The Linda Lindas have a lot to do. Between classes, homework and science tests, the punky all-girl quartet — with fans in Bikini Kill and Yeah Yeah Yeahs — play gigs and appear on late-night talk shows. “At least it’s the weekend,” Mila de la Garza snorts via Zoom. At 11, she is the youngest member. Squeezed in alongside Mila is her sister and bandmate Lucia, who dutifully reminds her that they do indeed have shows to play this weekend. Relaxation is not on the agenda. This is rock ‘n’ roll, baby.
Or rather, this is punk. The group — made up of Mila, Lucia, her cousin Eloise Wong, 15, and her family friend Bela Salazar, 17 — have made their mark in appropriate Gen Z fashion: they’ve gone viral. Last year, her performance of “Racist Sexist Boy” introduced The Linda Lindas to the world. Dressed in plaids, knee socks and graphic tees, the four girls let out an electrifying war cry against the anti-Asian hatred they saw rising amid the pandemic. (The band are Los Angeles natives of Asian and Latino descent). Her screaming vocals and jagged guitars caught the attention of nearly a million people; Including Sandra Oh, Natasha Lyonne, Jimmy Kimmel and underground indie elite Best Coast and Jawbreaker. And by that point, they already had Amy Poehler in their corner. That Parks and Recreation Star was in the crowd at a Bikini Kill performance in 2019; The Linda Lindas closed the show with a smashing cover of Le Tigre’s “TKO.” Poehler was so taken with them that she gave the band a cameo in their 2021 feminist high school revelry moxie on Netflix.
“Racist Sexist Boy” could easily have been a one-off. But on their debut album Grow up, which was released on Friday, The Linda kept Linda on the gas and didn’t let up. “What we write is just a reflection of what’s happening around us,” Lucia offers, peering out from under thick, full bangs. So it makes sense that many tracks would share the same unruly ferocity as this breakout single; “what was happening around them” the girls as they wrote Grow up was hard to witness no matter the age.
Much of the album was written in Covid isolation. LA restrictions have long been lifted, but today the band is confiscated in their familiar digital boxes. Only Mila and Lucia are together, speaking from the blue-painted bedroom they share. Behind is a framed drawing of a tiger. “The pandemic, the presidential election, Stop Asian Hate and Black Lives Matter stuff,” Lucia continues. “It’s been really difficult sitting at home and feeling like there’s nothing you can do about what’s happening. It’s hard not to be your own worst enemy, so you have to find out what’s going on in your head – how to understand something inside. And that’s what songwriting brought us.” There are pockets of joy Grow up to; the title track is a tender but vocal ode to friendship, and “Nino” is a love song to Bela’s cat (not the group’s first track dedicated to a feline friend).
Even before their viral moment — details of which Bela was the only one to share on social media with the others — The Linda Lindas had quietly risen to the feminist pinnacle of rock. But the impact of Racist Sexist Boy was more immediate. Messages flooded in from strangers who were also suffering from the ignorance of what the lyrics call a “jerkface”. Mila tweets, “It was amazing that the song brought people together, but it was really sad that so many people could relate to it.”
She and Eloise wrote the track in response to an interaction Mila had with a classmate a week before lockdown began in November 2020. “He told me his father told him to stay away from Chinese people,” she says, peeping out a large pink tie-dye hoodie. “I was so confused as to why anyone would say that. I didn’t know what was going on, so I told him I was Chinese and he started backing away from me.” Mila went home and told her family and bandmates; “Racist Sexist Boy” was born a Zoom call later.
The Linda Lindas feel comfortable with agit-pop, but also raise certain expectations. “I feel like we’ve been put in a position where we’re expected to talk about things like that,” says Lucia. “And I don’t think we owe anyone a story because of who we are.” Admittedly, age is easy to forget when rattling off terms like “power culture.” Eloise – who is responsible for the band’s most heated tracks – tweets, “Right after ‘Racist Sexist Boy’ blew up, people started asking us questions about what it’s like to be Asian in a band…” Four Eyes im roll unison.
There’s a lot of anti-establishment attitude out there Grow up, but the girls are gushing about at least one authority figure in their lives. Lucia and Mila’s father, Carlos de la Garza — a Grammy-winning producer who has worked with Paramore — mixed The Linda Lindas in his backyard studio. At one point, he pokes his head into his daughters’ room to say hello, the laundry basket in his arms. Her mother, Angelyn de la Garza, a child designer and the band’s manager, is also nearby and looks after her.
The Linda Lindas admit they’re not as punky as their music suggests. “I wish I was,” Eloise blurts out. The bassist, who is responsible for the snarkiest vocals, is brilliantly over the top in conversation, pulling faces and casually displaying an encyclopedic knowledge of punk’s past and present. It’s hard to imagine her cowering in front of anyone. Maybe her parents. “I go to nerd school,” Lucia murmurs while the others go on good-naturedly. (“It’s definitely a school for nerds!”). Bella is the exception. “I think I’m pretty punky in my day-to-day life,” she says. Bela dials in from her phone, the camera focuses on her chin to reveal a Tyler, The Creator poster on the wall behind her. “I don’t pay attention at school. I’m just there for the social aspect.” She laughs. “But musically, I don’t think so.” Bela wrote “Cuantas Veces” in Spanish. “I’m not good at sharing my feelings, so that was a way of getting my feelings across, but not necessarily letting everyone in.”
Political statements aside, The Linda Lindas are enjoying their youth – and life outside of lockdown. In February they performed Late night with James Corden (“Eloise stole all the tea packets from the green room! Every flavor!” Lucia recalls, sending the others into hysterics.) But the best part of fame, they agree, is having a rider. The way to the hearts of The Linda Linda is simple: snacks! Flamin’ Hot Funyuns and M&Ms have priority. “Sometimes we get fries and salsa,” says Lucia. “You know, to be healthy and stuff.” Talk about growing up.
Growing Up, the debut album by The Linda Lindas, was released on Friday
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/the-linda-lindas-interview-growing-up-b2053812.html The Linda Lindas: Meet the punk schoolgirls rising to the feminist pinnacle of rock