PRINT January 2020



100 gecs promotional image. Digital rendering: Mikey Joyce.

GURGLE-Y THUDS, chiptune squeals, breakcore beats, sirens, gleeful rapping, and enthusiastic screaming—no, a Gen Z ne’er-do-well isn’t having a party at your house; someone’s probably just turned on 100 gecs and now has some explaining to do. Formed in 2015 by Laura Les and Dylan Brady, 100 gecs make music by sending digital files back and forth to each other from their respective headquarters in Chicago and Los Angeles. So far they’ve released one EP (2016’s 100 gecs) and an album (summer 2019’s 1000 gecs) along with a handful of remixes. You can find the EP on YouTube and the LP on platforms like SoundCloud, or on vinyl, for fans who like to be showy with their devotion. Though the gecs didn’t come out of nowhere—Les records solo work and Brady has produced tracks for Charli XCX and Diplo—the past few months have seen signs and whispers of a creeping takeover, making their recent short string of performances, dubbed “The Secret Tour,” the ticket of the prewinter season. 

100 gecs are canny about circulating their work in the overstuffed realm of digital media, where fans, in good faith or bad, decide whether your fortunes shall rise or fall. While some music critics have wondered what role, if any, album art plays in the streaming age, it seems not unlikely that one might see that indelible 1000 gecs cover (or one of the many meme-like variations on it created by their audience and even by the band members themselves) before hearing the tunes. It depicts Les and Brady, wearing more or less normal clothing, standing with their backs to the camera and heads bowed under a twilit sky (the pose is reminiscent of the final scene of 1999’s low-budget horror sensation The Blair Witch Project), and facing a bushy tree since designated by fans as a landmark on Google Maps. Their cheerfully sarcastic approach to advertising is exemplified by an Instagram post on which parted red curtains and FOR YOUR GRAMMY CONSIDERATION have been Photoshopped over their album art and onto a jpeg of an LA billboard. It appeared more than a month before the nominees were announced.

The return of the repressed is a real bitch, but the revenge of the repressed is a total triumph.

1000 gecs kicks off with the song “745 sticky,” on which, between a rousing repetition of “yeahs,” Les laments, or perhaps brags, about waking up at five in the morning and throwing money in the oven before discovering she’s broke by 7:45 am. Next, on “money machine,” she admonishes “a little piss baby” for thinking he’s “so fucking cool” and having “little cigarette” arms that she could smoke before eventually ghosting him. The chorus marvels: “Feels so clean like a money machine!” It’s just terrific how “like”—the crucial term in pop-music lyricism’s endlessly searching analogies and the adverbial link of ceaseless comparison that peppers the speech of the archetypal Valley girl and many others we want to dismiss out of hand—is inherent to the logic of the algorithm, where “liking” builds a profile of data profitable to someone else. Like, the joke’s on you.

And then there are other blistering tracks about being lousy at gambling on horse races and blaming the horse, assigning your boyfriend a unique ringtone, or noticing that you’re definitely fly enough to be copied by lemmings. Throughout, 100 gecs employ the relentlessness of harsh hip-hop like Death Grips, the free-range tomfoolery of alt-icons like Ween, ruptures of propulsive abrasiveness reminiscent of Venetian Snares or John Zorn’s Naked City, and the delightfully awkward splatter of stock sound effects. But it’s all buoyed by a sweet, hyperpositive attitude that harkens back to mid-2000s goofiness; think DIY composer Dan Deacon’s yowling 2007 single “The Crystal Cat” or Girl Talk’s breakthrough 2006 album, the mash-up-core Night Ripper. Sometimes Brady will deliver his lines in the kind of speak-song, elongated inflection of emo or pop-punk vocalists (e.g., Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge); the vocals of both band members are, following contemporary pop protocol, Auto-Tuned. Like, are they shaving their respective individualities down into something a bit more anonymous and generic on purpose?

Since “punk” has atrophied into scattered historical-reenactment societies and pop stars have started using rap like a diffuser for ambience, 100 gecs’s lack of allegiance to a particular genre or even subgenre sounds to today’s listener both sonically aberrant and culturally typical. Gecs know the score: Anything goes, and fair play to listen to Cannibal Corpse along the way. The return of the repressed is a real bitch, but the revenge of the repressed is a total triumph. Rather than standing out for being unique visionaries or shockingly new, this group is notable as the telling example. It’s not pop music, but #Pop.

This past summer was one for the Hot Girls, and the summer before that was all about BDE, so with the viral “money machine,” where some “big game”–talking dummy is mocked for his “small truck,” let’s say that 2020 is all about Big Truck Energy—gender-free swagger to blow through the cattle standing in your way. Feels good, man.

Paige K. Bradley is an artist and writer living in New York.