THE MUSIC ISSUE

The Linda Lindas Are Bringing Riot Grrrl Into a New Era

by Dan Hyman
Photography by Nick Sethi

The Linda Lindas, from left: Eloise Wong wears a Cormio T-shirt; Collina Strada pants and belt; Roge...
The Linda Lindas, from left: Eloise Wong wears a Cormio T-shirt; Collina Strada pants and belt; Roger Vivier shoes. Lucia de la Garza wears a Kenzo shirt, skirt, socks, and boots. Mila de la Garza wears a Batsheva shirt; Coach skirt; Loewe shoes; stylist’s own socks. Bela Salazar wears a Marni dress; Si Rossi shoes; her own jewelry and socks.

If you ask someone to describe the punk band the Linda Lindas, it’s all but guaranteed that their response will include the word “cool.” Eloise Wong, Bela Salazar, and Lucia and Mila de la Garza have been playing punk music together for four years, and yet they range in age from just 11 to 17. To say that they’re precocious is an understatement: The young musicians have already signed to Epitaph Records, and have opened for their riot grrrl forebear Bikini Kill. And somehow they’ve managed to accomplish all this while staying in school. In fact, Wong was in the middle of a lesson on Zoom when she learned that a video of them performing their hit “Racist, Sexist Boy” had gone viral, prompting a flood of praise from the likes of Kathleen Hanna, Hayley Williams, Questlove, Thurston Moore, Tom Morello, and Flea. Just imagine how far they’ll go once their time frees up post-graduation.

In the four years since all of you—Lucia de la Garza, 15; Mila de la Garza, 11; Bela Salazar, 17; Eloise Wong, 14—started playing together, you’ve gone viral with a performance of your cutting breakout song, “Racist, Sexist Boy,” and have opened for riot grrrl icons like Bikini Kill. You’re an acclaimed punk band, but you’re also four middle and high schoolers who surely just want to be kids. How do you strike that balance?

Lucia de la Garza: Honestly, I like having a place like school to go to for a sense of normalcy. There, I can focus on something else besides the band.

Bela Salazar: This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you know?

Eloise Wong: For me, life at school has been pretty much the same. [Laughs]

Eloise Wong.

Bela Salazar.

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Your debut album is titled Growing Up. And while you all come from creative families—Lucia and Mila’s dad is a Grammy-winning music producer; Eloise’s parents were part of the influential Asian-American culture magazine Giant Robot; and Bela’s parents work in design and visual effects—this must all seem very different. Have you all been forced to mature quickly?

BS: I feel like I grew up really fast because of the pandemic, because I was spending all this time by myself. But at the same time, it’s like I lost two years.

LD: You can’t control when you grow up. And that’s kind of scary to think about. Because you’re like, What if I’m not ready to grow up? What if I can’t do it? There are so many what-ifs. It’s overwhelming.

EW: I don’t really know about growing up faster, but we are definitely a lot busier!

Does your life change overnight when you go viral?

LD: It’s really weird, because all we saw were numbers on Instagram going up. It was kind of hard to comprehend from behind a screen that there were people actually interested in what we had to say.

EW: I was on Zoom school and got an email from Mila: “We’re going viral!” We played [famed L.A. punk venue] the Smell recently, which was our first show since the pandemic started, and lots of people turned up. It was cool to see that there were actually people behind those numbers.

LD: I was like, Oh my gosh, there’s little babies here! People are taking babies to their first show, and it’s ours! I couldn’t believe that.

Where do you draw inspiration for your songs?

EW: Usually, I’m inspired to write lyrics first, because I’m angry about something and want to address it. My friend Phranc, who is a legendary punk musician and a Linda Lindas supporter, told me that writing songs is like using a muscle: If you keep doing it, it will only get stronger.

BS: Julieta Venegas, Biela, and Los Blenders have been some of my biggest influences in music, because they sing in Spanish, which is awesome, but also because all of their songs are so rocking, and yet so different!

How aware were you of the history behind the riot grrrl movement? You’re now a part of its trajectory.

EW: Growing up, we had always listened to bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney and other riot grrrl stuff. And we also came up on these shows my parents would put on to raise money for my school’s music program; a bunch of bands from the L.A. punk scene would play, like the Dils and the Alley Cats. It’s really cool to be part of that history, and also part of this community of people who just love making music.

Mila de la Garza.

Lucia de la Garza.

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You recently played on late-night TV and had a five-night stint in New York. Not to mention you have a gig coming up in Japan. Yet you guys seem preternaturally calm about all the mayhem swirling around you.

Mila de la Garza: I’m just trying to focus on what’s happening right now, letting things play out. As long as it’s fun, that’s all that matters.

LD: I think we’re starting to trust our instincts more. We’re not necessarily going to our parents and being like, “What do you think? Is this good?” No, it’s like, “This is happening. We’ve talked to each other, and we’re good. Now let’s do this!”

Hair by Dylan Chavles at MA+ Group; makeup by Grace Ahn at Julian Watson Agency. Set design by Lauren Machen at Lalaland Artists.

Photo assistants: Jorge Solorzano, Nick Tooman, Chris Whitaker; retouching: D-Touch; fashion assistant: Antonio Soto; hair assistant: Alison DeMoss; makeup assistant: Christina Roberson; set assistant: Kevin Carniero; tailor: Irina Tshartaryan; production assistant: Asher Gardner; special thanks: the Revery LA.