So, full disclosure, but I’m friends with Martin Wong, co-founder of the influential, pioneering Asian American pop-culture magazine Giant Robot (1994-2011), and more importantly, father to Eloise Wong, who, alongside her cousins, Lucia and Mila de la Garza, and their friend Bela Salazar, is a member of the pre-teen punk-pop sensations The Linda Lindas.
Years ago, I watched on social media as Martin launched the Save Music in Chinatown concert series to benefit the music program at Castelar Elementary in Los Angeles, where his daughter attended. I often saw pictures of Eloise at the shows alongside her Dad, her artwork (or her!) on the show fliers, and then the next thing I knew, she was on stage herself!
Taking their band name from the 2005 Japanese movie Linda Linda Linda and the Blue Hearts song "Linda Linda" which features prominently in the film, this high-energy, spunky group of youngsters quickly began to take off: playing shows with Best Coast and Bleached, being hand-picked by Kathleen Hanna to open for Bikini Kill at their 2019 Hollywood Palladium concert, getting spotted by actor/director Amy Poehler who cast them in her movie Moxie, and being asked to compose an original song for the Netflix documentary The Claudia Kishi Club (as heard here). As if that’s not enough, the group went viral earlier this year with their live performance of the song "Racist, Sexist Boy,” filmed at the Los Angeles Public Library. Most recently, the Linda Lindas signed with Epitaph Records, releasing their new single “Oh!” at the end of July.
Eloise (age 13), Lucia (14), Mila (10), and Bela (16) spent some of their summer vacation with KEXP, chatting with us about self-care; racist, sexist boys; and the joys of being a Linda Linda.
KEXP: Eloise, I don’t know if you remember, but back in 2015, you and your parents came to visit me at the old KEXP station on Dexter Avenue and Denny Way. [She nods her head, yes.] Did you ever imagine that someday we’d be interviewing you?
Eloise: [shakes her head no]
Lucia: No! [Laughs] Well, not that I was there or anything…
So, how is it working together? Do you find your personalities mesh really well? Who tends to be the leader?
Bela: Lucia [Eloise points to Lucia]
Lucia: Yeah. I'm an older sister, so that might have something to do with that.
Mila, do you ever feel like she's too bossy?
Mila: [looks up thoughtfully to conjure a reply…]
Lucia: Yes! See? Like, I'm answering for her!
You’ve played shows with some amazing icons, like Alice Bag, Best Coast, Phranc, and Lois, who’s been one of my heroes since I was a teen girl, too. What's the best piece of advice one of these older musicians has ever given you?
Lucia: People have been so supportive in this community, all the women that we know. It's really nice not being barricaded out of anything. We've talked to Bethany from Best Coast. She gives great advice. We've talked to Hayley from Paramore. She gave some really good advice, like, we talked about mental health.
Mila: Some really good advice that Hayley gave to us was that sometimes saying no to things is just as good as saying yes.
Eloise: Because it's OK to say no.
Yeah, self-care is really important and The Linda Lindas are blowing up so much. Are you able to take time out for self-care? [Everyone nods]
Lucia: Yeah, we make sure that we have time for all the things that we need to do, like interviews and practice and recording, but also time away from each other, because we've been spending a lot of time together, and though we all love each other so much, it's important to take a step back sometimes.
Eloise: And, also time together outside of music, like we went to the beach, and that was fun.
Are you all on summer vacation right now?
Lucia: I have summer homework, so I have to do three book reports and I haven't started any of them.
Summer homework? That's not fair.
So, earlier this year, The Linda Lindas had an enormous hit with “Racist, Sexist Boy,” and I wanted to ask, do you think racist, sexist boys are the exception or the norm?
Bela: I feel like they're kinda the norm. Our society kinda raises these racist, sexist boys. Like, from a young age, boys say things like, "you run like a girl" – things that are not really necessary. And it happens all the time, and they think it's OK, it's normal to say that.
Lucia: Like, oh, it's just another one of those boys...
Bela: Just "boys being boys"...
Lucia: Yeah. It's not good.
What would you suggest that racist, sexist boys do to be better people?
Eloise: Don't be racist and sexist!
Bela: Educate yourselves!
Lucia: Find people that can help you become better and don't surround yourself with other racist, sexist boys or people. And, it's important that you find something that helps you become a better person. You also have to want to not be a racist, sexist boy. You have to be aware that something you're doing is not right and that people are starting to not accept that behavior.
[ed note: Don’t you just love these girls?]
So, like some of you, I'm also mixed race. I'm half-Japanese and half-white. And I know that, for myself, growing up was kind of a struggle because I grew up in an area that was predominantly white. But also, that was decades ago, so I was wondering, what is your experience like now, growing up mixed race?
Lucia, on behalf of herself and Mila: We're half Mexican, half Chinese, and I don't know, it's weird. We've lived in a pretty accepting and great community. People don't ask, "oh, why do you look like that?" People sometimes don't know that we're Mexican, or they only know because of our last name. It's not like we've accepted that. People are always going to have first impressions of you. Sometimes when you're close friends with someone, you can be like, "what's your ethnicity?" and you'll be like, "oh, here."
