July 2022 Recording: Growing Up
Epitaph (flow 16/44.1, Qobuz). 2022. Produced, designed and mixed by Carlos de la Garza.
When your uncle is an award-winning producer and engineer, a band formed by you and your cousins have an above-average chance of going somewhere. But even this family advantage can’t explain the immediate success of Los Angeles-based Linda Lindas; they have earned their accolades through their talent, hard work and ingenuity. Their first album, Growing upoffers proof of their value and the promise of a bright musical future.
The band’s development and rise has accelerated since the formation of the Linda Lindas in 2018. After a self-released EP and a handful of singles, some of which have already been used in films and a Netflix series, the band signed with Epitaph recording in 2021. This debut album was produced by the band’s father-of-two, Carlos de la Garza, who won Grammy Awards for his work with Ziggy Marley and Paramore and honed the albums of a host of artists. emerging independent players. His experienced hand brings intricate textures and contrasts to the sound of the album, breaking it out of the trap of picky naivety that new artists often fall into in the DIY digital age.
Growing up is an appropriate title, given the age of the musicians. The oldest is Bela Salazar, 17, a family friend who plays the guitar. The youngest, drummer Mila de la Garza, will turn 12 in August. His sister Lucia, 15, is also on guitar and their 14-year-old cousin, Eloise Wong, plays bass. All the girls sing.
Their youthfulness is a staple of their writing, which captures universal subjects of teenage angst and disappointing real-life discoveries. The album’s opener, “Oh!”, expresses bewilderment at how nothing comes out of the mouth as intended, and how actions and words seem to have no effect on what is actually happening. The song’s chorus, a shrill, monotonous “What can I do, what can I say” with an “Oh! responding to backing vocals, recalls the ferocious energy of female-led punk and hard rock bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s like Joan Jett in the Runaways or Exene Cervenka in X, both also based in Los Angeles.
The Lindas can go wild with the best of them – the slamming sound of drums and bass on “Growing Up” will rock your skull in the most satisfying way. But there’s more to this band than dirty discontent. Much of the pop running through certain songs draws parallels to the Go-Gos and B-52s, not to mention later indie feminist acts with accessible styles like Tacocat and Girlpool. The Lindas’ “Talking to Myself” is downright hummable, with charming vocals, but that boyish sweetness belies the insightful self-analysis embedded in the lyrics.
Sophisticated observation goes out the window in the band’s first hit original single, “Racist, Sexist Boy,” released in 2021 and included here as the final track. Given that the band members are Asian and Latina women, it’s no surprise that they’ve had painful interactions with bigotry before to inform their songs. When Mila de la Garza saw a boy at school running away from her after learning she was Chinese, she vented her anger on her drums and created lyrics worthy of riot grrrl ancestry like Bikini Kill . (Presciently, the Lindas, singing punk covers, opened for that same band during a show at the Hollywood Palladium in 2019.)
“Racist, Sexist Boy” is pure rage and disgust, with screaming vocals and a distorted, contrapuntal bassline that Mike Dirnt would have been proud to add to a Green Day number. The music lessons these girls take probably didn’t cover the Phrygian mode; Yet the distinctive Phrygian sound is what makes the melody so chilling, its tonic note just a semitone from the second note of the scale, intensifying both the rise and fall of the line.
The Lindas’ video for “Racist, Sexist Boy” went viral, helping them land a record deal. It’s telling that this sonic expression of fury should be what so many new fans have latched onto. The group expresses a widely felt need to defeat the oppressors, a desire to be proud of oneself without excuses.
But what’s likely to broaden the Lindas’ appeal beyond terminal anger is a glimmer of optimism found in some of their songs. In “Magic” they ask, “What if magic was real? … Maybe the reality is better. In “Remember”, they think “Maybe tomorrow will be bigger, brighter, better/So maybe today won’t matter anymore.” Of the many remarkable things about these four gifted and determined girls, perhaps their most unusual attribute is the ability to see their problems clearly and see through them the potential light beyond. If their musical trajectory continues as it began, we can expect them to harness that power in many inspiring and chilling albums.—Anne E. Johnson