The Linda Lindas on Their Debut Album “Growing Up” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 24th, 2024  

The Linda Lindas on Their Debut Album “Growing Up”

Music as a Conduit for Change and Catharsis

Apr 05, 2022 Web Exclusive Photography by Zen Sekizawa Bookmark and Share

Everything might actually turn out okay. It’s a reckless thought nowadays, but more than anything else, The Linda Lindas give me hope for the future. Through its youthful, ebullient punk rock songs, the Los Angeles quartet of teens and tweens harness the enthusiasm of a heretofore voiceless generation that’s unable to vote and has spent the last two years locked inside away from friends. By singing about the things closest to home—cats, sure, but also personal experiences of racism and sexism, mental health, and growing up in lockdown—The Linda Lindas make striking comments about society. Their songs have the power to engender revolution, if not make us punch our fists in the air and feel alive again.

You may know 15-year-old Lucia de la Garza, her 11-year-old sister Mila, their cousin Eloise Wong (14), and close friend Bela Salazar (17) from Amy Poehler’s 2021 movie, Moxie, in which they perform covers of Bikini Kill and The Muffs. Or perhaps you saw their viral performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy”—Mila’s response to a classmate’s prejudice against her ethnic origin—at the LA Public Library, after which the band was flooded with acclaim from the likes of Karen O, Kathleen Hanna, Best Coast, and Tom Morello, landing spots on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Late Show With James Corden. Though this was far from their first encounter with alternative music legends. Eloise tells me how Jawbreaker’s Adam Pfahler used to teach her card tricks and that she’s been attending punk shows since she was old enough to walk. Lucia and Mila’s father is the extolled producer Carlos de la Garza, whose résumé includes Wolf Alice, Paramore, and Jimmy Eat World. And the group even attend pottery classes with Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino.

Outside of the snarling admonishments are affecting reminders of the pandemic’s impact on adolescent relationships and self-discovery, something the girls expanded on during our chat over Zoom, for which they gathered around Lucia’s laptop in the de la Garza family home. We discussed balancing school with nascent stardom, their influences-turned-friends, riot grrrl, travel, and their debut album Growing Up, which is out this Friday via Epitaph. All four were jovial and forthcoming, particularly de facto leader Lucia, who would occasionally nudge her companions for their thoughts. I’m grateful that I got the chance to speak with them.

Hayden Merrick (Under the Radar): First off, I have to tell you that I named my puppy Moxie because I love the film so much.

All: Woooaaahh, that’s so cool.

And the Bikini Kill cover was great. I wonder if you can tell me what riot grrrl means to you and how you feel about being the kind of poster girls for the genre today? How does it feel to step into the shoes that Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney wore back in the ’90s?

Lucia de la Garza: Yeah, I think it’s a lot to live up to. There’s just such a history with riot grrrl and punk and the entire thing of how music can start a movement, you know? Music can do that. I believe in that. But also it’s hard being confined to one thing—we’re four different people with four different music tastes, and it’s not like we are trying to sound like one artist. And we wouldn’t be here without Kathleen Hanna and Bikini Kill, and we wouldn’t be here without Sleater-Kinney. They’re both just amazing bands and we take a lot of inspiration from both of them.

Mila de la Garza: But we don’t necessarily want to sound exactly like them.

Lucia: Yeah, we don’t want to be them. We’re not trying to be the poster girls for anything really.

Eloise Wong: It’s about making a difference with our music—how music can actually create change, you know? We’re all about that.

Mila: For me, I feel like we do definitely look up to Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney, but to me, I think we’re just four friends in a band having fun together and writing songs and sharing them with the world.

I wanted to ask about “Cuántas Veces.” Bela, you wrote that one, and it’s almost got a flamenco or bossa nova vibe. It’s a change of pace compared to the rest of the album.

Bela Salazar: I’m really into bossa nova music or really any music from Latin America, so I really wanted to write a song that mixed the music I like with also, like, rock. And then writing it in Spanish—Spanish is really important to me. I grew up speaking Spanish, I learned Spanish and English at the same time, and so it’s a part of my story. I don’t know if you’ve noticed a lot of their [Lucia, Mila, and Eloise] songs are very deep or they’re about emotions, and I wrote two songs about my cats, so I’m not very good at sharing what I feel. So I was like, “Okay, am I feeling these things but don’t necessarily want to tell everybody?” This is a way I can do that to where it feels a little more personal, but then also you can find out what it means or whatever. But I just wasn’t completely ready to write a song like that in English.

