Maybe it was their adolescent energy and earnestness. Maybe it was their sludgy guitars and pummeling rhythm section. Maybe it was the searing anti-hate message in their lyrics.
Or maybe the Linda Lindas just rock.
Whatever the case, the Los Angeles-based punk band of Asian and Latina teens had the internet fist-pumping and headbanging to one of their songs this week after a clip of their recent performance at the Los Angeles Public Library went viral.
The track, "Racist, Sexist Boy," is a blistering attack on anti-Asian racism that draws on the gritty riot grrrl sounds of the early '90s. Drummer-singer Mila, 10, said this month that she was inspired to write it with bandmate Eloise, 13, after one of her classmates harassed her during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
"A little while before we went into lockdown, a boy in my class came up to me and said that his dad told him to stay away from Chinese people," Mila said during the library show May 4. "After I told him that I was Chinese, he backed away from me. Eloise and I wrote this song based on that experience."
Eloise added: "So this is about him and all the other racist, sexist boys in this world!"
The song is less than two minutes long, and not a line is wasted. "You are a racist sexist boy/ And you have racist sexist joys/ We rebuild what you destroy," Eloise snarls over distorted guitars and a growling bass.
The tempo then abruptly picks up and Mila continues the ultimatum: "You say mean stuff/ And you close your mind to things you don't like/ You turn away from what you don't want to hear."
And then comes the chanted crescendo: "Poser! Blockhead! Riffraff! Jerkface!"
The performance was part of a spirited eight-song set the Linda Lindas played for the library's Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It could hardly have come at a more urgent time. Violence and harassment of Asian Americans has risen sharply over the past year, shaking communities from coast to coast. Even some cities that have registered overall drops in crime have reported increases in crimes targeting Asian Americans. In one egregious attack, a 75-year-old Chinese man in Oakland died of his injuries after being shoved to the ground and robbed.
While passing hate crime legislation is an important step in combating the problem, so is the catharsis of calling it out in the bluntest terms possible. Sometimes, people just need to scream about it.
The Linda Lindas touched a raw nerve, and it won them legions of fans after the library tweeted the "Racist, Sexist Boy" clip Thursday. The clip had racked up about 2 million views on Twitter as of Friday afternoon.
Kathleen Hanna, the riot grrrl pioneer who fronted Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, cheered their "great music" while also noting that they sported T-shirts promoting girls' education in Togo.
"Song of the day!" wrote Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.
It wasn't just musicians who took notice. Viet Thanh Nguyen, the Vietnamese American novelist who won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was among those singing their praises: "'Racist, Sexist Boy' is the song we need now," he said in a tweet.
The Linda Lindas formed about three years ago in Los Angeles as part of a pickup band assembled by musician Kristin Kontrol of Dum Dum Girls, according to the band's bio page. In addition to Mila and Eloise, the band includes Bela, 16, and Lucia, 14, on guitars, though all of them are multi-instrumentalists. They were tapped by Hanna in 2019 to open for Bikini Kill at the Hollywood Palladium. They also wrote a song that appeared in the recent Netflix film "Moxie."
Eloise, Lucia, Mila are related, and Bela is a close friend, they said in an interview accompanying their library performance. The pandemic disrupted some of the band's plans last year, but they pressed forward, even briefly trying to hold practices over Zoom. "Not ideal," Lucia said. They play some covers but have focused lately on writing original material. Each composed a song for an EP they released late last year.
With restrictions lifting and infections falling, they're now freer to collaborate in person. "We feed off each other," Bela said in the library interview.
"Racist, Sexist Boy" isn't the group's first foray into current events. In December, they put out a track called "Vote!" It's an upbeat call for adults to exercise their right - and it also seems to capture the band's credo: "You can't just sit on the side/ Well, you've gotta make up your mind/ You can't just wait and see/ Gotta make a difference for you and me."