The Linda Lindas are Gen Z’s gateway to punk rock
While most kids their age are preoccupied with Year 2000 nostalgia, the members of Los Angeles band The Linda Lindas return to something older and even more urgent. The band offers a new twist on late ’70s and ’80s California punk (The Adolescents, The Bags), providing a much-needed modern perspective, while tackling everything from youthful anxiety to systemic oppression to the cats.
The group, whose members range in age from 11 to 17, gave us one of the big viral moments of 2021 with their rendition of their aptly named hit song at the LA Public Library. Atop muddy guitars, The Linda Lindas added a new chapter to punk music’s long history of rebellion, reminiscent of The Dead Kennedys and their message-carrying contemporaries. Their most memorable career moment so far? Playing The Smell, a DIY venue that caters to just over 100 people, but where many of their idols like Best Coast and No Age cut their teeth.
Consisting of two siblings (Lucia and Mila de la Garza), their cousin (Eloise Wong) and a close family friend (Bela Salazar), the four have been bonded by music for most of their life. life. They started performing together in 2018, getting early breaks with Bikini Kill and appearing in Amy Poehler’s coming-of-age film. Moxie. Lucia and Mila’s father, Carlos de la Garza, is a successful producer and sound engineer, with credits including Paramore’s self-titled album, Best Coast’s Always Tomorrow, and Wolf Alice Visions of a life.
Now the Linda Lindas are back with To grow, a winning LP that shows how each member has developed as songwriters and instrumentalists in their own right. The tracks are huge and catchy, capturing the broad emotional traits of adolescence, including the title track and the soulful “Remember.” And there’s an egalitarian spirit throughout – you can feel the band’s closeness in the way they harmonize, bass and guitar lines bouncing past each other.
Here we talk to The Linda Lindas about their debut album, orienting their fans to the underground music they love, and being cats.
The album cover that Eloise drew is you four as cats. The posters for the show are centered around cats, you have “Nino”, which is about Bela’s cat. So why all the cats?
MD: I think we’re all cat people. We all love cats and always have.
EW: Although Bela is the only one with a cat.
LD: It was someone who sent us an e-mail and they were like, “Hey, I have a good idea. How about just writing a song about all your cats? You should write a song about each of your cats. And we were like, “…we’ve done this before.”
BS: My cats are community cats.
LD: I think it’s just because one of the things we all have in common is that we all love cats.
When you started, you played a lot of covers. Now that there’s more focus on you four making music, has that affected the way you’ve written songs?
LD: Almost the entire record was written before the video exploded. I feel like at this point I should be more scared than [the album] is going to reach a wider audience, but it’s been almost nine months since we started recording, so I’m really excited to finally release it. When you first share it with your friends and the people most important to you, it makes it much easier to share with the rest of the world, because you can be a little more mentally prepared for what others might say.
We are going to get tons of reviews. We’re going to have things like “Oh, it’s not punk”, or “It’s too much punk”, or “It’s pop”, or “It’s not pop”. But I’m really proud of it, I’m proud of all of us and what we’ve done. I think it’s super cool that we recorded this thing over summer vacation and now – we’re still writing songs, we want to release even more music – but we’ve been working really hard to write and record and make the music videos for each of them.
There’s a lyric on the title track where you say, “We can take turns taking the reins. Within the band itself, are there different things that each of you take the reins of?
EW: Well, Lucia is always the one keeping track of everything. At each group practice, she says, “Okay, before I start, I need to cover a few things. We have this to come, so don’t forget to train for it. We have this interview, so be prepared. We have this coming up – we’re playing in San Francisco. And I’m like, ‘What? I didn’t even know we were doing half of this stuff…or all of this stuff. And Lucia is like, ‘Yeah, you better get ready!’
MD: Lucia is always the first to know things and then I’m always the last to know. Eloïse is told things, but she always forgets… I think we are all in charge of the creative aspect, however. I think for music videos, we all find a little bit [ideas].
EW: We have a giant brainstorming session together. We make our little drawings and storyboards and put them all together on a giant cardboard box.
LD: Bela and Mimi are in charge of telling us the days when we should have boba.
