L.A. rock duo Holy Wars are partially charged and ready to power past the energy vampires with their new video “Battery Life,” dissecting how 24/7 social media and the pressure to keep followers impacts an artist’s own creative output and the way they see themselves. Lead singer Kat Leon has never shied away from drawing upon her own personal struggles for inspiration, and in “Battery Life,” fans see the ambitious singer as she sees both herself and her audience.
The high-energy anthem is the newest single to drop in advance of their debut album, Eat It Up, Spit It Out. Leon leads the group with co-founder and Holy Wars lead guitarist Nick Perez and fronts several side projects and works as an accomplished sync vocalist, composer and instrumentalist for a number of film and television projects, while Perez spends part of his time touring and performing with Poppy.
Billboard recently sat down with Leon to discuss her new single and the making of the video (seen below), which was directed by Erin Naifeh, with director of photography Horacio Martinez and editor Fre Pacheco.
Everyone can relate to the feeling of having their energy sucked out of them, but “Battery Life” takes it a step further, breaking the fourth wall with audiences to critique an artist’s relationship with their fans. At the beginning of the video, you even open with this facial expression that indicates a very deep type of sadness. What’s happening here?
Well, you see me dressed as a clown, and before the curtain goes up I say to myself, “Oh god, here we go again.” I wanted to convey that feeling because as a musician and an artist and in the public eye, I’ve always felt pressure to keep proving myself. Since I’ve started Holy Wars I’ve had people ask me, are you signed yet? Are you famous yet? Who are you opening for? And it always seems like whatever I have is never enough. It’s draining, especially since most people’s understanding of success is based on old ideas and dinosaur concepts.
What does success mean to you?
It means I actually think I’m really f—ing successful. I’m holding down. I’m living full-time off of music. And granted, I do a few different projects that fulfill the success I desire. But for some people, if the Holy Wars are not opening for Imagine Dragons, then who am I? Wait, what? Like, there’s so many people that are successful in music but there’s this pressure that you have to be Lady Gaga or you’re not doing it right. I’ve even had people tell me, “I love that you’re chasing your dream.” And I’m like “What? Chasing? I’m living my f—ing dream.”
You seem like you are making music on your own terms. “Battery Life” is one of your most punk-leaning tracks yet from Holy Wars. What does it tell us about where you are musically right now?
Musically, I really love the feeling that I’m conveying in “Battery Life,” and I really want it to be a blend between what Nick’s doing and what I’m doing. We support each other. Whereas in a lot of pop songs, it’s vocal first and everything else is in support of that. This song is sung like I’m talking and having an intimate conversation with people. I really love that in music — when the audience doesn’t know what an artist is going to do next.
The vocals on the song are heavily distorted. How did you fine-tune the sound to make it perfect for you, especially when performed live?
I love distortion when done right. For this song, we ran my vocals through Nick’s guitar pedals, meaning that the distortion is coming from a more natural sound versus a computer plugin that a lot of people would use. In terms of playing it live, the song is written for a live audience and I hope it becomes a sing-along anthem. That’s why we started the chorus at the top. We wanted people to immediately feel like they’re a part of it. And the video hits you over the head with it. In “Battery Life” during the pre-chorus, I literally have people throwing pies in my face. What people watching the video don’t see is that the pies had all kinds of roasted rotten tomatoes in them. It was terrible but perfect because it made me feel like a joke, which I feel like half the time anyway.
Was writing this song and shooting the video therapeutic for you?
Yes, because it helped me realize I’m not alone. So many of us have imposter syndrome. Not just artists, but executives too. Even some super successful people feel like a clown half their life, but never show it. ‘Cause it’s the fake it ’til you make it mentality. I have Stockholm syndrome too. I’m the kidnapper and the victim. Social media has artists put a cage around ourselves. Look at TikTok – sure it has a big user base, but to grow on the platform you have to do what they tell you — the more followers an artist gets, the more pressure they have to not lose followers. It’s all so draining and toxic, like being back in high school, trying to break into a clique that I didn’t give a f— about.
Especially in the digital era with the algorithm picking winners and losers, there’s not even a wizard hiding behind the cloth. There’s nothing. Where do we go from here?
It will always go back to the human. We are the ones who have the power. We are the ones who put ourselves in this cage. And that’s really what this song is about, it’s about understanding that you can empower yourself and get yourself out of a bad situation. It’s about understanding that you don’t have to accept the algorithm or TikTok challenge or whatever other toxic s— is the trend right now. You have the power to put the phone down, turn if off and free yourself.
Catch Holy Wars on tour with Night Club, March 19-April 23. Find more information here and under the “tour” tab at holywarsmusic.com.