On a recent Monday morning—during a day off from school—four tween- and teenage girls gather on Zoom with ELLE.com. One is wearing a graphic tee emblazoned with “PUNK,” one is in striped pants, another’s wearing layered bracelets and has platinum blonde streaked hair, and the fourth is donning a color-block cardigan. Seated in twosomes in front of a computer screen, they reminisce about reading The Baby-Sitters Club at their grandma’s house; they share their boba tea orders; they discuss book recommendations and avoiding delinquency status at the local library. Amid discussions about favorite snacks and vintage shopping, they also delve into their debut album and their dreams of changing the world. They are The Linda Lindas, an L.A.-based punk band composed of 11-year-old Mila de la Garza (drums), her 14-year-old sister Lucia de la Garza (guitar), their 13-year-old cousin Eloise Wong (bass), and their longtime family friend, 17-year-old Bela Salazar (guitar).

There’s no other way to say it: The Linda Lindas are cool as hell. It’s been evident ever since the group went viral last May for their explosive performance of the hit “Racist, Sexist Boy” at the L.A. Public Library. (The track was inspired by an encounter Mila had with a boy who said his father told him to stay away from Chinese people, and then backed away from her when she revealed she is Chinese.) With book-lined shelves behind them, they shredded on their guitars and growled on their mics, dressed in their pop-punk finest as they confronted the nameless bully.

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But their cool factor doesn’t end there: It’s also in their riot grrrl energy and sound and colossal levels of confidence. Not to mention the fact that they first played live together in a performance arranged by Dum Dum Girls’s Kristin Kontrol. And that they’ve already opened for the legendary Bikini Kill and later covered the band’s “Rebel Girl” when they were featured in Amy Poehler’s film Moxie. They’ve earned praise from the likes of Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein, too. Did I mention that they played a sold-out show at the Troubadour and are touring with Jawbreaker this spring? Or that they’ve released a collaboration with Opening Ceremony after Humberto Leon reached out on Instagram and then directed one of their music videos? All before the age of 18!

The Linda Lindas are not, however, too cool for school. In fact, they managed to promote their album Growing Up, which dropped on April 8, while keeping up with their studies. (We had to schedule our interview outside of class hours.) “It’s been a lot balancing it,” Lucia says of promotion and school, “But it’s really important to do this kind of stuff because we get to share more about, not only the music aspect of it, but more of our personalities and more of who we are too.”

It would be too easy to label The Linda Lindas’s music simply as teenage angst; a bunch of thrashing tunes about the struggles of growing up and being misunderstood. And while, yes, they do air grievances about adolescence (“IT’S. NOT. FINE!” they shout on “Fine”), they also offer a perspective that embraces community and friendship. “But since we’re all growing up together / I guess I’ll grow up with you,” they sing in the title track. Even “Racist, Sexist Boy” has an empowering message amidst the aggression: “We rebuild what you destroy,” they say on the chorus. Even over Zoom, it’s easy to get wrapped up in their youthful, contagious joy. It’s that depth, the mixture of hope and the hard stuff, that makes Growing Up—and The Linda Lindas—so special.

“I hope that people have fun listening to it or they can dance to it,” Eloise says of the album. Lucia hopes it makes people realize “they can do whatever they want at any age.” It’s also a reminder, if you couldn’t guess from the title, “that we’re still growing as musicians,” she adds. “This is only our first album. We wanna keep making music, we wanna keep writing and releasing songs, but we’re still really proud of this.”

Here, the quartet talk to ELLE.com from Mila and Lucia’s California home about Growing Up, Bela’s cat Nino, and why they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I’d love to go back to the beginning. Was there a moment when you were like, “Hey, let’s make an album since we’re already writing music together.” How did that start off?

Eloise: Well, we had a lot of these songs already written even before the library video [of “Racist Sexist Boy”]. So we just kind of wanted to get more stuff out there, and then our summer break was coming up too.

Mila: It was like the perfect time to record.

Eloise: Yeah. So the day we got out on summer break, we started recording, and we finished right around when summer break ended.

That’s such an awesome way to spend your summer. Where does the writing usually happen? Do you go to someone’s house?