So your debut album comes out next month. Is there a particular mood you wanted to inspire with Growing Up? How do you want people to feel while listening to the record?

Mila: Well, when you hear it, we want you to feel something.

Eloise: We want you to be able to have fun to it, be able to dance to it.

Lucia: Yeah, I mean, at this point I feel like we can’t put too much pressure on ourselves. We can’t be like, “Oh if it doesn’t have success then we’re never going to make music again.” We can’t do this at this point because it’s already recorded, it’s already coming out, and we can’t really do anything about the record—it is what it is, you know? And I think that we’re still really proud of it. It’s been a while since we wrote the songs, since we recorded the songs. Of course, [we] feel super excited and proud and ready to put it out because it’s something that we’ve been working on. And it’s our first record. I mean, that’s exciting. It’s our first album. It’s always been super special to us, and if it’s special to even more people that just makes it even better.

“Magic” has a line about wanting to be invisible so you aren’t judged for wanting to be alone. What do you do to unwind and stay grounded when all of this attention is swirling around you? It must get kind of overwhelming.

Lucia: [Laughs] Yeah, I mean, the song was written before the songs blew up, but even now I feel like not a lot has changed. At school, like, no one cares, and here it’s just kinda the same thing with our families. We’re still the same people—staying grounded is pretty easy around these people. We’re good at making sure that we’re headed somewhere that we all want to be, but at the same time, we make sure that it’s something we want to do, it’s something that we’re looking forward to doing. Like at school, not a lot of people know about the band. And so being at school is an opportunity to have some sort of regular normalcy, where I can do this, do that, and concentrate on something else besides stressing out about the show that’s coming up or something like that. There’s a lot going on, there’s been a lot going on this past year. We couldn’t be more happy about that because that means that our music is doing something, it’s gonna reach a large audience, and do things that matter to us.

So you actively avoid shouting about the band at school, so that you can keep that normalcy?

Lucia: [Laughs] I do. I’m the only one that went to a new school, so no one knew me before the band. All of their [Mila, Eloise, Bela] schools knew them before the band. But I don’t talk about it a lot at school. It feels awkward—not like I’m ashamed of the band. But I have the band to do—have my creative outlet—and school can be my normal schedule, kind of regular thing.

You’ve received a lot of positive feedback—from Kathleen Hanna, Thurston Moore, the Jawbreaker guys. I wondered how your relationship to your influences and their music has changed since you’ve become successful.

Eloise: Well it’s so cool to think that I’ve been going to shows and seeing Best Coast and Bleached since I was really small, and I never would have thought that we would have played with them or that I’d even be in a band. And so, I feel like it’s so cool to be a part of that.

Lucia: She went to Riot Fest and saw Jawbreaker.

Eloise: Yeah! And now we’re opening for them. It’s like, what?!

Yeah! You’re going to play some shows with them in New York?

Lucia: Yeah. We’re going to play Japan this summer and are hoping to do, I think, a U.S. tour this summer too.

Eloise: It’s so cool because Adam [Pfahler] from Jawbreaker has always been like an uncle to me, and I didn’t even really know he was in Jawbreaker until the documentary [Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker (2017)] came out and I was like what? Cos he was always just the uncle who showed me, like, card tricks and whatever. But it’s so cool to be able to open for them. They’re such a cool band.

Lucia: And Best Coast, too. [Mila gestures to her Best Coast shirt] Cos we haven’t actually played a show with them yet, but they’ve been supportive of us from day one. Bethany [Cosentino] gives us advice and we go to Color Me Mine together. It’s a pottery [class] where you paint dishes and they glaze it. I don’t know. And Bobb [Bruno] is our kind of guitar tech now. It’s just cool to have so many people that support us because we wouldn’t be able to do this without all the people that have shown us the ways of the music industry. And now we’re learning ourselves. It’s fun to learn what’s happening.

If you could pick four bands to play your dream festival—maybe one each—who would be on the bill? Of course, you guys are headlining.

