The kids are alright – especially when we’re talking about The Linda Lindas. When NME last caught up with the young punk rockers – Bela Salazar (17), Lucia de la Garza (15), Eloise Wong (14) and Mila de la Garza (11) – they were already making waves as a formidable force, attracting co-signs and support from legendary rock peers like Bikini Kill and Alice Bag. “We’re slowly processing all these things that are happening, and taking it moment by moment”, says Lucia.
Since then, the band have released their first full-length album ‘Growing Up’, a record that sees them more confident, playful and versatile than ever. With pandemic touring restrictions and, more pressingly, school term now over for the group, The Linda Lindas are now taking their riot grrrl energy around the world, playing shows across Europe and the US – the best summer break ever.
For the latest edition of NME’s In Conversation series we sat down with the band backstage at London’s O2 Academy Islington ahead of their first ever UK headline show, to discuss touring the world, their debut album and creating music that makes a difference. Here’s what we learned.
Their debut album ‘Growing Up’ reflects each member’s individual songwriting style and point of view
‘Growing Up’ was a team effort. Written separately while the girls sheltered in place through lockdowns and online school, the album draws together the musical and personal perspectives of each band member, whilst maintaining a distinctive “Linda Lindas” tone.
For example, ‘Nino’ and ‘Cuantas Veces’ are identifiably Bela’s songwriting handiwork, written respectively about her “savage cat” Nino (her cats are one of her favourite musical subjects – Monica, her other cat, gets her own song on the band’s previous LP) and the latter in Bela’s native Spanish about overcoming insecurity and owning who you are.
“We were really proud to put the album out”, says Lucia. “After the ‘Racist Sexist Boy’ video blew up, I worried about what we would do next. It’s scary having so many eyes on you at such a young age, especially when you’re putting a part of yourself out there. And that’s what this album is – parts of each of us.”
They want to make music that makes a difference
As a young, all-female, “half Asian half Latinx” punk band, The Linda Lindas know the importance of seeing yourself represented in traditionally exclusive spaces. “We had a lot of female artists that our parents put on for us, and we were surrounded by different parts of culture in music. And that’s really special, and now something we want to do. We want to let it be known that you’re allowed to take up space and you’re allowed to do music, there are so many people that feel like they’re not allowed to do that,” Lucia says.
Beyond representation alone, it’s important to the band that they make music with a message. “I’ve always loved music that not only sounds cool but can actually make a difference”, Eloise shares. “Bands like Bikini Kill, Alice Bag and Neighborhood Brats – they all write really cool songs, but their songs matter, you know?”
“Music also expresses the anger we feel [about everything]”, Eloise continues. This anger is clear in her songwriting – she wrote ‘Fine’ in protest of being told dismissively that everything is fine when it isn’t. “You hear us shouting but you don’t feel a word / You know we’re dying but you say that we’re cured”, she shouts on the track. “So many things are frustrating in this world – racism, sexism, oppression in general, and how normalised it all is. It makes me really angry and sad, and that builds up. So songs like ‘Racist Sexist Boy’, ‘Fine’ and ‘Why’ [all written by Eloise], they really help me get all that out.”
It’s important to the group that they have creative control over their work
The Linda Lindas’ latest music video, ‘Why’, features the band playing to a room full of cardboard cutouts. These were actually Eloise’s creations. “I drew all the cardboard cutouts that you see in the audience”, she explains. “It was a performance video and we wanted to make it a little more visually interesting. I thought, ‘Hey! I can draw all of the audience members!’”
“We’ve had a lot of creative control on our music videos”, Lucia explains. “We pick the songs, decide what we want to do, we talk to the label and find the director, who’s often a close friend of ours.” The band explain that they collaborate closely with the creative team, sharing ideas between them. On ‘Why’, these ideas included a mini food fight and cake throwing. “Don’t worry, we ate the cake afterwards so nothing was wasted”, Eloise notes. Mila adds: “They say the food fight was small… but I’m the one who had cake smashed in my face!”
Speaking of nothing wasted, Bela is a keen sustainable clothing designer and has begun making outfits for the band. Most recently, the girls wore Bela’s creations playing Primavera Sound in Barcelona. “I’ve designed eight pieces across our four band members so far”, she says. “I really like using stuff that’s going to be thrown away, as the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries. I want to be impactful and not add to the millions of clothes that are wasted every year.”
They are making the most of their school holiday – touring the world, playing festivals and meeting their rock & roll idols
With most of the bandmates still in school, the long summer holiday becomes prime time to rock & roll. “After two years of not playing shows, the fact that we’re now in Europe and playing huge festivals, as well as our own club show in London, is pretty unbelievable,” Lucia says.
Being in London is particularly meaningful for the band, for whom the punk rock tradition is always top of mind. “We’re staying in Shepherd’s Bush, where some of The Clash and The Who are from”, Eloise beams with excitement. “It’s very exciting to be here.”
The band played the opening day of Primavera Sound in June, the same day as Bela’s high school graduation. “I ditched the ceremony”, she grins. “It’s pretty awesome to be able to say I missed my graduation because I was playing a show in Barcelona. Kinda punk rock!”
Primavera was one of the band’s first festivals. “It can be scary to look out into the audience – you don’t know how many people are completely there for you”, Lucia reflects. “But we just have to win those people over, right? Festivals are cool because they’re so big, and we get to meet other bands too”.
They stay grounded through normalcy, routine and bubble tea
Growing up is chaotic enough, let alone when you’re rock stars. How do the girls stay grounded through it all? “Getting boba!” Bela jokes.
But she isn’t really joking. The band keeps up a tradition of trying the bubble tea in every city they visit. “In London, we’ve been to T4 and Ding Tea”, they tell NME expertly. “We went to Zenzoo in Barcelona, and didn’t get any in Germany – we were only there for a night and the closest one was miles away.”
“I think it’s the sense of normalcy that helps us”, Bela explains. Lucia agrees – “Having a routine really helps me. School is actually good in that way. Also just reading a book, taking a walk, all the stuff people tell you to do.”