My first question for 100 gecs is whether or not they're my parents. It's a chilly night in November and we're standing in the parking lot of a brick-walled studio in South L.A., where Dylan Brady and Laura Les, a.k.a. the gecs, have been shooting a Skullcandy 12 Moods campaign. The gecs, I tell them, grew up in the same St. Louis suburbs as my parents — Dylan in my dad's hometown of Kirkwood, and Laura in my mom's Webster Groves. "Maybe we are!" they say, while lighting up a joint the size of a toddler's foot. "Crazy odds."
"Crazy odds" is pretty much how you could describe the entire 100 gecs phenomenon, which blew up in 2019 after the duo unleashed their debut album, 1000 gecs. Spanning ten tracks and 23 minutes, it's a sonic clusterfuck that blends all the incompatible genres they love; from pop-punk to screamo, dubstep to emo-rap, sometimes all in the same song. If that sounds like a lot, well, that's kind of the point. Dylan and Laura are pure music fanatics who set out to make songs they find exciting, however lawless they may be. The adventurousness has struck a chord — they began 2019 as virtual unknowns and ended it with millions of streams, an opening slot on Brockhampton's tour, and prominent spots on many critics' best-of-the-year lists (probably a first for a band who frequently cites 3OH!3 and Skrillex as inspirations).
"All of this is surprising," Dylan acknowledges about their sudden explosion, setting off a breakneck back-and-forth with Laura that unravels like a page of dialogue from Gilmore Girls.
"Everything that happens is a dream."
"What the fuck is going on?"
"Seriously. I keep telling Dylan after everything, 'Damn, we made a fucking good album.'"
In person, Dylan and Laura come off like twins; it's like watching two spaced-out, platinum hair-covered brains work perfectly in sync. They met through mutual friends at a house party in high school, and Laura quickly recalls her first impression of Dylan after he played a song he had been working on: "I was like, 'fuck you.' Because he was so good," she says. She got frustrated and left the party, but they ended up talking later and bounced around the idea of collaborating. Before they could start, though, Laura left to go to college in Chicago, where she pursued a degree in acoustic engineering. Dylan eventually retreated to L.A., making a name for himself on SoundCloud, producing for other artists like The Neighbourhood and Lil Aaron, and eventually signing to Diplo's Mad Decent label.
As they forged ahead on solo projects, they kept in touch and, in the winter of 2015, collaborated on a self-titled EP. "The first EP we made, we just holed up in my apartment and we were dead-set on making something," Laura says. "We just wanted to do anything we could." Dylan adds, "And then we put it on the back burner for, like, four years and then decided, 'Let's break this out again.'"
The impetus for that decision was, of all things, Minecraft. In September 2018 and January 2019, the sandbox video game hosted two massive music festivals inside its virtual world, wherein artists like 100 gecs made their own avatars, got on one of the festival's digital stages, and live streamed their music to millions of people. With Laura in Chicago and Dylan in L.A., they conceived their sets — and later, the album — by emailing song files back and forth. Dylan focused on production, and Laura handled most of the lyrics and melodies with the utmost care; her tender, personal songwriting cuts through the noise on tracks like "Ringtone," "xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx," and the live staple "Came to My Show," on which she repeats, "I can't believe you came to my show / It hurts when you don't, it hurts when you don't."
"I feel like I write a lot better when I'm by myself and I can spend the entire night not subjecting someone else to my bullshit. I just recorded in my room. The only people I had to subject to it was my roommates," she said, adding that the distance was probably for the best when it came to recording. "I could do 1,000 takes of vocals. Dylan hates doing 1,000 takes of vocals."
Virtually crafting an album sounds a lot harder than it actually was — mostly because the duo were working off of zero pressure and the sole motive to have fun. Take "Money Machine," a weirdly charming banger that begins with a taunting, Auto-Tuned-drenched monologue from Laura: "Hey you lil' piss baby / You think you're so fucking cool?" It's one of the most easily digestible songs in the gecs' catalog, with a hook as sharp as anything you'd hear on Top 40 radio. The genesis of it was simple: "I made this beat," Dylan recalls. "Called the beat 'Money Machine.' Sent it to Laura. She sent back the whole song. I added that verse and repeated it twice. And we never made another version of it after that." Then there was the zippy "Stupid Horse," a throwback ska song, made so because Laura wrote the melody and Dylan decided, "'This one should be the ska one.'"
Dylan and Laura have already thought a bit about album No. 2, and plan to do a mix of recording separately and together. But first, there's the matter of their 1000 gecs remix album, tentatively titled 1000 gecs & th3 phant0m m3nac3. They conceived the project last year after putting the stems for all of the album's tracks online: part of Dylan's goal to make music as accessible as possible. "They should just be out for every album, no matter what," he insists. They got "hundreds" of fan-made remixes back, listened through as many as they could, asked some of their friends to make some, and are compiling an album of their favorites. It reminds me of a comment I saw on one of their YouTube videos from a fan who said listening to 1000 gecs inspired them to make his own music. "That's the best," Dylan says. "Music is super fun to write."
For as much positive feedback as there is about their genre-splicing music, though, there's also a lot of hate and a lot of "What is this?" that comes with listening to the gecs. Last month, a Reddit user summed up the general consensus by asking, "Do people legitimately like 100 gecs or is it a meme?" One person's up-voted reply: "For me it started as ironic enjoyment but after listening to stupid horse for like the 8th time in a row I realized I was un-ironically hooked." That's what listening to 100 gecs is like for a lot of converted fans — at some point, you accept the madness and find whatever joy in it you can. It's the opposite of passively listening to Spotify and letting the algorithm take the wheel; while wading through a sea of streaming sensory overload, 100 gecs feels genuinely fresh.
"I think it's OK for people not to like it," Laura says of the divisive reaction to their music. "If people were like, 'This makes me feel absolutely nothing,' that's way worse than, 'This is awful.'" Dylan nods. "Better than a mild reaction, I suppose."
They give the example of a show they played last September at New York University. As Laura recounts, "There were a lot of people there specifically for another artist, and there were a lot of people there for us. And the people that were there for the other artist were, like, holding their ears." Dylan jumps in: "Someone cussed me out. 'Get the fuck out of here! You can't make music!' They were super mad. But then some people were going so fucking hard. It was a really fun show." Laura nods. "Yeah, and the love energy won in the end for sure," she says, as Dylan agrees, "Love always wins."
At the final stop of their headlining Secret Tour in L.A. a few weeks later, there were zero audience freak-outs or cuss-outs. Laura and Dylan took the stage to Steve Miller Band's "The Joker," with Laura's hair thrown into a messy bun and Dylan donning a pointy wizard's hat that improbably stayed in place during the ensuing head-banging. They opened with "Stupid Horse" and tore through a 30-minute set filled with stage diving, mosh pits, an instrumental built around an ocarina solo, a guest appearance from Dorian Electra, and not one, but two full performances of "Money Machine" that came within ten minutes of each other.
It was a show as blissfully unhinged as 1000 gecs would suggest, and it's exciting to imagine what Dylan and Laura will do once the venues get bigger and the crowds get even rowdier. It's happening soon — they're playing Coachella in April and teased some other "very exciting, very cool shows" lined up for the new year. Besides that? "We have some videos in the works." "Gonna drop some pictures on the 'Gram." "Gonna be eating some great food." "Gonna be dropping some shirts." "New album next year. Maybe. Who knows?"