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On full-length debut, viral punk band The Linda Lindas keep growing

The Linda Lindas' recently released album, <em>Growing Up</em>, finds its members attempting to make sense of adolescence in a global pandemic, demanding to be heard and paying homage to a savage pet cat.
Zen Sekizawa
The Linda Lindas' recently released album, Growing Up, finds its members attempting to make sense of adolescence in a global pandemic, demanding to be heard and paying homage to a savage pet cat.

Last year's performance at the Los Angeles Public Library propelled The Linda Lindas' anthem, "Racist, Sexist Boy," into an international spotlight.

The video of the California-based punk band playing at the library's AAPI Heritage Month celebration in May racked up hundreds of thousands of views. But the group — made up of sisters Lucia and Mila de la Garza, their cousin Eloise Wong and their friend Bela Salazar — has staying power in the Riot Grrrl scene.

The band's recently released album, Growing Up, finds its members attempting to make sense of adolescence in a global pandemic, demanding to be heard and paying homage to a savage pet cat.

To commemorate what they've learned about their music and themselves while making the record, Bela Salazar and Lucia de la Garza spoke to NPR's Ayesha Rascoe on Weekend Edition Sunday.

The following interview has been condensed and edited. To listen to the audio version, click the link above.

Ayesha Rascoe, Weekend Edition: Lucia, why punk music? Was there ever a question in your mind about the type of band you would be?

Lucia de la Garza: I think with punk music, you can make mistakes. You can do really easy songs. Punk isn't necessarily a technical genre, but you can kind of make it whatever you want. I think that was really enticing because we were kids, you know, [laughs] we're still kids. But we were even younger kids! And the punk community is not a community to judge within technical skills — we can grow from that. It doesn't actually matter as long as you're doing something that you love, as long as you're doing it around people that you love and playing something that matters to you and saying stuff that needs to be heard. This is a quote from Eloise [Wong]: She says, "Punk is amplifying your own voice when no one else will."

Bela, it seems like what Lucia is saying is punk is more of a feeling than just technical stuff. Is that how you feel?

Bela Salazar: Yeah, for sure. I think it's an expression. It's a lifestyle too.

How do you express the punk lifestyle, Bela?

Salazar: I don't know. I don't care about school, you know? I'm in a punk band. [laughs]

I want to get back to the idea of this as a way to express yourself because on the album, it seems like that's what a lot of the songs are about — expressing that need to be heard. Does putting your thoughts and emotions into music help other people actually stop and listen to you?

Salazar: I don't know. I feel like people are feeling those emotions and whoever is going to listen to that is going to feel like they're not alone. We're in different phases of our lives. We might be younger, but we still go through the same things.

De la Garza: Yeah, the album is called Growing Up, but that doesn't mean it stops becoming relatable after growing up because there's no after growing up, you know?

No, we're all growing every day and trying to figure stuff out, right? And you guys have been doing this through the pandemic and living through [it] as a teenager. How much did that influence the album Lucia?

De la Garza: I think that there [were] so many feelings of helplessness during the pandemic because you see stuff happening every day, and it's hard to feel like anything you do matters. I think that the songs are a way for us to internally make sense of what was happening [and] make sense of our brain and how to get through it.

Do you feel like you guys grew a lot while you were making the album? What was something that you learned about yourself while you were making the album?

Salazar: I feel like the one thing I've really learned was how to make an album because I had no clue. We did the EP before, but this is a lot of songs and I didn't know how to write songs. I didn't know how to do any of it. I learned a lot about the music side of things that I didn't necessarily know before.

You wrote a great song about your cat, "Nino." Can you talk a little bit about Nino?

Salazar: Nino is this big, fluffy black cat. He has big yellow eyes. He's just a funny dude. So I was like, I'm going to write a song about this guy.

De la Garza: Well, also Monica, her other cat, got a song. But Nino did not, and then...

Salazar: Oh yeah. Nino was very jealous when he heard Monica's song. He was screaming at my phone when I played it out [loud]. I was like, I can't leave him out. But he's also a really funny dude.

Lucia, your dad is a music producer. He's helped you guys with your sound along the way. What's it like working with your dad on a professional level?

De la Garza: Yeah, I like it. I mean, a lot of people would not say that, but it's kind of cool to have that comfortable relationship with him because as younger female artists — I don't know if it should be this way — but we would definitely feel more awkward if the producer was someone that we didn't know. We would feel weird being new artists that didn't know how to tell someone what we want the record to sound like.

I want to talk about "Racist, Sexist Boy." It's the song that kicked things off, that went viral and now is the last track on the album. I've read that it started out as an angry song, but now it's an anthem of empowerment. How do you feel about how that transition has taken place?

Salazar: Honestly, I feel like I have never once experienced anything like that, and so obviously it was sad. But then it was so cool to see a bunch of people join together and be like, "We're not alone in this."

De la Garza: Yeah, a lot of people have felt like their stories don't matter, and that really sucks because they do. Everyone's story matters. You don't owe your story to anybody, but it matters and you should feel like you have the right to talk about it and speak up about it.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Isabella Gomez Sarmiento is a production assistant with Weekend Edition.