Album review: 100 gecs – 10,000 gecs
Missouri hyperpop duo 100 gecs crank the catchiness and multiply the mayhem on long-awaited second album 10,000 gecs…
100 gecs are the most exciting name in hyperpop. Love them, hate them or simply don’t ‘get’ them, either way they’re impossible to ignore. On the eve of brilliant new album 10,000 gecs, Dylan Brady and Laura Les dive into their journey so far, coping with pressure, and how they’re hoping for EGOT status…
If there’s one thing you should know about the two members of 100 gecs, it’s that they are very rarely serious. Unless you’re talking about breakfast sandwiches, apparently.
“I’m gonna see if I can grab a McGriddle,” begins Dylan Brady, sliding out of his seat in a bustling McDonald’s in Koreatown, Los Angeles on a warm January morning. “The bun has syrup in it. It’s incredible. I was just in the UK and I feel like they have all kinds of crazy pastry stuff. I feel like this would be good for the UK market.”
Right off the bat, this tells you plenty. For starters, the choice of venue today is notable. One of the hottest, buzziest bands in the world right now, 100 gecs – completed by Laura Les – have flown Kerrang! over 5,000 miles across the world for a charmingly low-key interview at 29-year-old Dylan’s local fast-food joint. They couldn’t be less bothered about fame if they tried.
So too do they not particularly care for talking about themselves, or their music. The release of highly-anticipated second album 10,000 gecs is just around the corner, and the mood is one of laidback excitement; Laura, who is a year younger than her bandmate, would probably rather be playing Elden Ring or “walking amongst the mountains” than doing a 10am interview, while Dylan generally spends his non-work time “drinking Coca-Cola and eating chips”.
In stark contrast to the eccentricities of 100 gecs’ music, both Dylan and Laura are fairly introverted. That is, until they forget the context of why they’re here and begin bouncing off each other with absurd in-jokes. Slouched against a window, Dylan is the more deadpan of the two, chipping in with one-liners that send the pair into frequent fits of giggles. When he’s not being sarcastic or curiously vague, he gazes out to the street. Historic venue The Wiltern is close by – a 2,000-ish-capacity room that 100 gecs have never played, and have definitely already outgrown.
“So they say!” he chuckles.
Laura, meanwhile, clutching onto a can of energy drink, leans in and answers questions more thoughtfully – for a few sentences, at least, before her bandmate makes a quick-witted remark and you have to patiently wait for them to get back on track again (which sounds annoying, but is actually quite sweet).
“We’ve bought into each other’s vibes,” she says. “When we’re making music, I just know that there’s nothing Dylan’s going to do to my ideas, or anything I do to Dylan’s ideas, that’s gonna be met with a negative reaction. We just really like a lot of different music. And we feed off each other’s energy.”
In a rare moment of earnestness, both agree that what they’ve got going is pretty special.
“It is, yeah,” nods Laura. “We definitely feel that, and we never take that for granted.
“Also,” she adds, not missing the opportunity to compliment her bandmate, “Dylan’s just an incredible musician.”
It’s a mutual appreciation that has a long history. While there are several random and conflicting accounts online – spread by the pair themselves – on the specific details of the 100 gecs origin story, they officially formed in 2015. But the mystical legend of Dylan and Laura goes back further than that: Laura attended her first-ever show in middle school (Van Halen’s reunion tour with David Lee Roth) and Dylan happened to be there too, though they didn’t know each other at the time. Being “friends of friends”, the duo kept crossing paths in their home state of Missouri over the years, before deciding to work on music together and releasing their eponymous debut EP in 2016.
“I wasn’t really inspired to do any music,” Dylan shrugs of his upbringing, and if any gigs really made him want to be in a band. “I was just like, ‘This shit’s dope.’ The first music I ever remember hearing was opera when I was five or something, and my mom was playing it in the kitchen. And I was like, ‘This shit goes crazy!’”
“The first song I remember where I was like, ‘Ooooh-arghhhh!’ was Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand,” remembers Laura expressively. “I was, like, freaking out.”
These wildly differing early touchstones have helped form the anything-goes backbone of 100 gecs, with the band most often characterised as hyperpop but giddily dabbling in everything from pop-punk to industrial metal. In fact, there’s hardly a more apt image to sum up their modus operandi than the photo adorning the cover of 10,000 gecs: the duo are lifting their shirts over their heads, showing off new tattoos. For Laura, it’s twin stars. But Dylan has a giant musical note permanently inked across his entire torso.
“It’s real,” he says of the tattoo, which took over seven hours to complete. “It was so fucking painful.”
Hopefully it was worth it…
“I think I’ll love music for at least 10 more years, minimum,” comes the typically po-faced response. “I think.”
