Performing at the Los Angeles Public Library last year, Mila de la Garza, drummer for LA-based Asian/Latinx punks The Linda Lindas, explained that their most aggressive song on the setlist, ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’, was written after a negative classroom experience. “A boy in my class came up to me and said that his dad told him to stay away from Chinese people. After I told him that I was Chinese, he backed away from me.” Changing the polarity in a 1-2-3-4 count, The Linda Lindas slam all racist, sexist jerkfaces hard with crushing riot grrrl rhythm and positive affirmation. “We rebuild what you destroy!”
It was a defining moment for the band that caught the attention of the legendary Epitaph Records. Known for working with punk heavyweights like Bad Religion (featuring guitarist and Epitaph co-founder Brett Gurewitz), Refused and The Offspring, Epitaph seemed like a no brainer to release The Linda Lindas’ debut LP, Growing Up; a collection of effortlessly cool and catchy feel-good punk.
Taking their name from the Japanese film Linda Linda Linda – a coming-of-age comedy featuring a group of teenagers who quickly form a band to cover songs by The Blue Hearts – Mila (current age 11), alongside guitarists Lucia de la Garza (14), Bela Salazar (17), and bassist Eloise Wong (13) formed the punk quartet after joining Kristin Kontrol for a one-off performance at Girlschool (later Gxrlschool) in 2018. As The Linda Lindas, they opened for riot grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill just a year later at the Hollywood Palladium – later covering their song ‘Rebel Girl’ in Amy Poehler’s 2021 feminist flick MOXiE! for Netflix – before self-releasing their self-titled EP in 2020. So far, so DIY, so punk!
Growing Up – produced, engineered and mixed by Mila and Lucia’s father, Carlos de la Garza (ex- Suburban Rhythm, Reel Big Fish drummer) – is not a cliché album title. “We’ll sing to people and show / What it means to be young and growing up,” sings Lucia on the title track, a celebration of friendship and the determination to “make every moment last.” For the ferocious ‘Oh!’, the band tap into the pop sensibilities of The Go-Go’s with an infectious bassline, dynamic rhythm, snarling lead vocals from Bela, and self-reflective lyrics written by Eloise: “Why do I say something / Say anything at all (Oh!) / It seems that when I try / I always take the fall (Oh!) / But when I don’t speak up / There’s nothing but regret (Oh!) / I can’t stop thinking of / What could’ve happened next!”
Wise beyond her age insight from Mila features on the bubblegum flavoured ‘Talking To Myself’ (“We’re all talking to ourselves / About things we cannot help…”) whilst Eloise spits lyrical angst on riot grrrl rager ‘Fine’. (“It’s not fine!”) ‘Nino’ follows as a spiritual successor to ‘Monica’, a track from the band’s self-titled extended play, written about Bela’s cat! Similar to the unconventional lyrics of Shonen Knife, Bela sings “I have a cat / His name’s Nino / He’s a savage cat / Killer of mice and rats” over savage pop-punk riffs before Eloise returns with the heartbreakingly heavy, Jawbreaker-esque ‘Why’. “I just drown out everything / Cause I cannot feel this way.”
Taking inspiration from Latin culture and bossa nova beats, Spanish-language ‘Cuántas Veces’ is for the misfits; a deeply personal song from Bela. “Cuántas veces tengo que decir / Ya estoy harta de sentirme asi.” Whilst ‘Remember’ – an outpouring of frustration – leaves Lucia optimistic that “maybe tomorrow will be bigger, brighter, bolder.” Sharing vocal duties for the deceptively whimsical ‘Magic’, the de la Garza sisters trade verses over shimmering guitar hooks before the band closes their electrifying debut with a cathartic studio recording of their aforementioned anti-hate anthem, ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’.
All killer, no filler, each member of The Linda Lindas has brought their own unique style of songwriting to Growing Up, through self-reflection and social awareness. They are a band growing up both musically and personally – developing their identity and DIY ethos together, one punk song at a time – yet already confidently stage-diving into punk rock history.
Photo Credit: Zac Farro