Indie

Teen Rockers The Linda Lindas Are Carrying The Torch For Inclusivity In Music

“A little while before we went into lockdown, a boy in my class came up to me and said that his dad told him to stay away from Chinese people,” Mila de la Garza of punk band The Linda Lindas says at the start of a now-viral video of the band performing their song “Racist, Sexist Boy.” “After I told him that I was Chinese, he backed away from me.”

Mila wrote the song with bandmate Eloise Wong. “I was really angry at the person in [Mila’s] class and I was really angry at the world in general,” Wong said over Zoom. “I think it was something that I really needed to get out.” Mila added: “It’s not okay to say or do things like that and it’s so important for all the other people who have also experienced something like that, to let them know that they’re not alone. And I think it was really awesome and cool that we got to do that.”

The video, filmed at the Los Angeles Public Library for AAPI Heritage Month in May 2021 now has over 4 million views on Twitter and over a million views on YouTube. The band has gotten shout-outs from musicians like Hayley Williams, Tom Morello, and Questlove.

The song’s most compelling lines spell out exactly what The Linda Lindas — and punk in general — set out to do: call out injustice and push for change. “You are a racist, sexist boy / And you have racist, sexist joys / We rebuild what you destroy,” Wong sings with confidence and defiance.

“As younger people, as kids, or as girls, or as people of color, we’ll, a lot of the time, feel like, ‘What can we do about it? What can we do in our lives that can actually make a difference?’ And it was cool that that video actually did. People reached out to us and told us about how it somehow impacted them – that was really special to us,” Lucia said.

The Linda Lindas got their name from the 2005 Japanese film Linda Linda Linda in which a group of teen girls perform the song “Linda Linda” by the Blue Hearts. The Asian and Latinx band includes sisters Mila (11) and Lucia de la Garza (14), on drums and guitar respectively, with their cousin Wong (13) on bass and family friend Bela Salazar (17) on guitar, with all four members trading off on vocals.

For most of the band’s members, their interest in music started with their parents. Lucia and Mila’s father, Carlos de la Garza, is a Grammy-winning mixer, sound engineer, and producer. Not only has he worked with Paramore, Bleached, and Best Coast, but he also produced The Linda Lindas’ upcoming record, Growing Up. Wong’s parents put on the Save Music in Chinatown series to raise money for the music program at her school, Castelar Elementary. Her father, Martin Wong, is the co-founder of Giant Robot magazine.

“There was always a record going on in my house,” Wong said. “We were constantly making mixtapes and making zines. I was surrounded by punk culture.” But the four of them didn’t play their first show until 2018, when Kristin Kontrol from the Dum Dum Girls invited them to be a part of a cover band of kids playing Girlschool LA in 2018. That same summer, Salazar asked the rest of the band to play with her at another gig.

Since then, they’ve become a part of Los Angeles’ DIY punk scene, playing with Best Coast, Bleached, and Alice Bag and opening for Bikini Kill’s reunion show at the Hollywood Palladium in 2019. In May 2021, they signed to punk and hardcore label Epitaph Records, which was founded by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, cementing the young band’s status as punk mainstays. “We were drawn to punk because of the energy and the freedom in it. It’s like, do it yourself, do what you want, do what matters to you, do what you love, do it with people you love,” Lucia said.

The Linda Lindas brought their love of punk to the screen when they wrote their first song “Claudia Kishi,” for Netflix’s documentary The Claudia Kishi Club, about the character from the Baby-Sitters Club series. They also performed a cover of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” in the Amy Poehler-directed Netflix film Moxie.

They’re committed to releasing socially-conscious music. In 2020, they released “Vote!” which contains the lyrics “You can’t just watch and stare / While the people in charge are unfair / You’ve gotta put it to a stop / And go to the ballot box.”

Their upcoming debut album was written in the summer and fall of 2021, before “Racist, Sexist Boy” went viral. It was written remotely, complicated by the fact that all four members write songs, and each has her own distinct taste in music. The songs were mostly written individually, apart from “Racist, Sexist Boy,” “Oh!,” which was written by the whole band together, and “Magic,” written by Mila and Lucia.

The final product is an insight into the band members’ lives, dealing with isolation and uncertainty during the pandemic. Growing Up also covers a range of topics including bullying (“Oh!”), self-doubt (“Talking to Myself”), and Salazar’s cat (“Nino”.)

There are also forays outside of punk. Salazar wrote “Cuantas Veces” in Spanish — inspired by Bossa Nova and Latin music — about feeling out of place. “I grew up listening to a lot of Bossa Nova. I grew up speaking Spanish – I learned Spanish and English at the same time – and speaking Spanish is really important to me,” Salazar said.

The Linda Lindas have exploded at the same time rock music is spiking in popularity, especially punk-influenced music. “It’s been making a comeback, partly because of a lot of civil rights movements, a lot of political stuff and because people are saying, ‘We need to say something because it’s been going on for too long,’” Lucia said. And The Linda Lindas are using their songs to get across important messages. “Punk is amplifying your own voice when no one else will. I think that’s a really cool part of punk. Making zines is totally telling your story when no one else will tell it. Or writing music like, ‘Racist, Sexist, Boy,’ it’s telling [Mila’s] story when no one else was talking about it,” Wong said

The band’s sound draws from punk across eras, but there’s a distinct riot grrrl influence. The ’90s’ feminist punk movement was criticized for not being intersectional, but The Linda Lindas represent an updated, more inclusive take on the genre. Rock and punk acts today are more diverse than they were before, but it hasn’t come without challenges for those artists, when audiences sometimes view them through the lens of their identity. There’s an added dimension for The Linda Lindas: they’re all under 18. “Obviously we are kids, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know stuff,” Mila said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t want to say things, doesn’t mean we don’t understand what’s happening and we want to understand,” Lucia added.

The Linda Lindas are pushing past these challenges to make the music they want, and it’s inspiring others. “Representation matters,” Lucia said. “You don’t see a lot of all-girl bands, or all people of color bands or anything like that – all the things that we are. I think it’s important that everyone, of every age, of any gender or any race, knows that they can do anything, whenever, at any point in their life. There’s something inside them and it’s really special.”

Growing Up is out 4/8 via Epitaph. Pre-order it here.

Some of the artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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