Bela: The meetup happened here at [Lucia and Mila’s] house … I mean, we haven’t written in a little bit, but when we do write, it’s during practice—we’re supposed to be practicing and we just kind of jam or do whatever, like improv. But I don’t know, it’s been a little while.

Eloise: A lot of the songs on this album were written separately, because it was during a total lockdown. So we couldn’t write together except for songs like, “Oh!” and “Talking to Myself” and “Racist, Sexist Boy.”

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Lucia: Yeah. In a way, I think that writing separately gave us a chance to figure out who we individually are as songwriters, which I think is a really cool thing to do. ‘Cause I think that’s really important: It’s important to know how you process something and recognize what strengths you have. I think that it’s really cool that you get to know what the other people’s strengths are and you get to share with each other and say, “Can you help me with this?” “But I like this part,” or something like that. ‘Cause now we’re trying to relearn how to write together. We know how to write separately at this point, but learning to write together is a lot more fun. It’s a little more challenging, but it’s a lot more fun.

Absolutely. The album’s called Growing Up, and you also have a track of the same name. What is it about the experience of growing up for you guys that inspired a lot of songwriting? What were some of the things that you were feeling or wanted to express about this time in your lives?

Mila: I think during the lockdown, it was really just like missing each other and wanting to be around these people who we’re so used to being around, it’s so weird we’re not.

Lucia: During lockdown, you spend a lot of time with yourself. You spend a lot of time with your thoughts and thinking about everything because there was so much happening at the beginning. Like, every day there was something new, and it was hard to feel like you could do anything about it, but you also had personal problems, and you had online school, and just, like, trying to find times where you wanted to go outside for a walk.

“Growing up is all about trying to make yourself a better person and trying to figure out how the people around you are going to help you do that.”

And music was kind of a solace. It was kind of a way for you to figure out what’s going on in your own mind. It gave me a way to process and figure out how I process. And I think that the theme of the album is just reflecting on who we are and who we’re trying to be, because growing up is all about trying to make yourself a better person and trying to figure out how the people around you are going to help you do that. And it was hard doing that when you couldn’t even be together, you know? It was hard to grow up by yourself.

Do you remember the first time that all four of you met? I know obviously we have sisters and cousins in the chat, but when all four of you were together for the first time, do you remember that?

Eloise: It must have been when we were like, really small.

Bela: I remember going to your grandparents’s house during the summer.

Lucia: Yeah, you went to our grandparents’s house and our grandma was like, “Wow, Bela’s so polite.” She asks to be excused from the table and stuff. And we just leave our plates and hide under the table.

Bela: That was like, 10 years ago, okay? [Lucia laughs.]

At the time, did you know that you were all into music? Or was that something that developed over time?

Bela: I think we were just very young, so we weren’t thinking about anything.

Mila: I know we all grew up around music—there was always music playing around the house. Lucia and I, our dad is a record producer and he used to play in bands when he was in high school. And so we’ve all been surrounded by music, I think. I mean, the three of us [pointing to Lucia and Eloise] played classical piano. You [pointing to Bela] played classical guitar.

Eloise: But I don’t think we really talked about music before. It was just like, talking with fairies and stuff, but yeah. [Laughs]

Lucia: I mean, it never seemed like music was unreachable. It never seemed like something that was impossible to do. It just seemed like as kids, it wasn’t something we could do at this point in our lives.

Mila: Like you have to be a little older to do it.

Lucia: I was like, “I probably have to wait until I’m 30 to play music or something,” but—

Mila: 30?

Eloise: 30! [Laughs].

Lucia: I don’t know! I was like, five. Not that you can’t start playing music at 30. There’s nothing wrong with that.

the linda lindas

Zac Farro

Besides the fact that you’re writing separately, how often are you together rehearsing and everything?

Mila: Like four or five times a week?

Eloise: We’re here a lot. We take a lot of their snacks.

Mila: That’s why they’re there.

What kind of snacks?

Eloise: Cheez-Its.

Bela: Dried mangos.

Lucia: Takis.

Eloise: They got those snow crackers for me which made me very happy.

Lucia: Eloise is allergic to peanuts and she’s on this program where she’s trying to not become allergic to peanuts.

Mila: Or not as allergic to peanuts.

Lucia: So she can’t eat soy right now. And imagine not being able to eat soy for a month?

Eloise: Like, soy sauce! Tofu! Everything has soy in it!

