BY Ilana Kaplan in Profiles | 07 FEB 23
Featured in
Issue 232

The Linda Lindas Break the Internet

A profile of the teenage band that went from viral sensation to international rock stars

BY Ilana Kaplan in Profiles | 07 FEB 23

In May 2021, a video featuring a teen band called The Linda Lindas went viral. But it wasn’t a throwaway music moment or a forgettable TikTok song that had caught on. The punk four-piece – comprised of sisters Lucia and Mila de la Garza, their cousin Eloise Wong and friend Bela Salazar – was performing an anti-hate track called ‘Racist Sexist Boy’ at the Los Angeles Public Library. The anthem went viral because it was a primal moment that summed up the lived experience of people of colour and, more specifically, kids of colour growing up today. Viewers were awestruck by the musicians, who then ranged in age from 10 to 16. After all, it isn’t every day that a group of adolescent punk rockers breaks the internet. But The Linda Lindas aren’t just any band.

‘It was a different type of chaos that hit us when the video happened but having each other [and] also having gotten to know ourselves a little more made it easier to process – even though we’re still processing it,’ explains Lucia over Zoom from her bedroom in Los Angeles, where she, her sister and Salazar are gathered.

The Linda Lindas, 2022. Courtesy: Zen Sekizawa

While ‘Racist Sexist Boy’ may have been their ‘breakout’ moment, The Linda Lindas had already been cultivating their sound since 2018, when the members were introduced by indie rocker Kristin Kontrol at Los Angeles’s Girlschool festival, and what began as jamming sessions evolved into a fully-fledged band. In 2020, they penned a song for the Netflix documentary The Claudia Kishi Club and piqued more people’s curiosity after landing a cameo in the 2021 Amy Poehler-helmed Netflix movie Moxie. And, just as that video of ‘Racist Sexist Boy’ went viral, The Linda Lindas signed their first record deal with the legendary Epitaph Records. Now, most of the members of the group (minus Salazar, who has graduated) are juggling school and indie-rock stardom.

Growing up on LA punk acts like Adolescents, Alice Bag and Channel 3, The Linda Lindas could win an award for being the coolest teenagers. But their passion for punk music comes from a deeper place. ‘A lot of the time you’re afraid of [taking] up too much space, but I think punk is about taking up space. It’s about commanding that space,’ Wong declares over Zoom separately from her bedroom in Los Angeles. While they began their career playing ‘crappy covers’ and just finding joy in being onstage, The Linda Lindas have since earned praise for ushering in a new age of Riot Grrrl and have landed coveted opening slots for artists like Best Coast, Bikini Kill, Japanese Breakfast and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

In April, less than a year after signing to Epitaph, The Linda Lindas released their debut album, Growing Up, which was recorded over their summer break in 2021. The result is an infectious, razor-sharp meditation on teen angst that explode through a series of sticky bubble-gum pop hooks and raucous guitar riffs, whether they’re belting out an ode to a cat (‘Nino’) or spiralling from isolation (‘Talking to Myself’).

‘We wrote all the songs separately – that’s kind of how we learned how to write songs,’ explains Salazar. ‘We haven’t written together all that much, but we’re starting to do that now.’ The pandemic not only allowed The Linda Lindas to process the hype surrounding them, but also gave them an opportunity to really adapt to songwriting as a whole. ‘Obviously, the pandemic was horrible, but I think it would have taken a long time for us to start writing songs otherwise. It gave us the opportunity to go head-first into it because it seemed like such a daunting thing,’ explains Mila. But their physical separation didn’t make the ten-track LP feel disjointed. ‘What’s cool about it is how cohesive the album actually is: you can see all of our influences and how well they work together. You can really hear four unique perspectives,’ adds Lucia.

Though Growing Up has been out in the world for just a few months, The Linda Lindas aren’t planning to slow down anytime soon. When they’re not on the road playing a different city each night, they’re plotting who they want to collaborate with – a list that ranges from newer acts like The Regrettes and The Marías to The Go-Go’s and Blondie. And they’re thinking about new music. ‘When we have winter break from school, that’s when we’re going to start writing. We’re blocking out some months at the beginning of 2023 to make sure it actually happens, because we are so excited,’ says Lucia.

This article appeared in frieze issue 232 with the headline ‘Break the Internet’.

Main image: The Linda Lindas, 2022. Courtesy: Zac Farro

Ilana Kaplan is a writer and editor.