‘All journalists like Lana Del Rey’: 100 gecs on reviews, spawning a new genre and being ‘super boring’
It’s not every day that an album receives polar-opposite reviews. Divisiveness to that extent – the sort that has one critic heralding the record as a glimmering bravura of 21st-century pop music, another comparing it to a bazooka firing out the world’s worst genres at your face – is almost unheard of these days. It’s really quite the feat for 100 gecs. But the duo – Laura Les, 28, and Dylan Brady, 29 – loathe reading reviews. “I hate it,” says Les in her chronic deadpan. “But it’s nice when they’re nice.”
And they are. Reviews of their second album – bar that bazooka comparison – have been very nice, if a little surprised by 10,000 gecs. With 2019’s 1000 gecs, Les and Brady did not so much burst onto the scene as explode. Their debut is a flash-bang of high-energy dance-pop as you’ve never heard it, sliced through with razor-sharp shards of ska, dubstep, trance, quick-jab rhymes and greasy industrial sound effects. Sonically, it’s about as smooth as glass in a blender. (So original was their sound that it spawned a new subgenre of hyperpop. “Insane s***,” remarks Les.)
1000 gecs punched the pedal on a viral climb. Sold-out shows. Staggering streaming figures (their ecstatic trash-pop “money machine” is within arms reach of 90 million listens on Spotify). Starry collaborations with artists like Charli XCX culminated in a multi-record deal with Atlantic Records. It’s hard to say exactly what sort of album would’ve made sense as a follow-up to that mind-boggling debut but no one predicted the alt-rock top notes of 10,000 gecs.
“We’re just trying to keep it interesting,” shrugs Les of the switch-up. “Doing the same we did on the last album wouldn’t have been very fun.” 10,000 gecs is a lot of fun. Lead single “Hollywood Baby” is the sort of turbo-charged pop-punk anthem that makes you feel old and young all at once, while the nu-metal of “Billy Knows Jamie” is more indebted to Limp Bizkit than any electro-pop artist. There are remnants of the old gecs – “757” is the closest thing to a hyperpop track, and the album is a similarly short affair at only 27 minutes long (“I feel like if we ever hit more than 45 minutes, I’m gonna feel like I have a stick up my ass,” says Les) – but for all intents and purposes, 10,000 gecs is something new, which is probably the most gecs quality of all.
The pair are calling from their respective homes in LA. Les is perched by her desk, one tattooed knee raised and a ceiling fan whipping about behind her. Meanwhile, Brady is sunk deep into his sofa. They both have the same dye job (platinum blonde) and general mood (tired). Genial but laconic, the St Louis duo are uninterested in playing into the press-ready dramatics of their so-called story. Much has been made, for example, about how their music takes on typically maligned genres; the band framed as redeeming saviours for pop-punk, rap-rock, and nu-metal. They themselves aren’t convinced.
“I just like that music – not necessarily because it’s whatever people say it is.” Brady sighs. “We’re characterised as more wacky than we are. We’re not nearly as wacky as people think.” Les adds, “I find it really funny that we get asked about these ‘crazy’ genres because everyone I know likes that stuff. I don’t know who’s hot in journalism land… Lana Del Rey, right? All journalists like Lana Del Rey.” Equally, they won’t be drawn on the politics of lowbrow and highbrow music, either. Instead, they joke, “It’s all garbage. Everything is lowbrow except for us.” About a third of their answers follow this format: a deadpan in-joke disguised as an earnest response. Or maybe it is earnest? Only they know.
It’s true, though, that people tend to dramatise events when it comes to gecs. The story of how Les and Brady whittled down 4,000 demos to 10 tracks, only to discard the majority and start again is admittedly a good one. It speaks to both prodigious output and artistic integrity. The reality, they say, was more banal. “We’re super boring. We just try stuff until it works,” says Brady of the storied 4,000 figure. And of the decision to start new despite missing deadlines set by their label? “The songs weren’t hitting hard enough,” explains Les. “It wasn’t as melodramatic as some people might imagine.” Even their tattoos, on proud display on the 10,000 gecs album cover, are not the products of an eccentric, on-the-hoof decision as they’ve been framed. “I had wanted it for ages,” says Brady of the “f***ing massive music note” now permanently inked across his chest. “We went to a dude. It took f***ing ages and it hurt so much.” Les got two stars tattooed on either side of her belly button in solidarity.