I saw on your Bandcamp page, the very first sentence is "half Asian / half Latinx," so it seems like that's really important for you to put out there to the public?
Bela: I think it is important because it's a part of our story. It's part of our family, like my mom's an immigrant, and Eloise's grandparents are immigrants. And it's kind-of interweaved into who we are and how we write songs.
When I was growing up, I didn't really have a lot of representation in the media, so I think it's so great that you can be that role model to other girls who are mixed, or Latinx, or Asian. Which leads me to my next question! For myself, the Baby-Sitters Club Book series was a big deal, because the character of Claudia Kishi was the first representation I'd seen of a Japanese-American girl in pop culture. And, then you got invited to write a song for the Netflix documentary The Claudia Kishi Club! Had you all read the books before?
[All nod yes.]
Lucia: Yes, we have. They're on our grandmother's shelf, because she used to be a teacher, so we found them. They're scattered ones, not like one through ten because, you know, there are so many of them. You have to kind of put the pieces together when you're reading them.
Was Claudia the character you related to the most, or did you actually gravitate towards other characters?
Lucia: I don't know. It's not like we chose a favorite character because of their ethnicity. There's a lot more representation than there was, but there can always be more. Claudia Kishi is definitely up there because she's so cool with her fashion and how she makes her own jewelry and all that.
And, Lucia, I read that you are a big reader and that you've already read a hundred books this year.
Lucia: Eloise and I are both pretty good, so is Mila, but yeah, we like to go to the library, so, it's fitting that we played at the library.
What's one of the best books you've read this year that we should look for?
Lucia: One of the best books I've read this year so far, actually in class... [laughs] it's so nerdy, but we read The Book Thief. I really enjoyed reading that. [Looks around to her bandmates for their picks and sees them struggling to think of one.] All four of us are pretty indecisive sometimes.
How do you go about making decisions as a band?
Lucia: We usually trust our gut and we all make decisions together. Sometimes it's hard, it's like, "Should we do this or should we not do it?" Sometimes it's really easy. "Yeah, we should definitely do this."
I wanted to ask about the new single "Oh!" and the video, which is so amazing. How did you all come up with the concept for the video?
Bela: I took pictures of all four of us and Mila took a picture of me. I'd seen these pictures that Andy Warhol had taken, and I really liked that. So, I wanted to incorporate it into something. I didn't know what. Then I was like, oh, that'd be cool for like a cover for one of our songs. Then I took pictures of all of us one day, in their laundry room. And then Eloise drew the "Oh" in cursive...
Eloise: ...And then the video, the idea was based off of that. And we drew a storyboard which Lucia is getting right now. And we came up with a bunch of ideas and then directors helped us with it...
Bela: To bring the vision to life.
Lucia: It was really great. It was so fun. It was our first professional music video. Before Eloise edited some other videos on iMovie.
I wondered about that because I saw that Eloise edited the "Vote" video! Do you like making music videos?
Do you ever have to boss around adults?
Bela: Not yet.
Eloise: People we work with are really supportive of us and what we wanted to do.
I also wanted to ask about the song because, the video is so bright and colorful and fun, but the lyrics for the song are actually a little sad. Was there a particular moment that inspired the lyrics?
Eloise: It's about feeling like nothing you do turns out right. There was a situation at school where someone was being bullied in my class and I tried to help the situation, but it kind of wound up blowing up in my face.
At least you tried, though, that's awesome! So, what is your songwriting process like? How do songs come together for The Linda Lindas?
Mila: It's a little bit different for each song, I think. Like for "Oh!," Bella brought in a riff, and then Eloise came up with the lyrics.
Lucia: And then we all worked on the chorus together. We only started really writing songs when the pandemic started. We were all separated for a long time, and that's when we took the opportunity to write songs because we had to cancel shows and everything. We were like, we can finally get to songwriting! Because at first, we were a cover band. Bela wrote a song about her cat, and Eloise wrote a song about the pandemic, but those were all separate and now that we can all be together again, recording music again, we can get into songwriting collaboratively. And it's really fun when we do it.
Are The Linda Lindas working on an album right now?
Lucia: We are. We are recording. We are trying to put as much music out as we can before school starts again, but, you know, it probably won't come out until next year. But we're always making music, yeah.
Are you excited to tour again once things open back up again?
All: Yes! Definitely!
Lucia: We're going to play some shows in the fall and definitely next year. We're hoping to travel more next year.
Eloise: Yeah, we have some really exciting stuff coming up.
Mila: And we're excited to play in front of live audiences again.
Bela: Yeah. We really miss it.
So, my last question for you is, being in The Linda Lindas looks like the most fun job in the world, but what's the hardest part of being a Linda Linda?
All: [blank looks]
Lucia: I don't know... it takes up a lot of time, but we have fun together... so I don't know what the worst part is.
Bela: I don't think there is a worst part...
Eloise: No bad part of it!
That's awesome! As it should be!
Lucia: Yeah, it's all very fun. We've all really enjoyed the process so far. When we started out, we were like, not good, [laughs] but it was still fun and, you know, it's still fun now.
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