I love the vintage vibe here—I’m seeing a lot of graphic tees and bracelets and sweaters. How would you say you developed your style? Are you into thrifting and things like that?

Mila: Yeah. There was one time we went to Long Beach 4th Street, right? There’s this one shop, in the back they have a pile [of clothes].

Bela: It’s like a big mound of just clothes. And everything was really cheap. So Mimi and I were digging in there and Eloise too. We were all digging. Lucia was like, “Absolutely not. I’m not doing that.” But there were like holes and you’d just like, fall into a hole of clothes. It was really fun.

Lucia: A lot of our clothes come from that, and it’s cool figuring out what we’re gonna wear. Bela and Mila are fashionistas. They coordinate the outfits a bit.

Mila: Not really. [Laughs]

I know you worked with your makeup artist to develop this look, but I think the kitty cat eyeliner is really cool. Whose idea was that? Where did that start?

Lucia: I think that was Humberto’s idea, Humberto Leon from Opening Ceremony. He directed the “Growing Up” video. But he developed it with [makeup artist] Valerie Vonprisk.

Eloise: But it came with the “Growing Up” video. ‘Cause there was this whole concept where the cats are becoming us and then we become the cats and then we have the kitty eyeliners, then we are the cats!

Also speaking of cats, whose cat is Nino?

Bela: My cat. [Raises hand.]

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How’s he doing?

Bela: He’s good. He’s really chubby. And he was really angry this morning ‘cause it’s raining, so he couldn’t go outside. So he is, like, screaming at me. He’s a little fluff ball.

Aw. I love how the album starts with “Oh!” ‘cause it’s such a big, energetic place to jump off from. And I like how the lyrics are very stream-of-consciousness. Tell me about what it was like making that song.

Bela: Eloise wrote lyrics for the verses. And then I wrote the riff and it was just kind of like on their front patio, Eloise was just typing away.

Eloise: Bela had a guitar, she was like, “Oh I had this riff,” and we’re all like, “Whoa, that’s a really cool riff! Let me write some lyrics to it.”

Lucia: It sounded more cowboy-esque and like Sleater-Kinney at the very beginning. And now it doesn’t sound as cowboy and Sleater-Kinney.

Eloise: We could have written a country song, Lulu.

Lucia: Shut up.

Maybe we’ll get a country remix?

Eloise: Yeah! [Lucia shakes her head no.] Lucia? [Lucia covers her face.]

Lucia: It was recorded on the day we got out of school, ‘cause we had to put it out and then we finished it that weekend. And then we made the storyboard for the music video. It was very serious. It was kind of like a board. We were sitting around this huge table.

Mila: We had a sleepover, right?

Eloise: We had a sleepover. And then there was this giant piece of cardboard that we just, like, tacked these pieces of paper. Like, scribbled.

Mila: You could barely make out what it was.

Lucia: And then we showed the directors and they were like, “Cool.”

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It’s been such a big year for you, especially after the library video for “Racist, Sexist Boy” went completely viral. And now you’re releasing your album. Do you feel like things have changed since then?

Lucia: I don’t know if we’ve changed or matured…I mean, we’re obviously not that mature, but a little bit maybe? Like, we haven’t changed personalities or whatever. I think that, since the songs were all written before the video even blew up, it’s kind of like, these songs are from when we were really growing up during lockdown.

Eloise: It’s kind of funny ‘cause I feel like now I look back on the songs on the album and I’m all like, “Whoa, I’ve changed a bit.”

Mila: I mean, yeah, those songs were all written before the viral video. So our perspective has changed a bit, I think.

Lucia: But also I think … growing up never ends, so it’s not like once we hit a certain age…

Mila: Once we “finish” growing up.

Lucia: …The songs will stop becoming relatable or whatever, I hope.

Mila: ‘Cause, you know, you never stop growing up.

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As someone older, I can assure you that you don’t! It’s really interesting to hear you say that there’s no age limit for your songs; they can still feel relatable. Were there any reactions or comments you received that really surprised you since your recent rise over the past year?

Mila: There have been some comments that are like, “Oh, you guys inspired me to pick up an instrument.” That’s always cool to hear. I don’t know…it’s just really interesting and cool and kind of strange and weird for me to see how we might have impacted someone.

