Mila, 10, had barely heard of the coronavirus when a boy at her school said her father told her to stay away from the Chinese.
“It was my first experience of racism and I really didn’t know how to respond,” the Los Angeles girl said, recounting the conversation in fourth grade in March 2020, just before the California shutdown. She told him she was Chinese and he backed off.
Now he has had the last word after his meeting-inspired punk anthem, Racist, Sexist Boy, became a viral sensation last week.
The video of Mila and her three teenage bandmates that make up the pretty pretty yelling “You’re a racist and sexist BOYYYY!” It’s taken from a live performance full of anger inside the Los Angeles public library for AAPI Heritage Month. Overnight, the clip became one of the most cathartic and energizing songs to come out of the pandemic.
Two days after the video exploded online, the four young musicians sat with The Guardian in the backyard of one of their homes and dizzyingly reflected on their newfound fame. Hours earlier, Variety had reported that they had signed with Epitaph Records, although the girls clarified that they had been in talks with the label for months, and the signing was not finalized yet.
The Linda Lindas are: Mila, 10; his sister Lucía, 14 years old; his cousin, Eloise, 13; and her friend Bela, 16 years old. Talking to them about the rise of anti-Asian racism during Covid and what led them to garage punk, it was easy to forget that most of the group’s members hadn’t even started high school.
“I hope the song empowers people who have been oppressed,” said Eloise, who sings the song’s iconic verse, which she co-wrote with Mila (and in her performance at the library dedicated to “all the other racist, sexist boys in the world ”). She added: “It’s good because I can yell a lot at him, all the anger that builds up, it’s good to let it out. It’s a lot of fun to do. “
“The song lets people know that they are not alone,” added Mila, who plays the drums while shouting her section: “You say bad things / And you close your mind to the things you don’t like / You walk away from what you want I do not want to see! “
Linda Linda’s Raw Talent on Full Display for Her AAPI Heritage Month show in library, had already caught the attention of the music industry long before they went megaviral.
The girls started playing together in 2018, as part of a pickup band for a Girlschool LA festival, where they hooked up with Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast and Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The girls’ families have ties to the industry: Mila and Lucía’s father is Carlos de la Garza, a Grammy Award-winning mixer and engineer for Paramore and Best Coast. And Eloise’s father is Martin Wong, co-founder of the Asian-American pop culture magazine Giant Robot.
“We have great parents,” said Lucia, sitting in her Eagle Rock backyard, which also houses her father’s studio. (Parents, listening to the interview from a distance, shouted their approval of this quote.)
“I grew up with the DIY punk culture, going to punk shows, doing mixtapes, with the idea that anyone can do anything,” said Eloise, who is finishing seventh grade. “Punk is everything we want it to be. I like “do it yourself” because it is what you feel like. It doesn’t have to be a certain way. “
When they started playing, only Bela could play rock and punk, although the three youngest musicians had studied classical piano. They quickly overcame their inexperience and began booking gigs, playing Save Music profits in Chinatown, and then opening for Los Angeles punk legend Alice Bag. At one of her early shows, Mila broke her thumb from a scooter accident, but that didn’t stop her; he played the drums with one hand.
Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna fell in love with the band after they covered Rebel Girl, and the singer invited Linda Lindas to open for them at a Hollywood Palladium reunion concert in 2019.
Linda Lindas, whose The name was inspired by a 2005 Japanese movie., in which high school girls learn Linda Linda, a song from the Blue Hearts, went on to perform a original song for a Netflix documentary, The Claudia Kishi Club.
“We started three years ago and it was kind of fun, and then we thought, ‘Wow, we just played the Hollywood Palladium!’ And then we thought, ‘Wow, we were just in a movie!’ And now we are viral, ”said Lucia. “It’s strange”.
“When I walked into the school to pick up my yearbook, people were cheering,” said Bela, a high school student. She is the only member of the band who is on social media, which is why she has been broadcasting her viral growth to others. Bela is also right in the middle of the final: “I still have a project that I have not finished, and I think, do I? It is not like this? I am very grateful that this is happening, but I would have liked it to happen next week a bit. “
The girls had several live shows scheduled last year that were canceled due to Covid. They performed in one of their backyards on Halloween, although a neighbor called the police.
Mila said that she was initially confused by the incident that inspired her song, but when she discussed it with her family, she began to understand the meaning of the hateful comment.
“I realized how messy it was. It felt good to write the song … It made us feel better, ”Mila said, recounting a five-hour writing session in which she was trying to play bass for the first time and was frustrated to tears.
“I remember I was like, ‘Do you want to stop or take a break?’ And she said, ‘No!’ ”Eloise said.
The “racist and sexist boy” verse came easily, and they pushed to finish the rest of the song toward the end of the presidential election. “We wanted to use our voice for people who don’t have it,” Mila said.
Initially, the song was called Idiotic Boy and it was about “dumb and stupid” children, but the girls said they learned about capacitism and how that language can be hurtful.
“The song was to fight sexist and racist boys, but we didn’t want to to be racist and sexist kids, ”Eloise said. “So we change the words.”
“We did it less about intelligence and more about being a bully,” Lucia added. “We wanted to tell a story about something that really happened to a nine-year-old girl, so it’s impossible to ignore it.”
The reaction has been overwhelming: “People feel heard. It’s great to see thousands of people in our direct messages telling us that it really touched them, ”Bela said.
The girls said they weren’t sure if the boy who inspired the song had heard it; has not apologized. But they didn’t care.
“It’s not about him anymore. It’s about getting better, it’s about educating people on what not to do, it’s about making sure we’re all better. We are not perfect, ”said Lucia.
“They were all racist, ”said Bela.
Don’t be racist or sexist, even if you are not a child. Don’t be homophobic. Just don’t be a bad person, ”Lucia said.
“Don’t be able to,” Mila added.
Her drums have now become a permanent fixture in the living room: “She can let it out all the time,” Lucia said of her sister.
Girls don’t like it when people call them “cute” and Lucia said she sometimes wondered how long her fame would last. “Do people like us just because we are young and we are girls and we are Asian and Latina? What Happens When We Get Old?
“I am always denying what is happening and I am pessimistic, and I think I feel like it will go away. But we’ve been having fun these last few days. So I’m like, let’s enjoy it, ”continued Lucia, who will start high school in the fall. “And we are going to write more songs and move on.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism