When Laura Les of 100 gecs spoke to The Fader for a GEN F feature in the fall of 2019, she said that she and her bandmate Dylan Brady thought their debut album would be good but slept on. It was a sensible bet: Brady and Les, friends for years after growing up in the same St. Louis orbit, had been making fascinating music apart for years, under their own names and various pseudonyms. Their 2016 self-titled debut EP as a duo was an overwhelming combination of abrasive noise and sugar-high melodies that, even in hindsight, nobody could have expected to break through. But 1000 gecs, released three years later, was something different.
Produced over the internet with Brady in Los Angeles and Les back in Missouri, it’s truly anarchic — a combination of pop, noise, trance, punk, ska, and metal. Its creators seem to be permanently glitching too, with Les’s voice pitched up into uncanny territory and no one sound hanging around for more than a couple of seconds before jolting into something else. And it wasn’t slept on at all. An aesthetic that had been building for at least as long as PC Music had been around suddenly had a name, hyperpop, and a totally unsuspecting duo as its figurehead. Cue a million think pieces about how 100 gecs were truly the sound of our weird, memeified present.
Hyperpop exploded. Then the world locked down, and hyperpop exploded some more. Kids all over the planet with access to every song in human history and a bunch of shit to figure out were suddenly locked in their bedrooms with GarageBand for company. Brady and Les played some shows inside the video game Minecraft and got to work on their second album, inevitably called 10,000 gecs.
They announced it in the fall of 2021 and released a single, “mememe,” to celebrate. Magazines wrote cover stories about their return, but there was never a release date. The single came and went. The band weren’t happy with what they’d recorded, so they started over. 18 months after the band confirmed its existence, 10,000 gecs is out today, and 100 gecs still sound unmistakably like themselves. Jumping from third-wave ska to brutal metal breakdowns to blink-182-style pop-punk to something resembling Limp Bizkit in the space of a few breaths, they’re still irreverent and fun. There’s a song called “Frog On The Floor” about a frog who’s on the floor, and occasionally does keg stands. At the same time, there’s more melancholy behind Les’s lyrics than most critics will acknowledge.
But this project isn’t a retread. 1000 gecs sounded like the place it was made (the internet), and its follow up sounds like L.A., where Les moved so she could work in person with Brady this time. Les’s voice is still heavily Auto-Tuned, but it’s not pitched up anymore. She doesn’t sound like a human trapped in a computer here. Even when they’re paying eerily faithful tribute to unloved sounds from the turn of the millennium, 100 Gecs sound present and still thrillingly of the future. Earlier this week, I caught up with Les and Brady to talk about recording in the room where System of a Down created their 2021 album Toxicity, making music that’s fun without being treated as frivolous, and the influence they want to have on younger musicians coming through.
This Q&A is taken from the latest episode of The FADER Interview podcast. To hear this week’s show in full, and to access the podcast’s archive, click here.
The FADER: I remember 10,000 gecs being announced 18 months ago. I’ve got emails about it from late summer ’21. What happened?
Laura Les: We had to finish it, and then it took forever to get it from finished to out.
But there was a bit of scrapping and starting again, right?
LL: We’re always scrapping shit, like, “Nah, this could be better.” I just changed something recently.
What did you change?
LL: Can’t tell you. Actually, I guess everyone will know. It’s pretty apparent. There’s two different verses in the streaming version as opposed to the record version.
So you’re editing right down to the deadline?
Dylan Brady: Down to the wire.
LL: The record and the CDs will have the old [version].
And I guess the version I’ve heard will be different to the streaming version as well.
LL: There’s 100 different versions because we just kept wanting to change it.
DB: The FADER version, the Pitchfork version, the Rolling Stone version.
The Kanye West approach to streaming, but completely accidental.
LL: I actually hate that approach. Once it’s out, I’m never going to touch it again.
So you wouldn’t touch “mememe?”
LL: Why would I touch “mememe?” “mememe” is perfect.
I’m just saying, it’s something you have out, but it’s technically on the album. It’s a fishy middle ground.
LL: I think my distinction is the album as a whole piece; I wouldn’t touch it after it was on streaming. I don’t know, though. Even that rule could be bent..
You backed down from this so quickly, but I respect it.
I don’t have much conviction in any of my beliefs. When they talk about “stand for nothing, you’ll fall for everything,” they’re talking about me. I stand for nothing. I’ll fall for anything.
I’ve heard varying numbers about how many demos you made.
DB: They’re all true.
LL: We’ve gotten questions like, “Did you really do 4,000 demos for this album?” Yeah, we did.
I mean, Carly Rae Jepsen does like 300 for each album.
DB: Rookie numbers. 3,700 too few.
LL: The story is we had 10 songs, and we were like, “This is gonna be the album.” And then we were like, “Let’s do something else instead. This isn’t hitting as hard as it could be.”
There was very little pressure on 1000 gecs, and then suddenly there’s a lot of eyes on you and a major label involved. Did that have some sort of bearing on that decision to scrap a lot of stuff and start from scratch?
