LOS ANGELES — It’s Friday and the Linda Lindas are jamming in their family’s living room, bouncing around in their socks and whipping their hair around their faces.
It feels like a normal afternoon, but for this teen/tween punk rock band it’s a surreal moment. In the past 24 hours, a video of the half-Asian, half-Latinx group — two sisters, their cousin, and close friend who range in age from 10 to 16 — performing their song “Racist, Sexist Boy” at the Los Angeles Public Library rocked the internet.
“[It’s been] really intense and overwhelming,” Lucia, 14, told BuzzFeed News while in her backyard. She said people have been flooding the band’s DMs asking if they can perform next week. “I’m like, ‘Next week? I’m in school.’”
The eighth-grader was in the middle of science class (at home) Thursday when her dad came into the house from his studio to tell her and her sister, Mila, 10, their performance was going viral.
“I didn't really believe him,” Lucia said. “I was like, ‘What does that mean?’ And then we check [Instagram] and it’s like, ‘Whoa, we have like 100,000 followers now.’”
The clip, which has garnered millions of views on social media, opens with Mila introducing the song, which she says was inspired by an encounter she had with a boy at school who told her his dad had said to stay away from Chinese people.
“After I told him that I was Chinese, he backed away from me,” the fifth-grader says. “Eloise and I wrote this song based on that experience.”
“So this is about him and all the other racist, sexist boys in this world,” Eloise, 13, says before the group starts playing. Eloise, who sings and plays the bass, then delivers the lyrics, “Racist, sexist boy, you are a racist, sexist boy,” with piercing intensity.
It was just one of eight songs — six of which are originals — that the Linda Lindas performed for the library’s Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month program. The mini concert was prerecorded and livestreamed May 4, but it wasn’t until the library posted the clip of “Racist, Sexist Boy” last week that it exploded on the internet. Thousands of people have shared the video, including well-known artists like Awkwafina and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea.
“People that I really look up to have been reposting us and it’s like, whoa, I never thought in a million years that I would have this close of an interaction with these people,” said Bela, 16, who plays guitar and sometimes also the bass.
“This is the first band I will be RUNNING to see once I get my second shot,” tweeted one user.
“This song fucking rules,” wrote another. “Great riff, punk AF.”
While the video catapulted them to viral fame overnight, it’s not a fluke. The Linda Lindas have been building up to this moment. The girls first played together in 2018 as part of Kristin Kontrol’s pickup band at a Girlschool festival in Los Angeles. Later that year, Bela asked Mila, Eloise, and Lucia to play with her for a gig at the Hi Hat in Highland Park and they’ve been together ever since. They eventually came up with their band name after watching Linda Linda Linda, a 2005 Japanese film about a group of teen girls who perform songs by the Blue Hearts at a school show. The film’s name is based on the Japanese punk rock band’s song “Linda Linda,” which the Linda Lindas also have performed.
They’ve opened for Bikini Kill and shared the stage with the Dils, Best Coast, and Alice Bag, among others. They wrote the song “Claudia Kishi” for The Claudia Kishi Club, a Netflix documentary that came out last summer. They also recorded two covers, Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” and the Muffs’ “Big Mouth,” for the Netflix movie Moxie and even appeared in the film, which was released in March.
Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the girls released a single titled “Vote!” to encourage people to cast their ballots. Then in December, they put out their first EP, a four-track joy that includes a song Bela wrote about her Siamese cat and another by Eloise about missing her friends during the pandemic.
The “Racist, Sexist Boy” video took off at a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans have been on the rise, in part due to racist scapegoating over the coronavirus pandemic. The wave of anti-Asian attacks has left the Linda Lindas worried about their grandparents. Lucia said that at times she has felt “helpless” and wondered if the situation will ever improve.
“It seems like there are always going to be people that just never can see that it’s so wrong to do that,” she said. “Even though we’re young and we're still in school and … we haven’t learned everything there is to know, we know some of the important things that some people can’t accept.”
The girls said they thought the song connected with so many people because of the reality of how pervasive racism is — and because of how they used their voices to call it out.
“All these emotions kind of bottle up, so it’s good to — it feels good to yell it out,” Eloise said.
When the incident that inspired “Racist, Sexist Boy” first happened, Mila said she didn’t realize people were blaming China — and Chinese people — for COVID-19. It was her first personal encounter with racism. “I didn’t really know how to respond,” she said.
“What do you say to that?” her sister, Lucia, 14, chimed in. “What do you do? I mean besides writing an awesome song about it.”
Mila and Eloise started brainstorming lyrics in the car that day, and later on when they were stuck at home they spent about five hours on Zoom putting it together. “Writing it just made me feel better,” Mila said.
They first performed the song around Halloween as part of a virtual set. At the time, it was called “Idiotic Boy,” but they revised the lyrics as they became more aware of ableism.
“The goal is to make it so that this world can become better,” Lucia said. “It’s sharing a real-life experience that happened and it’s trying to educate people and not undermine them because of their intelligence.”
These days, they’re writing all the time and hope to record and perform their new songs in front of an IRL audience soon.
But first, they have to finish the school year and get through finals.
“Summer vacation is just there, we're just waiting for it,” Lucia said.