we think is definitely in the brat pop world.”


Jack Novak: Chicago producer, known for sharing the stage with Skrillex, Diplo and Pharrell.

Jack Novack0003

You’re originally from Chicago; what was it like performing at such a huge festival in your hometown?

 “It was awesome playing in Chicago. It was epic. I think for some artists having their family around makes them nervous but for me having them around makes me more hyped. I grew up going to the festival, so to come back years later and play it was surreal.”

You have an extremely strong musical background, playing the piano, flute and guitar as a child. Did your parents push you to pursue music or were you always interested in it?

“My dad had a pretty nice piano, so as a kid I was always drawn to it. I would sit there for hours teaching myself and writing little songs. As I got a little older my mom wanted me to be involved more in school and she knew I loved music so that’s when I started to learn the flute. With guitar, once I picked it up I was obsessed with it and literally wanted to go to sleep with it. Music was a huge part of my life growing up and my parents really encouraged that, which was awesome.”

What was the initial push towards pursuing Djing and producing professionally?

“I’m the kind of person that when I make a decision about something, I just do it. There’s no grey area for me. I started Djing and I really enjoyed it. I asked a few of my friends who were Djing about how I could really get to another level. They said, ‘Jack you have to start writing your own tracks.’ So I went to Guitar Center, and I bought Ableton. I took it home and at first it kind of looked like Chinese to me, but after a lot of time spent working, and grinding, and trying it again, eventually the music came together for me.”

How do you feel about being a female DJ in a male dominated genre?

“I guess I just feel like it shouldn’t be about male or female, or boy or girl. I feel like if you’re making good music and if your live performance is tight, you should be commended for that—not because you’re a chick and you did it great as a chick.”

Can you tell us about your upcoming single?

“On August 21, I’m dropping a new song called, ‘If It Kills Me,’ featuring a really amazing artist Blackbear. I debuted the song at Lolla, and I’m really excited to release it. We just shot a video for it; we flew out to Minnesota and went out into the middle of nowhere in the forest. The director, Alex Howard, he’s only 19-years-old, and is an amazing up-and-coming artist. He’s one of the most talented people I’ve met in a long time.”