Indeed, this is another facet of the all-encompassing appeal of 100 gecs: their aesthetic. From the purple and yellow wizard cloaks they wear onstage to the unrefined, DIY feel of their promo photos and music videos, everything they do is in the name of light-hearted entertainment.
“We didn’t really have any sort of visual language before that first album [2019’s 1000 gecs], except for the EP cover, and then we had made the album and were like, ‘Let’s take some pics and do some vids!’” Dylan explains. “And it just ended up looking like that.”
“It’s just interesting, you know?” says Laura. “We want to make something that’s…”
“Not boring,” interjects Dylan.
“Yeah,” Laura laughs. “Not boring.”
When Dylan first sent Laura the hook for 100 gecs’ ace single mememe, her reaction was, in a word, visceral. Also: uncharacteristically loud.
“There were people at my house and they were all outside, and I was just, like, howling out the back window about how fucking much I loved it,” she recalls of her instinctual response to the duo’s 2021 electro-meets-rock-meets-ska banger. “I’m the number one Dylan Brady fan…”
It’s the genuine joy for what they do that, in a few short years, has taken 100 gecs to some of the biggest stages all over the world. Their provocative, unique brand of chaotic pop has not only earned them a rabid following, but also plenty of famous admirers – from Fall Out Boy to Mike Shinoda. First and foremost, though, this singer-songwriter/producer pair are fans of each other.
“I’ve never had a negative reaction [to Laura’s ideas] – I’m always like, ‘Damn, this shit goes crazy,’” says Dylan. “It happens pretty much every time.”
And their effortlessly positive approach to creativity within the non-existent genre borders of 100 gecs continues to see them thrive. In fact, in the years spent chipping away at 10,000 gecs, they racked up demos in their thousands.
“We went from 6,000 to 10 – no problem!” Dylan grins, before modestly adding: “I feel like everyone kind of does that, though.”
Sort of, yeah, but maybe not quite to that extreme…
“Lil Wayne makes 50 songs each time he goes to the studio,” replies Dylan.
“He makes 20 songs just on the toilet, every day,” Laura quips.
Contrary to these nonchalant comments, 100 gecs put the 10 songs that make up their finished LP through a rigorous process of editing and elimination. Dylan describes it as “Darwin vibes”, with Laura agreeing that “the strongest song survives”.
“We’re trying to be very selective with this album, and really make it feel like a meal,” she elaborates. “You go through all of the ideas you’ve got going, and you’re like, ‘Okay, is this its own thing? Is this its own character of a song?’”
Under 30 minutes long and overflowing with personality, 10,000 gecs brilliantly lives up to these principles. Opener Dumbest girl alive kicks off with huge nu-metal guitars, before the album emphatically brings together everything from ribbit-sampling ska (Frog on the floor) to brutal heaviness (Billy knows jamie), and of course the aforementioned party-mosh anthem mememe – the song that provoked such a strong response from Laura when she first heard it. And, unlike their debut, which was made via remote file-sharing, it was put together more in-person, while Laura was living in LA (she originally moved to work more closely on 100 gecs several years ago, but has since left for a “place that has a little bit more natural inherent-ness to the landscape”). Not that their being together would lead to too much exertion…
“A lot of times we’ll get, like, 30 minutes to an hour of actual decision-making going, and then we’ll just hang out for three hours after that,” admits Laura.
“It’s productive in other ways, maybe,” suggests Dylan.
“Yeah,” Laura agrees. “Good for the spirit – that’s more important. Work can be done from anywhere.”
Their time in the City Of Angels is partly summed up in explosively infectious recent single Hollywood Baby, one of the first final songs for 10,000 gecs. ‘Do you wanna party? Malibu Barbie / Are you gonna pack that shit up when it all comes tumbling down?’ asks Laura in the opening verse.
“We kind of inject our own experiences into each song,” she says. “Dylan had the chorus, and I was like, ‘Okay, what does that evoke?’ And I had just moved to LA at the time, and I was thinking about not knowing anybody, and getting used to the grind. What would you say, though?”
“I mean…” ponders Dylan. “I feel kinda crazy here sometimes (laughs).”
On Hollywood Baby – and the rest of 10,000 gecs – there’s also notably less Auto-Tune than the band have used in the past, which is down to Laura taking vocal lessons during the pandemic in a bid to “expand the toolbox”.
“I’ve always hated my voice, and on the first couple of projects I would pitch it up,” she says, “but I want to have that be less of a crutch and more of a tool, you know? I’m still working on it, but I definitely feel better about it now than I did.”
Given their symbiotic partnership, was there anything from that experience that benefitted Dylan second-hand?
“No,” Laura laughs. “It’s more of a psychosomatic thing than anything. I want to be confident that I’m not fucking a song up just because I don’t want to hella pitch my shit up. It’s one of those things that probably doesn’t matter to anyone but me.
“But it’s always good to be learning how to do things better. I’m always striving for that.”