Lucia: [Long pause and chin-rubbing] OK, I’ll say Sleater-Kinney.

Eloise: The Go-Go’s!

Bela: For me, the Pretenders would be cool. That’d be a very interesting lineup.

You’re playing Summer Sonic Festival in Japan later this year. Is there a place in the world where you want playing music to take you?

Bela: Around the world!

Mila: Everywhere!

Lucia: We want to go to South America—

Mila: All the places.

Lucia: And we want to go to the UK, and Australia and New Zealand.

Bela: More of Asia would be cool. Latin America.

Lucia: I don’t know. We’re kind of open to traveling wherever, I think.

Bela: Antarctica, really, like wherever.

Mila: Anywhere. We just want to travel.

I’m sure there are people who would come see you in Antarctica.

Bela: [Laughs] Negative 20 degrees.

I guess your guitars would keep going out of tune.

Bela: Yeah. They definitely would.

Mila: Yeah. My cymbals might break. It’d still be cool, though.

You write about things that frustrate you—what’s currently keeping you up at night?

Bela: I’m trying to graduate high school while also being in a band, so there’s a lot of work. But I just gave up. I don’t care. As long as I pass.

Lucia: We have to write this thing, but also I have an AP exam that I have to do.

Mila, what about you? Or is everything good in your world?

Lucia: She literally listens to the metronome when she goes to sleep! She has her AirPods, and she lies down, and the metronome is playing. [Bela imitates a metronome] What tempo did you listen to last night, huh?

Mila: [Laughs] It was 130.

Eloise: Anyways, I feel like when you get used to playing with a metronome, it just becomes like a heartbeat after a while. It’s, like, in you!

Lucia: I don’t understand this!

Mila: It makes sense to me.

Lucia: What’s keeping you up at night, Eloise?

Eloise: I stayed up way too late last night reading.

Lucia: She was reading last night.

Bela: What about you, Mila? The metronome doesn’t keep you up—it soothes you.

Mila: School.

Bela: School. Mila has more missing assignments than I do, and that’s a record. That’s pretty impressive.

Lucia: Eloise and I are the good students.

Mila: I have, like, three 3s and all the rest are 4s.

Bela: They’re like school nerds. They’re really good at school. I’m not. I’m the complete opposite.

Mila: I’m kind of on the fence because I like things about school but I also don’t like school.

Bela: I only go there to socialize. I don’t go there for anything else.

I read that you agonized over whether it should be “was” or “were” in the song “Magic.”

Lucia: Yeah. Well, we decided to go with “was” even though it’s not grammatically correct.

Eloise: It’s not grammatically correct!

Lucia: But it sounds better and it’s easier to remember [and] say. It’s weird to say, “What if magic were real?”

Mila: “What if magic were real / What if magic was real?”

Lucia: Well, because magic is technically plural, right? So you’d say, “What if apples were real? What if an apple was real?”

Bela: And for me, I don’t care so you can see the difference here between us.

Does that make you the coolest, Bela, or..?

Lucia: Probably, actually. [Mila’s] the second coolest. [Eloise is] third coolest. [I’m] fourth coolest.

Eloise: We don’t need to rank it. We’re all cool.

You’re all equally very cool.

Eloise: You’re cool, too!

Mila: Yeah!

Thank you! You addressed the difficulties of lockdown on early tracks such as “Missing You.” I get the impression that you have a very collaborative process—all writing, all singing. How did COVID impact that connection when it came to Growing Up?

Lucia: That’s kind of what the song “Growing Up” is… how it came to be. It was kind of about missing them [Eloise and Bela] because I felt like I was supposed to be figuring out who I was or who I wanted to be. That was just really hard to do without some of the people who are most important to me. And so I was feeling really nostalgic and feeling really sentimental, and I wrote the song “Growing Up.” But “Remember” and “Why” are also about missing friends during lockdown—not totally, but feeling alone. It’s about feeling alone during lockdown.

Is there a band you look up to that also started young?

Bela: Okay, well, Mila and I really love Paramore. And they started pretty young.

Lucia: And now we have the same management team as them.

Mila: She was like 14, right?

Eloise: I love Redd Kross, and I think they also started pretty young, too.

Lucia: Cross with a K, because of legal reasons.

Mila: It’s cooler that way.

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