When a new punk band is championed by Kathleen Hanna, Alice Bag, Karen O, Jawbreaker and Best Coast all at once, it’s safe to say that something exciting is happening. And when the members of said band aren’t even out of their teens — in fact, not all of them have even begun their teens — even more so.
The Linda Lindas – consisting of sisters Lucia (guitar, 15 years old) and Mila de la Garza (drums, 11), their cousin Eloise Wong (bass, 14) and family friend Bela Salazar (guitar, 17) – got their start at the all-women festival Girlschool LA in 2018. They quickly went on to bag an opening slot for Bikini Kill and an appearance in the Netflix original movie Moxie, before a performance of their song ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ at the LA Public Library went viral thanks to its pure, stunning power (it currently sits at 1.3million views on YouTube and over four million on Twitter). The four-piece soon landed a deal with Epitaph Records [Architects, Parkway Drive], and their connection to the esteemed indie label runs deep: Mila and Lucia’s father is Grammy-winning producer Carlos de la Garza, who has worked with the likes of Bad Religion and the band’s heroes, Paramore.
As the then-10-year-old Mila explains at the beginning of the performance, ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ was inspired by a boy in her class who claimed he’d been told to stay away from Chinese people. De la Garza and Wong, who are both Chinese-American, turned the distressing experience into a riot grrrl thrasher that kicks back at every ignorant, oppressive “jerkface”. “We rebuild what you destroy,” they triumphantly repeat.
The Linda Lindas have now announced their debut album, ‘Growing Up’ (due April 8), complete with a studio version of ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’. While songs like that and ‘Fine’ retain that ferocious punk energy, there’s also swaggering rock’n’roll on ‘Oh!’, bubbly pop-rock on ‘Talking To Myself’, atmospheric new wave on ‘Magic’ and even a dreamy Latin touch on ‘Cuantas Veces’. Inspired by artists such as Wolf Alice and Sleater-Kinney, the record is the sound of four deeply promising talents getting to flex their songwriting muscles for the first time, as they explore the emotional turbulence foisted on them by the pandemic.
NME caught up with the band to chat about their writing process, their viral success and what they have learned from hanging out with their heroes.
NME: ‘Growing Up’ is a simple but perfect name for this album. What made you choose that title?
Lucia: “I think it does sum up what’s happening in our lives right now. It’s a lot of trying to figure out who we are, and we’re trying to do it all while the pandemic is happening and while the band is super-busy. But it’s cool, because writing songs about growing up kinda gives sense to the chaos.”
You wrote this album early on in the pandemic – that must have been such a scary and confusing time to be growing up. What feelings did you bring to your songwriting?
Bela: “I feel like there was a lot more time on our hands to think and process things. So I think that’s really reflected in what we wrote.”
Lucia: “Yeah, we had two whole years to think. But it feels good, because in the midst of everything that’s happening now, I think having that time to reflect and figure out more about what’s happening in our heads is really helpful. Now we know what we can use to get us through whenever we’re feeling stressed.”
What were some of the emotions you were able to work through?
Lucia: “I chose to put some of the more upbeat songs from my personal collection onto the album, because that’s kind of what I wanted to put in the world at the time. I felt more emotionally prepared to put out happy songs than sad songs. But with ‘Growing Up’, ‘Remember’ and ‘Magic’, I think that it’s just a lot of trying to make sense of yourself.”
Eloise: “I feel like a lot of my songs come from a place of anger, like ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ or ‘Fine’.”
Where was that anger coming from?
Lucia: “At the time, there were a bunch of hate crimes happening and there was a feeling of helplessness, like you can’t really do anything about it. Especially us younger kids, you feel like, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ You feel like you can’t do anything to stop it. Songwriting is really personal: it’s like a piece of you. Sharing your songs with the people around you is really helpful because you gain a deeper understanding of each other, and you find out that you’re not alone. You find that there are so many people that want to support you.”
“Writing songs about growing up gives sense to the chaos” – Lucia de la Garza
Did your close friendship make it easier to put those feelings out in the world?
Lucia: “It’s so much easier to put that little piece of you out in the world when you have three other people to do it with.”
Mila: “It’d be so much scarier if it was just you by yourself doing [music]. I think that through writing songs, we’ve gotten a lot closer because we can understand each other a bit better with each song that we share, and I think that’s really special.”
A massive moment for you all was when ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ went viral. What was that experience like?
Lucia: “We’ve gotten a lot of comments about how it [arrived] exactly at the right time and [was] just what people needed, and that’s all we could ask for. It’s hard to believe that there are actual people behind that follower count on Instagram that just went up and up and up. It’s just cool to think that now when we say something, it could mean something to more people. Our thoughts and opinions could matter to people, and that means that we can play shows all around the world and that we can make a difference.”
How did the song’s success change your approach to making music?
Bela: “I think we are taking [music] more seriously now. But we’re still doing the same thing we were before, we’re just having fun playing music with our friends.”
Eloise: “We’re a lot busier than we were before. We have more photoshoots and interviews – we’re soaking it all in.”
Mila: “‘Cause if you only worry about ‘what if it all ends’, if that’s the only thing you ever think about while it happens, then those are the only memories you’ll have when you look back on it.”
You’ve recently spent some time with Paramore, another band that have been together since they were teens. What advice have they given you?
Lucia: “Yeah! Our dad [producer and engineer Carlos de la Garza] is working with them right now on their new record, and Zac [Farro, drummer] did a photoshoot for us.”
Bela: “Hayley said, ‘Know the value of saying no.”
Mila: “‘No’ is just as powerful as saying yes.”
Lucia: “And make sure you’re always doing what you want to do and what matters to you. The fact that they’re still playing music gives me hope. ‘Cause I always worry about, what if when we’re older and we’re not as young and cute anymore, people aren’t gonna wanna listen to our music anymore? But they deserve all the success that they have, and we’re grateful for people like them that have made it possible for us to play shows and make music.”
Do you think, as you all get older, The Linda Lindas as a band will continue to grow with you and keep evolving?
Lucia: “Yeah. There’s really no limit [to our songwriting]: we can write about whatever we want. But we’re just gonna keep writing about what we want to write, and it’s gonna change because we’re gonna change. But it’s still gonna be The Linda Lindas.”
Eloise: “And I think what’ll stay the same is it’s still gonna be fun, it’s still gonna be a blast and we’re still gonna do what we want!”
What have you learned from making this album?
Lucia: “We’ve learned that music can do anything, and it can get you through anything. It’s really fun to see how we’re growing as musicians. Even from the [self-titled] EP which we wrote only about a year before, you can see how we’ve grown as songwriters, and see how we were trying to figure out what our sound is. We hope there are many more to come and that they keep showing how we’re progressing.”
The Linda Lindas’ debut album, ‘Growing Up’, will be released on April 8