BS: Very important. If we raise our eyebrows at each other, then we know it’s boba time.
The Linda Linda existed for several years before the library video exploded. Do you feel like the time you spent before your viral success is minimized?
EW: I think those years definitely helped. We were better prepared for all this thanks to the three years we spent practicing and doing other things.
LD: I’m very grateful for those years before the viral video. I would be so unprepared and I’m really glad we had three years of practice before.
BS: I think in the beginning, when the video first went viral, it was like, “This band is new. But it doesn’t happen as much now when people say things. I think they’re starting to realize, “Oh yeah, this band’s been around for three years.”
LD: Some people are like, “Yeah, I’m an OG fan, I’ve known you for MoxieAnd that was just a few months before the library video. But we’re grateful for everyone.
You often see when a musician who’s only been a few months something takes off and they’re unprepared for all that comes with it.
LD: I don’t think we were emotionally prepared for this. Mila was like 8 years old. It wouldn’t have made much sense. Even now, sometimes I wonder “Do we deserve this?” I would have felt that even more then. But now I’m just kind of like, “It doesn’t even matter right now, because we’re just trying to make music.”
Do you think The Linda Lindas can be a gateway for people to enter the punk music and the LA underground scene that inspired the four of you?
EW: I hope so. It’s really great that young people who are discovering our music can see this and say “Oh, they were influenced by Alice Bag, The Adolescents? Who is that?” And then they can go back and see all the things that really inspire us and maybe take inspiration from that as well. I like that.
LD: Yeah. There’s a lot of power you hold in art. I think there’s something for everyone, but punk is really special because it’s about doing what you love and having the freedom on stage to do what you want and inspire something in others to say what matters to them.
Was there a “I made it” moment for you where your success felt truly tangible?
EW: I think when we played The Smell. It was our first show from the on-site shelter. That one was really fun because it was at a place where a lot of bands we liked came, like Best Coast and No Age and Bleached. Like “Wow! Can we be a part of this? Even though it’s such a small place, it’s so cool that we can be a part of this. We got to see all the people listening to our music. We didn’t have them really seen because everything was happening online. There were little kids being carried by their parents and adults bringing their older parents and it was like, ‘Wow, that’s really cool to see all those people who support us.”
One of the songs that really jumped out at me was “Remember”. I know Lucia, you wrote most of that one. It does a really good job of capturing that feeling of hope and uncertainty that comes with adolescence. What inspired him?
LD: The refrain, “I can’t remember the first thing I did today,” was pretty much every day like the same day during the pandemic. Feeling like, “Oh my god, I could do so much more. I have so much time right now. I could have new hobbies and read and knit and whatever. But I didn’t do any of that, I got a little lazy. I was no longer paying attention at school. I was like “What am I doing?” It was also about being able to accept that you’re not going to be perfect every day and that you need to understand that it’s okay to take a day to figure out who you are. I think the pandemic really helped me do that.
Sometimes when an artist has a viral song that’s been out for a while, they don’t always put it on their next album. Was there ever a discussion about this with your first hit?
EW: I wanted to put it on the LP because there were words I wanted to replace that were in the library video. We changed the words. First of all we put a trigger warning or something but it was “Idiotic Boy” it was before the library video and we actually recorded a Halloween song where we we sang like “Idiotic Boy”. It was full of ableist words. We only realized this shortly after. We were like, “Wait a second. ‘Stupid boy?’ We’re trying to crush oppression, but we’re kind of oppressive with our song at the same time. We didn’t want to try to be the oppressive force we were singing about, so we changed the lyrics.
Is there anything else you would like to mention about the band or what you have coming up this year that we haven’t been able to touch on?
LD: Before doing covers, when we were trying to figure out who should sing which song, Eloise always had the louder songs like “Rebel Girl” and Bela had the talking songs like “Mystery Achievement” and a few Ramones songs. Mimi and I made the most singing songs. But now I think it’s cool that we write our own songs, because we do what we want. It’s cool to collaborate on songs, even if we don’t have a lot of time to do it. I’m excited to write songs together now.
MD: We all have different styles, but on the album everything blends really well and I think it’s really special.
EW: Like a cake, like an umbrella, like a flower.