"He just backed away from someone because of their ethnicity. And that's so messed up..."
The Linda Lindas are four young punk rock women, Lucia and Mila de la Garza, Bela Salazar and Eloise Wong, who we can all learn a lot from.
For example, when the then 10-year-old (yes, ten-year-old) drummer Mila was by targeted by a boy in her class for being Asian, she didn’t get even so much as get writing. Their killer track Racist, Sexist Boy was his payback and her triumph – the result of a quick Zoom writing session and a want to rise up rather than sink to a bully’s level.
“Well, I mean, I was really angry about it, and I really wanted to do something about it. But I also didn't want to, you know, go after the person in a violent way,” Mila says with an effortless cool that a lot of musicians four times her age are yet to muster. Adds sister Lucia, just a couple of years older, “I just remember that we weren't even super aware of the Coronavirus at that time, and it was only kind of later we realised that this young child (the racist, sexist boy) probably didn’t even know what he was talking about either. He just backed away from someone because of their ethnicity. And that's so messed up.”
Mila elaborates, “I was trying to think of a way, like, you know, what could I do? What could we do about this to help make a difference? So we decided to write a song, because that was like, one of the only ways I knew how to express my emotions. So Eloise, and I wrote it together over Zoom.” Here Eloise jumps in with impeccable timing, proclaiming with a smile, “It was like, ‘Hey, Mila! You're fed up with society? I'm fed up with it, too! Let's write a song about it!’”
The resulting Racist, Sexist Boy has gotten the group international attention, American late-night show guests spots and more. But beyond it is the full-length debut Growing Up, containing not just this and some cute singles (note Nino, a punk ditty about a deranged but loveable house cat), but ways to help young people today to really get to the heart of what’s going on.
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Their sounds are clearly part of a longer tradition (Bikini Kill to Sonic Youth, but also some old school punk pop like The Clash and Pussy Riot), but the approach is distinct. Particularly interesting are their non-English influences – starting with the name (The Linda Lindas a reference to a Japanese film), through to songs like Cuántas Veces, where Bella uses her native Spanish to access experiences that don’t quite make sense to her any other way. It’s asking non-native speakers like me (and so many of us) to learn. There’s so much to discover here, not just in terms of language.
“[Cuántas Veces] translates to 'how many times', it's about just kind of, like …how I can like break the ice of sharing my feelings rather than just like, you know, full-on doing it,” Bella says. “I kind of dress like weird, like a little bit funky. And my teeth, they're all like, there's a lot of gaps. And so growing up I got made fun of… then I came to the realisation at the end that's okay, like, that's what sets me apart from other people. I'm not like a carbon copy of everybody else. And that's okay.”
It’s a positivity that continues through with other songs of affirmation (albeit with a kickass punk sound) like Talk To Myself and Remember. Not quite the full “girl power” or “sisters doing it for themselves”, but definitely youthful optimism.
Still very much at the beginnings of their careers, and their lives (none of them are old enough to vote yet), their rise has come through hard work and good ol' fashioned drive. Lucia and Mila’s father, Carlos de la Garza, produces their work, and even though, as they say, ‘we did grow up with Adele and Katy Perry and all that cool stuff’, their apprenticeships really came through older school tunes. As Eloise puts it, she learned the essentials via some old school pop and rock, having learned the days of the week by listening to The Clash’s Oh Police On My Back, and numbers with XTC’s Senses Working Overtime.
The future can feel bleak at the moment, especially if you’re a young person up against environmental, financial, health and other battles. But beacons of light are here through new music – The Linda Lindas being a great example of what can happen when young people refuse to fight fire with fire, but instead with bloody great tunes.