Besides the genre switch-up, fans have noticed another big difference in their latest album. There are songs on which Les, a trans woman, sings without any of the Auto-Tune effects, which were a staple of their previous album. “I’m not a very good singer so I generally haven’t tried to sing without manipulating my voice a whole bunch. But on this one I wanted to do less of that and…” she pauses and smiles. “I like it. I don’t like having to rely on a tool every time I want to do something.” Les took vocal lessons between this album and the last – although, she clarifies they weren’t specifically for singing. “I mean, it helped with singing but it was for a totally different reason,” she says. “I f***ing hate my voice, which is a terrible thing to think or whatever because it turns out your voice is probably totally fine; you just have bad stimuli around you.” The lessons have helped her feel more comfortable in her voice, both singing and speaking. “I didn’t really do super much. It was more of a mental block than it was a physical thing that I had to learn.”
After the release of 1000 gecs, some fans questioned what Les’s voice would sound like if it were stripped of effects. A few even uploaded videos of gecs songs pitched down in an attempt to capture it. The focus on her quote-unquote “real voice” was jarring for Les. “It was definitely something I was hating to hear all the time.” Who’s to say what her real voice is, anyway? “Your real voice is whatever voice you use, right? It’s like if people learnt that I bleach my hair and they ask what my real hair is. Like, motherf***er, this is my real hair.” “They’re stupid,” Brady concludes matter-of-factly.
As people, Les and Brady exist on the lowest of keys. The only melodramatic narrative they will stand by is that 1000 gecs changed their lives. “Definitely,” says Brady. Les continues, “You spend a lot of time failing through your life and you f*** up a million times. I got to a place where I had a general idea of how my life was gonna go whether I liked it or not. And then you do something, and everybody tells you that you’re good at what you do. It’s an indescribable change in your brain.” Pre-1000 gecs, Les thought she’d be working at a restaurant forever (“I’m not trying to make that sound like a bad thing.”)
A recent interview noted that while the Atlantic deal allowed Les and Brady to let go of some stresses (money for one), it also brought on “new anxieties”. Les is characteristically nonchalant when it comes to describing what those entail. “I’m just a baby is all. It’s not to be blown out of proportion. I don’t like interacting with people super-duper much, or nebulous clouds of people certainly,” she says. “And when you have massive amounts of exposure, it’s harder to maintain that sense of one-on-one contact more. You learn that some people don’t see you as a person that you thought did.” Once a “very online” person, Les is noticeably absent from social media. At least from the outside. “I have two accounts. One of them is me, but nobody can interact with me. And one of them is me but people don’t know that it’s me.”
All this to say, then, that gecs don’t exactly welcome any presumption that as a queer band, they must speak out on queer issues. “Probably by someone,” Les laughs when I ask if there’s an expectation for her to be vocal on these topics. “But I think that the people I would relate to probably understand that social media is bad for your brain – or my brain, at least – and that I just don’t buy into all of it. I mean, it’s true there are expectations that are not being met there, but at the same time… I’m right, so f*** you.” Her grin is mirrored by Brady who is evidently tuned into our conversation from his neighbouring digital box.
The origin story of 100 gecs is muddled by design. Online, you’ll find differing accounts of how they met. College? House party? A rodeo? “Interviews are really boring,” offers Les by way of explanation. “No offence. Present company excluded, of course. But it’s the nature of the game so sometimes it’s fun to switch it up.” OK so how did you meet? “You want us to lie to you?” Sure. “We met on Craigslist,” chirps Brady unexpectedly. Les takes the baton. “I was looking to play bass in a band that makes the worst music imaginable.” Back to Brady. “And I do that. I make the worst thing imaginable.” Back to Les. “That’s how 100 gecs was born.” Ta-da! For bonus points, Les says the name was pulled from the URL of her online listing. “We did that thing like William Burroughs does where you black out words to make really boring poetry.” I’d wager that this seamless, excitable exchange reveals more of what a typical gecs writing session looks like than any answer they’d vocalise.
At this point, Brady comes alive in his box and raises his sweet, bewildered cat to the camera. “Miss Fish says hello!” Her black-and-white ears twitch. “What a dignified lady,” admires Les. The sudden appearance of an animal on screen reminds me of what has been hailed as the wackiest track on their new album: the ribbit-featuring, skank-ready “Frog on the Floor” about a frog on a floor. “That was actually a true story,” says Brady, straight-faced. “Every part of it came directly from first-hand experience.” I tell him I can’t tell if they’re lying or not. “Does it f***ing matter?”