100 Gecs on Their Hollywood Bowl Halloween Show With Boygenius

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100 Gecs are one of the most strangely fascinating acts to hit music in many years. They’re smart and stupid and appealing and annoying and infectious and grating and many other opposites, and although they take what they do seriously, they seemingly can’t believe they’re being taken seriously.

Their music is vaguely adjacent to hyper-pop and can broadly be described as alternative, but it sounds like nothing else while having dozens of different references — it music moves from innovative to obnoxious, often within seconds, and they’re certainly the only act to open for electronic rock icons Nine Inch Nails, rap group Brockhampton and emo legends My Chemical Romance.

The duo — high school friends Laura Les and Dylan Brady — grew up in the St. Louis area, and although they often live in different parts of the country (currently the former is in Colorado and the latter in Los Angeles) they seem like two halves of the same brain both musically and in person, constantly finishing and evolving each other’s sentences and thoughts.

As they say below, the Gecs expected their first EP (“100 Gecs”) and their first album (“1000 Gecs”) to be heard by a couple of hundred people — but by the time they released their second album (“10,000 Gecs”) they’d been the subject of Pitchfork-level adulation and major features in the New York Times and the New Yorker; signed with New York-based Atlantic Records; and even were artists in residence at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. (Of course, they’ve never lived in New York.) Next, they toured exhaustively around the release of their latest album — sporting purple and yellow wizard costumes — played Coachella last April — accompanied by powerhouse drummer Josh Freese, who has since joined Foo Fighters — and there’s even talk of the duo and album being up for Grammy Awards in alternative categories.

Brady and Les are currently taking a break after the long months of touring and are in the early stages of cooking up new material, but could not resist the opportunity to open for Boygenius at the Hollywood Bowl on Halloween night. Variety caught up with them recently about all of the above.

What were your NYU classes like? Was it a bizarre experience?

Les: Well, it wasn’t a bizarre event, but it was bizarre to talk to students who regard you as, like, knowing something. (laughter) We opened up a couple of project files on songs we did from the first album [for the class], and went through some different things that we were doing.

Brady: There was a “Meet the Team” thing to where we had someone from our record label, our graphic designer.

Les: Then we listened to a couple songs by some students, and just gave our thoughts or whatever.

Oh, so it wasn’t professors analyzing your music or anything.

Les: No, that would have been way more awkward!

Your music is both serious and not, but was it surreal to see critics talking about you reinventing pop?

Les: I don’t know if we reinvented anything. I mean, that’s always a thing for journalists and it’s not really for us to speak on. We obviously have some thoughts going in, but I don’t think I don’t think we’ve ever thought about it that intellectually, beyond making a good tune.

And yet you were the subject of an NYU music class and a big New Yorker profile and …

Les: We got shipped these, like, medals …

Brady: The “Philosophical Fellowship” thing.

The what?

Les: We got a philosophical fellowship award from… I think it was the University of Dublin. I was just like, that’s a very odd choice for you, but okay!

What’s your reaction to things like that?

Les: It’s cool! It’s better than them being like, “You fucking suck! You guys are idiots!” (laughter) I mean, people are seeing things into it, and if it means something cool to them, that’s awesome. It means stuff to us, but you know, again, we’re not particularly intellectual about the whole process.

What kind of songs are you working on now?

Brady: There’s spaghetti being thrown at the walls at various rates.

Les: I just made a surf song. [To Brady] I need to show it to you. I’m nailing down some fine points. But yeah, we’re always working. It’s what we do in our spare time… whenever we’re not on Zoom interviews.

What’s it sounding like? Apart from surf songs.

Les: Like Dylan said, we’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall right now. We don’t really have a thing. It’s important for some time to progress [between albums], as well — although I guess the album was done a year ago. We’re both certainly in a very different vibe than we were when we were making the last one.

What’s different ?

Brady: The life shift from the first album to the second album was very big. It was so hard to wrap my head around.

How so?

Brady: Because we made the first one with this kind of side project-y mentality, and then Pitchfork and then all this shit happened. People like the album, and then we have to make another one, and it’s just, it’s the main thing that we’re …

Les: Grappling with.

Brady: A lotta eyes [on us].

Les: Yeah, grappling with the idea that there’s going to be however many people listening when we assumed maybe a couple hundred would, you know? It’s a big, big difference in mentality. I had never done any industry things at all before we dropped the first one, and then we go on a hundred tours and do a hundred interviews and stuff, and it’s just a crazy life shift. And then we were busy as fuck — I think we toured two times while we were making the second album. I mean, it was just a lot to kind of … being like, “I’d better not fuck up!” Now this time, we’re less worried about that.

Isn’t there even more pressure now?

Les: No, no, I’m ready to I’m ready to burn it. We’re gonna fuck it up this time. (laughter)

Are Grammy nominations something you care about, or just another weird thing?

Brady: It’d be cool to have a Grammy.

Les: Yeah, I’ve been going back and forth on it on in my head like, “Will I ever sleep again if we get one?”

Brady: I’ll sleep even more.

Les: What I’ve come to is that if we get nominated for a Grammy, I probably will not have to do anything I don’t want to do for a long time. I see it as the apex of, like, “Okay, we did the thing. We’ve played the game.” This is the peak of having played the game.

Did you have a good time playing Coachella?

Les: It was fun, and it’s cool to be like, Oh my God, we fucking played Coachella. I mean, it’s like a stupid thing, but it’s a fun novelty. We fucking played Coachella this year. That’s sick. You know?

Brady: We saw Danny Elfman.

You even shared a drummer with him. It’s pretty amazing that Josh Freese played with such drastically different artists as you and Danny Elfman in the same festival.

Brady: The same day! Like hours later. He went straight from our set to [Elfman’s], while we were still playing.

Les: It was crazy, but that’s that’s Josh. He’s a pro for sure.

Did they actually pick up his drum kit and carry it off stage while you were playing?

Les: Yes, they did do that on the second [weekend]. It was really funny.

Do you like touring?

Les: I get really nervous — I freak out before every show. I don’t hate it, but we’ve been taking a little break and it’s nice not to have to leave [home] for two months, or leave every month.

Brady: We’ve got a big show coming up.

You do. Are you doing anything special for the Hollywood Bowl?

Brady: Yes, it will be a spooky version.

Les: It’s going to be the haunted version.

So the wizards will be spooky?

Les: I’ve recently thought of an idea to bring the wizards ahead, but I can’t divulge it.

Is the Hollywood Bowl the place to divulge it?

Les: No.

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