After the band’s breakthrough performance in Amy Poehler’s movie Moxie earlier this year, L.A. quartet the Linda Lindas went viral with their song “Racist, Sexist Boy,” and inked a deal with Epitaph. Here, the group opens up about silliness, sexism, and silver linings.
Even though the youngest member of L.A. band the Linda Lindas won’t be able to order a daiquiri for another decade (members’ ages range from 11 to 17), they’ve already shared the stage with legends like Karen O, Alice Bag, riot grrrl royalty Bikini Kill, and Kristin Kontrol, who tapped them to be her pickup band in 2018 for the feminist music festival Gxrlschool.
Before the pandemic, the half-Asian American, half-Latinx group—sisters Lucia and Mila, their cousin Eloise, and friend Bela—were strictly a cover band. That quickly changed, however, following a disturbing encounter experienced by 11-year-old Mila. “A person from school told me that their dad told them to stay away from Chinese people,” Mila tells me, recounting her first experience with racism. “After I told him I was Chinese he backed away from me. I didn’t realize what it was about because I didn’t know much about the pandemic until later, so I was very confused, but I also didn’t realize how messed up it was until talking about it with [the band] and my family.”
“After I heard Mila’s story, I was really angry, so then we were like, ‘Let’s write a song,’” Eloise says, describing how the band created “Racist, Sexist Boy” over a five-hour Zoom call.
“We wanted to be part of the conversation—not despite the fact that we’re young and female and diverse, but because we are,” Lucia explains.
“Female artists are underrepresented, but we’re also misrepresented.”
“That’s why DIY music matters, because if other people aren’t gonna tell your story, it’s really important to document it and do it yourself,” Eloise says. And the band’s been doing just that with millions of combined views on their videos and over 250,000 Instagram followers who are anxiously awaiting their upcoming Epitaph Records debut.
“Just knowing that someone else did it, so you can, too, [it gives you] the power to get somewhere you may have felt that you couldn’t go because of your race or because of your gender,” says Lucia.
Yes, the band members’ ages and gender pique curiosity, but there’s hype around these young women for a reason—they have something to say, and they’re really, really good at what they do. The Linda Lindas take their music seriously. They’re well-rehearsed, and as a result, they’re an incredibly tight band. The group switches up instruments, but often, you’ll find Bela and Lucia on guitar, Eloise on bass, and Mila on drums, while they all take turns on vocals. Describing their sound as “the spirit of original punk, power pop, and new wave,” the girls use their newfound songwriting skills as tools for activism, capturing the casual misogyny of middle school and transforming it into scathing, catchy, two-and-a half-minute bops. Their rage is a breath of fresh air, and if they’re scared, they’re not showing it. The Linda Lindas’ self-titled 2020 debut EP also picks apart their pandemic blues while conveying the confusion and bleakness of adolescence. They’re in control of the narrative, one that’s sometimes heavy, but never draining. Young rebels with a clear cause, they also find time to write songs about their cats (like on their track “Monica”).
Despite the band’s reach and talent, they still face the sting of challenging societal expectations for women in the male-dominated music industry. “I feel like we’re always pushed into a box,” Bela says.
“Mila’s gotten the question: ‘What’s it like to be a female drummer?’” Lucia adds.
“What’s it like being a girl that eats?” Bela chimes in. “Like, what the heck? What kind of question is that?”
The girls laugh and shake their heads. “From such a young age, boys are taught that they can do things better than girls, but they can also slack off,” Lucia observes, noting the high standards and low expectations often put on women. “At the same time, ‘Boys will be boys,’ and ‘They’re just teasing you because they like you.’ What is that? What does that mean? People need to stop making excuses for boys doing whatever they want.”
While their message may be serious, the Linda Lindas also know how to have a good time. “It’s important that we have fun because we hear stories about bands that stopped having fun, and that’s why they broke up,” Lucia says.
Finally, the band signs off with some words of wisdom for girls who want to start their own bands. “Just go for it,” Eloise says, beaming.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect, because you’re you, and your energy will come through,” Lucia adds. “I love doing this and I love being around these people and playing music.” –Kelly Kathleen
Want more of the Linda Lindas? Check out the title track, "Growing Up," off their forthcoming debut LP, out April 8th on Epitaph Records.
photo: Alice Baxley
This article originally appeared in BUST's Winter 2021/2022 print edition. Subscribe today!
Kelly Kathleen is a writer, musician, and podcaster based in Los Angeles. When she’s not authoring strange and shocking stories about women, she’s the lead singer and guitarist of the garage rock trio the Shamalams. Her podcast, Pink Princess Phone, takes a deep dive into the secret psyche and shadow self of her celebrated guests. You can also catch her DJing in L.A. and waving back at people who aren’t actually waving at her. Her turn-ons include drive-ins, metaphysics, wet chemistry photobooths, back-seamed stockings, and the DSM-5. Follow her on Instagram @mskellykathleen for witty observations and upcoming performances.