There is, apparently, one big common misconception about 100 gecs that really bothers Dylan and Laura.
“Yes,” begins Dylan, seemingly sincere for all of about half a second. “Some people are like, ‘This song is bad.’”
“That is a common misconception,” Laura nods, “because it’s actually really good!”
“The music makes a lot more sense once you buy all the hoodies, all the T-shirts, all the vinyl…” Dylan helpfully adds, before Laura takes the joke and keeps running with it: “Just listen to us 10, 11 times and you’ll get it. What I would do if I were a listener is, I would buy two of each vinyl, so that you can have one that’s in reserve for when the first one gets worn out, because you’re playing it so much, because you love it so much. Another good way is to listen to it on streaming a lot. And you can buy it on Bandcamp. And that way, it forms grooves in your head.”
“You can overcome all those misconceptions,” concludes Dylan.
Okay, so they’re once again having us on here, but it’s certainly true that in 2023 there’s more opinions out there about 100 gecs than ever before. And their ongoing rise since the breakout success of their debut undoubtedly fed into Dylan and Laura’s mindset on 10,000 gecs, even if they remain distinctly chilled about it all.
“I try not to think about any of that shit when we’re writing something,” Dylan says. “Is that easy? Sometimes. If you’re writing something good (laughs).”
“You try to write something that you believe in, regardless of how something might be perceived,” Laura adds. “But it’s such a speculative game, you know? So you might as well try to disregard it and make something honest.”
Still, in the four years since the release of 1000 gecs, there has been a change – or, rather, growth – in the 100 gecs camp. By way of explanation, Laura describes how two hypothetical actors would behave in “the middle of a sitcom set”. Then, she continues, imagine what these same two people would be like “in a dilapidated warehouse”.
“It changes the context,” she says. “You’re always changing, and you’re always trying to do what feels right to you at the time, and I think that’s what happened here. You’re into different things at different times.
“When we were making the first album, we were just two friends that wanted to make an album, and it was like, ‘We’ll do the fucking goofiest shit and make it hot and whatever,’” she continues. “And this one, I mean, it’s just a completely different context. We are still two friends that are just trying to make good songs. But I definitely think we’ve matured as people, a bit, since the first one.”
“It’s kind of an abstract thing,” considers Dylan. “But we’re having a laugh, and we’re still having fun.”
Nevertheless, they did feel a palpable sense of pressure going into album two – it’s something that Dylan hints that the “whole” of 10,000 gecs reflects. Suddenly, they seem to have a real understanding of the ‘difficult second album’ cliché. And, crucially, how you triumphantly overcome that particular career obstacle.
“It’s funny,” begins Laura, “as a music fan you listen to everyone always talking about people’s sophomore albums. And you’re always like, ‘Why did they talk about this?’ But when you’re in that situation and you’ve just completely changed your life, your reaction to that is something that you’ve really got to work through (laughs). Or you’ll go insane.”
Unsurprisingly, both credit each other as confidants they’ve called on when it’s all become a bit much. They’ve also learned that a huge help is simply “being aware” of the incomprehensible situation that is becoming famous. As is staying away from social media.
“It’s a weird mode of being,” Laura reflects. “I think your brain as a human isn’t equipped to deal with the concept of 100,000 people, or 1,000,000 people, or however many. I think some writer was talking about that, where he was like, ‘When it’s a few people it just lumps into one straw man analogous person, but then anything past that your brain just doesn’t really understand.’ I believe that, and that’s why you see so many people have terrible reactions [to fame]. It’s a weird vibe!”
Having people care does of course have its benefits. And 100 gecs have one of the most fervent fanbases out there.
“I love it anytime I hear that people were inspired or it got them through a time… any of that stuff is super fucking amazing to hear,” Laura grins. “Because sometimes you’re making stuff and you’re like, ‘Does anyone give a single shit that I’m mixing the snares?’ or something. It’s like, ‘Does anyone care? At all?’ So yes, it turns out! They definitely do care.”
And it’s just as well, because Dylan and Laura have high hopes for 10,000 gecs.
“We want it to be regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time,” deadpans Dylan.
“A GRAMMY or five…”
“We’re inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame…”
“And somehow it wins an Oscar, as well.”
“It gets sent to a musical, a TV show and a movie, and then we get EGOT in one sweep.”
As for want they want their fans to take from the album, that requires some thought. In fact, this very question is cause for the longest silence in our entire interview.
“I mean…” Laura thinks. “They can take whatever they want.”
“Take what they need and leave the rest,” agrees Dylan.
“Exactly,” says Laura. “I don’t know, I hope people have fun listening to it. That’s always the goal.”
She pauses again, this time for comedic effect.
“Check it out!”
Not for the last time today, you suspect, Dylan and Laura burst out laughing.
100 gecs’ new album 10,000 gecs is due out on March 17 via Atlantic
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