‘Whoa, this is crazy’: L.A. teen punks the Linda Lindas on going viral (just before finals)
Two weeks ago, the members of the hottest new rock band in L.A. walked into the Cypress Park branch of the L.A. public library for their first gig since the start of the pandemic. The Linda Lindas — two SoCal sisters, a cousin and a pal ranging from ages 10 to 16 — hadn’t played many shows before that (fewer than 10, by the band’s estimation), and the crowd, consisting mostly of librarians, was sparse.
But the group was in top form. Ten-year-old drummer Mila wore a Bikini Kill T-shirt, and guitarists and vocalists Eloise (13), Lucia (14) and Bela (16) prepped covers of that band’s “Rebel Girl” and the Muffs’ garage-punk “Big Mouth.” The highlight of their 40-minute set was a barbed original, “Racist, Sexist Boy,” that drew on an upsetting encounter at school. “A little while before we went into lockdown, a boy came up to me in my class and said that his dad told him to stay away from Chinese people,” Mila said, introducing the song (the band members are Asian American, Latin American or both). “After I told him that I was Chinese, he backed away from me.”
Days later, the library blasted out a video of the performance, and 72 hours and 4 million Instagram views later, the Linda Lindas suddenly became the most talked-about band in the country. Members of Rage Against the Machine and Sonic Youth offered heartfelt endorsements. “One of my fav new punk bands since about the time they came out of the womb,” added Paramore’s Hayley Williams on Twitter. Flea posted the video with a comment, “The kids are alright.” The group is about to sign a record deal with L.A. punk mainstay Epitaph.
Punk fame couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time, as the quartet are in the thick of studying for finals. In Mila’s case, she’s preparing to enter middle school.
“It’s hard because I have, like, three projects due on Monday, and I haven’t even touched them,” Bela said via video conference on Saturday afternoon, 48 hours after their clip went viral.
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Although it seems like the quartet shot to fame in a matter of hours over the weekend, they’ve been a cult favorite for a few years. The group, named after a 2005 Japanese rock flick, met through the popular Girlschool festival, where they backed up the Sub Pop-signed singer-producer Kristin Kontrol. Lucia and Mila’s dad is Paramore’s Grammy-winning producer, Carlos de la Garza; Eloise’s is Martin Wong, the co-founder of the influential culture magazine Giant Robot.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O and Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino took a shine to their caustic but upbeat punk at Girlschool, and soon enough the quartet opened for L.A. punk icon Alice Bag and played the taste-making Viva Pomona festival, widely seen as a gateway to a Coachella gig.
The biggest set of their lives, before this month, was an opening slot for Bikini Kill’s 2019 reunion tour at the Hollywood Palladium, handpicked by singer Kathleen Hanna herself.
“Kathleen took a chance on us. She didn’t have to do that,” Lucia said. “She just emailed us and invited us to open for her at the Hollywood Palladium. People like to talk down to us. But Bikini Kill treated us like adults.”
Hollywood music supervisors caught on too — the Linda Lindas played the house band in the Amy Poehler-directed comedy “Moxie” and wrote original music for Netflix’s “The Baby-Sitters Club” documentary “The Claudia Kishi Club.” They released a four-song EP in December, and tracks like the snarling “Missing You” and the breezier “No Clue” and “Never Say Never” capably captured the charm, angst and joy of teenage life today. But “Racist Sexist Boy,” with a snarling vocal from Eloise and its ferocious lyrics — “You are a racist, sexist boy / And you have racist, sexist joys / We rebuild what you destroy” — instantly became their calling card.
“We had the idea to write a song about that for a while,” Mila said. “But when the presidential election came, we were like, ‘Oh, this is the time for it.’”
”Of all the songs that we’ve written, it’s the most hard hitting,” Lucia said. “It’s very tough compared to what we usually write, and it had to be that way. If it wasn’t that way, it probably wouldn’t have had much of an impact.”
The four tweens and teens were thrashing up mosh pits before their viral smash, but they’re still reeling from all the new attention over the weekend. Given their — still mostly homebound — school routine (and that Mila and Eloise aren’t on social media), it still doesn’t quite feel tangible yet.
“It’s kind of weird because we’re still at home in our pajamas. Nothing really has changed yet; it’s not like we’re going out and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, it’s the Linda Lindas,’” Lucia said. “But, like, yesterday my whole feed was just about us, and I was like, ‘Whoa, this is crazy.’ I keep getting phone calls and texts from people that I haven’t talked to in years that I would never think would know about the band.”
They might have to get ready for much more of it. Over the weekend, Mila and Lucia’s mom was still answering the band’s email account before reps for Epitaph took over in the deluge. (De la Garza worked with L.A. skate-punk mainstays Bad Religion, whose guitarist Brett Gurewitz founded the label.) The band’s inbox is already flooded with offers from Asia, Latin America and elsewhere.
Live punk shows may not be back quite yet in L.A., but the Linda Lindas will be ready when they are.
“We were in a bubble for a few days to make our last record; we had a sleepover, and it was so fun,” Lucia said. “But now we’re so excited to get to do everything else too.”
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