GENRE IS DEAD! Interview With Holy Wars’ Kat Leon

When Kat Leon lost both of her parents in 2015, she felt a pain that was indescribable. Battling depression, fear, and mounting anxiety, Leon turned to music and writing as a means to cope. This resulted in Holy Wars’ debut EP Mother Father, dedicated to Leon’s parents. It was an emotional time, but one of rebirth. Now as Holy Wars works on their next release, Leon is ready to share her new shelf with the world. Leon chats with GENRE IS DEAD! about the aftermath of Mother Father, writing music for television, and what’s next for Holy Wars.

GID: Your last release, Mother Father, was written after you lost both your parents. How did writing that EP help you with the emotional aftermath?

Kat Leon: At that time, I had so many conflicting feelings – anger, the most despair I’ve ever felt, fear, depression, numbness, you name it. I didn’t know how to process these feelings and thoughts of suicide. Eventually, writing was the only way I knew how to deal with it, which turned into poetry and then into music.

Music and writing have always been an outlet for me which is probably why I am incapable of writing a “happy” song. But during the darkest time of my life, music, and writing my most honest thoughts healed me and helped me discover who I am now. The person I was died when my parents died – I honestly don’t even remember that person anymore. I guess I was reborn with a new and deeper outlook on life and so while healing myself and finding purpose again, I can only hope to heal others who are lost in their life at this time. I found that music and my co-writer Nick Perez was the light guiding me through the severe darkness I felt.

GID: You feel like you’re a different person from who you were when you lost your parents. So, who were you then and who are you now? 

KL: The person I was died with my parents and the innocence as well. Of course, so much of me defers back to the same old habits but when I look at myself in the mirror I don’t see the daughter of my parents anymore, which is sad but I do see a person who has risen from a dark place. I analyze the meaning of life every day now and I don’t take anything for granted. I love people more deeply now than ever before. Kindness is my strength. The person I remember being before was so affected by everything and everyone. Everyone’s opinion of me mattered more than the opinion of myself. Now, I love every flaw I have and my weaknesses turned into my strength. I’ve seen death up close and lost the closest people in my life with no life preserver. I had to figure life out on my own. I never thought about life without my parents because I had this adolescent invincible, careless way of life. And in one year the safety that I had was taken away.

As scary as that was I found this abundance of strength I didn’t know I had. When I see how fragile life is and how every moment is so precious, I learned not to give anybody power over me or steal any of moments away from myself and those I love. My morbid way of looking at this is we’re all going to die and sure not every moment in life is going to be great and not every show is going to be perfect but all these moments are fleeting. I’m just trying to be present, grateful and give to people in a way that when I am gone, I left some good behind.

GID: Looking back, what was the most challenging thing about writing that EP?

KL: Writing Mother Father was actually easy simply because I didn’t question or judge it. I had no real intent on a sound or “making it” as many others start with. It was just pure expression. It would be after Mother Father that was really challenging. When we wrote our first EP, we didn’t know the reaction we would get and at the time, it wasn’t for anything but writing what I was feeling. After that came out, we started writing again and I had a difficult time with what I should say now, especially something with as much heart and importance to me as that album was.

Following a dedication album with my parents on the cover was hard. We wrote a lot and threw away most of it, thinking it was all wrong and vapid. I never like to release anything that isn’t honest. We started to focus on writing for FOX and other networks since that was another way of not questioning the writing process. That opened the gates and removed the blocks for us writing for Holy Wars. I went back to the beginning, my beginning and my new skin and started writing about that as well as what I have learned and witnessed in the world around me. I ended up having more to say than I realized and now all that music is written and getting recorded. I can’t wait to share it.

GID: You mentioned Holy Wars has been writing music for TV and movies in addition to working on your own music. How did this come about? What’s that experience been like?

KL: Nick and I have been songwriters for television since 2012 and we always co-write everything. We had a great opportunity to work with FOX and have nurtured the relationships with these amazing women who either still work there or have branched off to other networks. In early 2018, we reconnected with them and FOX hired us to write music for their new pilots. That experience really helped us write for Holy Wars and break the creative blocks we put on ourselves.  We truly enjoy it and that epic, cinematic sound. It will be creeping into the new Holy Wars releases soon.

GID: Surprisingly, this isn’t your only experience working in television. Is it true you were on a game show with Alice Cooper? What was that experience like?

KL: It is. I was on a VH1 show back in 2008 with him and Sebastian Bach, I believe. It was a fluke I was even on that show, but when it wrapped, Alice asked to speak to me and was the most caring and sweet man I have met. He encouraged me to pursue music but obviously explained the ugly side of the business and gave me great advice. I got to meet Shep Gordon as well and recently reconnected with him. We talked about our experience and how I only started pursuing music professionally simply because of Alice. Whatever he saw in me that day was a true honor and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and confidence he gave me.

GID: That’s amazing!  What a way to meet a legend. Getting back to music, your latest single “Born Dark” feels different than your previous EP. It has this sense of freedom and liberation to it as if saying this is who I am, too bad if you don’t like it. Is that what you were feeling when you wrote it?

KL: Absolutely! In all the years of writing, I would get asked why I don’t write a happy song. Even the happier sounding songs still had really sad or dark lyrics in contrast. “Born Dark” was my answer to all of that as well as sharing myself.  My struggles with love and acceptance, the time I was born, being a Scorpio, being addicted to misery and my love of poetry. It was a “this is me and I am not changing a thing” anthem all the while wanting this to be a song for others who feel that way. Those who feel “weird” or unaccepted and in some small way, giving them a home.

GID: That definitely comes across in the song and it does differ from what you’ve done before with its electro-pop vibe. It’s a taste of your next album, which you’re currently, working on. Any word on when we can expect to hear it?

KL: We’ll probably just release a few singles at the beginning of the year, so close to now actually. But we plan to release an LP soon. We have so much music at this time and finding the right time to share it and how is what we’re currently working towards. I always want to release [music] right away and get it to our fans quick if possible.

GID: Well, we can’t wait to hear what you have in store! Now, your last album was largely inspired by grief and loss. What’s your inspiration for the new album?

KL: Our new music still hints at my loss as that is, unfortunately, in my DNA now. It’s what I think about every single day. However, we get broader on these new releases, adding in new sound elements and giving a relatable voice while still being personal to me. Society plays a big part in our new writing and my discovery of people now. My new eyes in my new skin see a lot more of myself and others that I didn’t see before. Our music is meant to empower but not by saying everything is gonna be fine but more like you are not alone and you deserve to live on.

GID: What do you hope Holy Wars achieves in 2019?

KL: We hope to tour nationally and internationally soon and play some major festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella, but we’re most excited to release this new music.

Recently, Holy Wars was featured on Curtis Peoples’ new single “Tidal Wave.” Holy Wars is currently working on their new album. Pick up a copy of their latest EP, Mother Father, here. Also, follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.

 

Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, The Crypt 1331, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Reality-Comics. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Marilyn Manson, and Green Day.

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