Lucia: It’s cool. I mean, it’s like, there are people that reach out and they’re from all over the world…

Mila: They’re like all ages.

Lucia: …From Japan, from Brazil, from Spain, from Germany, from Mexico, from everywhere. And it’s really exciting for us because we’re in this time where we can reach people all over the world and that means we can do something. Like, it means that we can kind of bring change a little bit. That’s all we’ve been wanting to do.

Eloise: Yeah. It’s so cool to see that even though we’re just like four people, we can actually make an impact, like we can actually matter, you know?

Lucia: Right. A lot of times you feel like, at any age, but especially when you’re younger, you feel like you’re helpless to bring any change to the world, because it’s just so far away. So I think that it’s just really cool. I mean, there are people of all ages, of all different places that feel like they’re not alone because of something we’ve said. And that’s so unbelievable. I mean, I don’t know. We just wanna keep doing it. We wanna keep making music. We wanna keep talking about things that matter to us.

“It’s so cool to see that even though we’re just like four people, we can actually make an impact, like we can actually matter.”

One thing that really impresses and inspires me is your confidence. Other people have caught onto that too, saying “you inspired me” to do this or that. This is probably something hard to pinpoint, but where does that come from?

Bela: [Shrugs]

Mila: Each other.

Lucia: Yeah. It’s a lot easier to put out music when you have three other people to do it with.

Mila: Yeah. It’d be a lot scarier to do it by yourself.

Lucia: It’s a lot easier to get onstage and you have three other people to do it with. It’s a lot easier to write a song when you have three other people to do with.

Mila: It’s a lot easier to release a song into the world when you’ve shared it with these people that are so close to you before sharing it with everyone else.

Lucia: It doesn’t hurt that we, like, wear Doc Martens onstage, and that we go vintage shopping sometimes, we get boba sometimes. It doesn’t hurt.

Bela: Sometimes.

Did you say boba? What are your go-to orders?

Bela: Sometimes I’m feeling basic and I’ll just get milk tea with boba. Or sometimes I’ll get mango green tea.

Mila: Most of the time we get it from Boba Time. And so I was just browsing through their menu and I found this smoothie: avocado matcha. It sounds really interesting, but it tastes really good.

Eloise: Well, a big part of that is because Lucia doesn’t like avocados.

Mila: That’s definitely not the only reason I got it.

Eloise: Yeah. Well, Mimi gets it so that Lucia can’t.

Lucia: So usually I steal some of her—

Mila: Some?

Lucia: A lot of her boba. But when she gets avocado matcha, I can’t do that. ‘Cause I don’t like avocado. I still believe that’s why. She says it’s not why.

Mila: It’s not why. I just thought it sounded interesting. … That’s actually not why!

Lucia: I like the matcha from Boba Time. It’s like matcha horchata. And Thai tea is a pretty safe option.

Eloise: What do I get? Milk tea. Or if I want to live it up, I get frosty milk.

Lucia: It’s like milk with ice blended, right?

Eloise: Yes! [Laughs.] I was like, what is frosty milk? So I just got one. I was like, huh. It’s kind of like chocolate milk, but with pudding? I don’t know!

We’re gonna get you guys sponsored by Boba Time now that we’ve name-dropped them a bunch.

[Eloise puts her hands together in prayer. Bela crosses her fingers.]

Who would be a dream collab for The Linda Lindas?

Lucia: Sleater-Kinney would be cool. They have a lot of really cool, innovative ideas that we take a lot of inspiration from.

Eloise: The Go-Go’s would be cool.

It’s always fun watching you all perform, and whoever sees you live has such good things to say. What does it feel like for you when you’re onstage? How would you describe that feeling?

Eloise: It’s so fun. Playing live is just the most fun thing in the world. It’s so cool to be making music with people that you love. And being able to share music with people.

Lucia: Everyone in that room is a part of it—a part of the music that we’re creating at that moment, and it can’t be replicated. It’s never gonna happen again. It’s never gonna be like that again. And you kind of have to just remember that you are playing for people that might never see you again. And you’re playing for people that might be seeing you for the first time. But it’s also about the four of us. It kind of feels like you’re…In a way, it’s exactly like practicing, and in a way, it’s like nothing at all. It’s more than the four of us at that point—it’s about everyone.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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