The Linda Lindas Tap Into Youthful Punk Potential on 'Growing Up'
Published Apr 06, 2022The Linda Lindas make no attempt to hide their youth. They named their debut album Growing Up, and its title track is a spirited pop-punk anthem celebrating the vigour and camaraderie of children who happen to grow up together, making mistakes and building character. If that song was the only thing to go by, one might think the Linda Lindas are some kind of Hannah Montana reboot, but they did not make a Disney album. The Linda Lindas are mad as hell, and they'll tell you why in no uncertain terms.
The precocious Los Angeles-based punk band is comprised of sisters Mila and Lucia de la Garza, an 11-year-old drummer and 14-year-old guitarist, along with their 13-year-old cousin/bassist Eloise Wong and 17-year-old friend/guitarist Bela Salazar. They all sing and switch around instruments too. Don't judge this book by its cover. The Linda Lindas may not actually have anyone named Linda, but this band is not messing around. Underestimate them at your own peril.
Long before Growing Up, the Linda Lindas had been paying their dues. After forming for a one-off set at the L.A.-area Girlschool music festival in 2018, they continued on as a band to open for the likes of Phranc, the Dils and Alley Cats, and eventually performed with Best Coast, Alice Bag and Bleached. An opportunity to write a song for Netflix documentary The Claudia Kishi Club inspired them to start writing their own original music, and soon after, they appeared in and recorded songs for the soundtrack of Amy Poehler's coming-of-age feminist film Moxie.
Sadly, there is no age restriction for experiencing racism and sexism, and being half-Asian and half-Latinx, these young women have lived with that ugly reality all of their lives. Before the pandemic, a schoolmate of Mila's made a comment amplifying something racist his father had told him. Exacting Tito Puente's revenge, the band wrote a song about it called "Racist, Sexist Boy."
Their timing was perfect. The Linda Lindas went viral in May 2021 with a video rendition of "Racist, Sexist Boy" recorded live at the Los Angeles Public Library. As the video spread, prominent rockers such as Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) sang its praises, while legendary punk label Epitaph immediately signed the band.
One must be wary of packaged rebellion, of course. Avril Lavigne was initially marketed as "the anti-Britney" based on appearance, but if you compare their music, there isn't much difference beyond genre — an unsurprising observation considering they both employed the same songwriting teams, like the Matrix. With that in mind, there are elements of Growing Up that sound a little too good to be true. This album was definitely not recorded at the library. There are moments polished to an unreal shine, but it makes sense when you look at the credits.
Growing Up was produced, mixed and engineered primarily by Carlos de la Garza at his own Music Friends studio in Los Angeles. In addition to drumming in bands like F.Y.P. and Reel Big Fish, Carlos mixed Ziggy Marley's Grammy-winning self-titled album and engineered Tegan and Sara's multiple-Juno-winning 2013 effort Hearthrob, as well as Wolf Alice's Mercury Prize-winning 2018 album Visions of a Life. He has produced everyone from Paramore, Cherry Glazerr, Best Coast and Bleached, to Epitaph bands such as Bad Religion, HUNNY and Teenage Wrist. He is kind of a big deal. He is also the father of Mila and Lucia, and produced the Linda Lindas' eponymous debut EP from 2020, so they had an easier path to get where they are than someone randomly mailing demos to Epitaph.
That said, spend time with the Linda Lindas, and it's obvious they weren't simply handed everything. They seized their opportunities. All one has to do is watch them absolutely crush it on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to see what is coming. They have the swagger and style, and they don't care if anyone doesn't like it.
The opening track on Growing Up, "Oh!" hits the ground running with its throwback punk chant and enthusiastically minimal melodies, sounding like Joan Jett covering the Ramones. Its lyrics exude the sense of frustration and futility, speaking out against societal wrongs that we feel powerless to change, as well as the guilt if we say nothing. This sentiment is more broadly reflected in "Talking to Myself," which beckons commiseration in talking about things that we can't help, and in "Growing Up," where the kids talk about things that aren't fair. Talking about things can be therapeutic, as is listening to this album.
Other moments are a little breezier. The surfy harmonizing power-pop pluck of "Nino" lands somewhere between La Luz and Blondie, while lyrically paying tribute to a fantastic feline reminiscent of the cat jam "Monica" from their self-titled EP. They even throw in a little bossa nova flavour on "Cuantas Veces" ("How Often" in Spanish), further demonstrating the influences and experience beyond their years.
A studio recording of "Racist, Sexist Boy" closes Growing Up. It is as fierce an example of political hardcore as you'll find this side of Bikini Kill, whom they supported at one of their first-ever gigs at the Hollywood Palladium in 2019. It heralds the second coming of riot grrl with a side of kawaii cuddle-core, channeling the fiery rock power of the Runaways, the new wave gloss of the Go-Go's, and the pop-punk exuberance of Blink-182.
With every moment of unflinching social commentary, the Linda Lindas let listeners in to the smouldering embers of youthful promise we all have before the weight of the world eventually crushes our spirit. For as wide as their appeal could be, their eyes are open wider. The Linda Lindas do not pull any punches. Judge this book by its cover, and it will judge you right back. The library is open. (Epitaph)