DB: Yeah, probably.
LL: It’s a totally different vibe when you’re embracing the machinery of it all.
Did that amount of pressure make music-making less fun?
LL: 100 percent, but you can definitely affect it with how you think about things. I was caring too much about granular shit, getting too [deep] in that headspace.
DB: I thought it was dope, because I got huge speakers out of it.
LL: That’s the nuance of it: It can change your whole life. But at the same time, there’s this pressure. It was fucking with my head. There was no label person with a gun to my head. It was just in my own head. It was not super chill.
“When they talk about ‘stand for nothing, you’ll fall for everything,” they’re talking about me. I stand for nothing. I’ll fall for anything.’” —Laura Les
One thing fans and critics celebrated about 1000 gecs was that it embraced its extremes. Was there a pressure to be fucking weird this time around?
LL: I think it’s a mix of things. We try not to be too influenced by what people are expecting. I feel like having expectations drive anything in the music-making process is not super chill. But I don’t know. Dylan, can you speak on that?
DB: I just think we wanted to do different shit more so than feeling the pressure to do that. We wanted to make a different kind of record.
LL: We were listening to different shit too. I wasn’t listening to all the same nightcore that I was when we were making the first one.
Those genres that you’re talking about — whether it’s nu-metal or third-wave ska or pop-punk — are quite faithfully reproduced. A lot of energy and work and meticulousness was put into that. How satisfying is it to recreate those sounds that in 2023 feel a bit unloved?
LL: I mean, we love all the things that we put into it. We love nu-metal and we love ska. We put a lot of love into making each of the things. We’re not half-assing any of it.
DB: That’s our whole thing.
LL: We don’t half-ass it.
LL: We listen to a ton of shit. We listen to a bunch of shit we like and a bunch of shit we don’t like, and we pick apart what we don’t like about it. We bought the guitars. Dylan has an eight-string and we ran it with a [Boss] HM2 into a fucking Dual Rec[tifier] 4X12 cab[inet]. If it sounds faithful, it’s because it sounds good. It sounds like itself. We got our friend to come in and lay down some scratches on a bunch of shit. We got real drums playing on it — we got Josh Freese!
DB: Same room as Toxicity.
“You don’t tell one joke, and then it’s like, ‘That’s actually who I am now, and I totally don’t take myself seriously and I don’t pay my bills anymore.’” —Laura Les
Do you remember The Darkness, the British rock band?
LL: They’re the ones that are like, “I believe in a thing called love?” Yeah, I recently heard that song again for the millionth time at a bar, and everybody I was with was screaming out the lyrics. Doesn’t mean it’s not funny, doesn’t mean it doesn’t go.
That’s the thing: They were very aware of that. I spoke to their lead singer a while back, and he remembers being really pissed off. He would rip an incredible guitar solo that he was really proud of and had worked really hard on, and critics would go, “Ah, that’s a funny joke.” But things that are funny can have things that are worthy of respect within them as well. Those aren’t exclusive.
LL: It’s playfulness. I’m sure The Darkness doesn’t think that they’re funny. They’re not telling a bunch of fucking jokes on stage. They’re not The Lonely Island. They’re trying to make a good song and they embrace that there are funny elements of that, and they’re not taking it too seriously. Look at Limp Bizkit’s last album. Nobody’s thinking, “They’re just joking,” but at the same time, the album is literally called Still Sucks, and [Fred Durst] got a song about how he looks like a dad now.
It’s a mixture. It’s nuanced. It doesn’t have to be any one thing. We can take ourselves seriously and not take ourselves seriously all the time. It’s very interesting that there’s so much confusion about that. I take myself seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously on a moment-to-moment basis. You don’t tell one joke, and then it’s like, “That’s actually who I am now, and I totally don’t take myself seriously and I don’t pay my bills anymore.”
A community of musicians has grown around your music. You’ve somewhat accidentally been installed as the figureheads or as shorthand for a music scene, for a genre and for a style of music that’s barged its way into the mainstream. What do you want your influence to be? From speaking to people to younger musicians involved in the scene, one thing that they might take from your music is a sense of liberation. They can play anything they want; they can sound like anything they want.
LL: That’s ideal.
DB: That’s awesome.
LL: If people say that, I’m super-duper happy. The feeling that you can make any kind of music you want — that’s how I felt when I was in high school. I learned of The Mars Volta and watched a ton of online videos of them, and I was like, “That sounds super wacky.” I didn’t know too much music, but I was like, “Wow, that’s crazy that they can just do that all the time, and they don’t have to have jobs they hate.” I thought the same thing about Machine Girl: “Wow, they just do that. That’s all they do. They just do that and it’s good. It’s fine. They’re doing fine.” It’s super cool to hear that people say that about us because it’s true: Just make something you like, that you think is cool, and people will, somebody will… Do you know what I mean? People will think it’s cool. You can turn that into the thing you do for your whole life.