Talking with 100 Gecs backstage before its sold-out show in Brooklyn in late November felt like meeting your girlfriend’s parents before a date. Les is a hugger, instantly warm and quick to offer a beverage. Brady is slower to open up, sitting across the room with his hands folded in his lap.
“We were just having as much fun as possible while we were making it,” Les says of “1000 Gecs.” The album was a long-distance project, created while Brady lived in Los Angeles and Les in Chicago. They would send song fragments back and forth, letting their ideas marinate before building off each other’s work. The result is a living piece of work, one that was given the space to evolve in utero. “The process felt . . .” Brady starts, looking over to Les. “Uninhibited.”
Les and Brady met in the suburban outskirts of St. Louis, where they both grew up. “We were at a mutual friend’s house in 2011-ish. Someone asked Dylan to put on the new song he had just finished,” Les smiles at Brady. “You obliged. I felt like an ant in comparison.” Not long after they met, Les moved to Chicago, where she would attend college and earn a degree in acoustic engineering. It wasn’t until 2015 that Brady came to visit and they worked on the first 100 Gecs project, their self-titled EP.
Their breakthrough “1000 Gecs” was finished in a month, released in May and promptly devoured by critics and a growing cult following. From there, it was full speed ahead, with Charli XCX recruiting Brady to co-produce a song for her latest album and Brockhampton inviting 100 Gecs to open its fall tour.
Attend a 100 Gecs show and you’ll realize within five minutes that there are no casual 100 Gecs fans. The room shrieks when a neon-clad Les and a witch-hat-wearing Brady appear with a pine tree like the one pictured on the “1000 Gecs” album art. Fans labeled the actual pine tree in Illinois as a historical landmark on Google Maps. Some have even traveled to the spot in Des Plaines for photos and memes.
Bodies flail and slam into one another on cue with the first note of the first song. Gecs’ maximalist instincts are polarizing, exhilarating or grating depending on your taste and threshold for loud, discordant noises.
“We knew ‘1000 Gecs’ would be our favorite album, but we didn’t know that it would be other people’s favorite album,” Les says, pausing to take a puff of her Juul and rearrange her chin-length bangs. “Our songs are about everyday anxieties. That’s why they resonate. They’re not crafted to be Internet anthems. But, I mean, the Internet is such a large part of our lives.”
“1000 Gecs” is full of sugar highs and violent comedowns. Brady and Les croak over thrash metal guitar sludge and bounce along to a ska-inspired romp about a “stupid horse.” On “I Need Help Immediately,” a muffled voice gasps for air beneath jaunty video-game tunes and Seinfeldian bass riffs: “Please do something.”
The monotonous hum of radio pop in 2019 — Brady calls this brand of easy listening “Uber-core” — represents a digital world unexamined, of mindless scrolling and instant gratification. 100 Gecs, on the other hand, amplifies the cacophony we’ve grown accustomed to, the endless browser tabs and pop-ups and YouTube rabbit holes. Its album is an honest product of life online — the romance and hostility we hold toward this window to the world, the hope and horror in billions of voices shouting at once.
For a window into the specific online worlds of Brady and Les, they take turns reading items from their Google search history.
“Chemo, lock-picking lawyer, drag boat, Osmos,” Brady says with a laugh.
“Speedboat, crazy boat, ‘I Shake It’ Charli XCX, Bernard Purdie, gecs, reptile speedcore, Duo De Twang ‘Jerry Was a Racecar Driver.’ ” Les follows. “What did Pinocchio lie about, ‘Tokyo Ghoul,’ text emoticons that you can copy and paste.”
This assortment of curiosities recalls 2000s-era Internet culture, when “random” ruled. The most-viewed YouTube videos featured a cat playing keyboard, a hamster eating popcorn on a piano, and cartoon unicorns luring another unicorn into Candy Mountain to steal their kidneys. These icons could easily fit on a 100 Gecs mood board.
The duo’s offhand list of influences reads like an extension of their online inquiries. Brady immediately mentions Crazy Frog, that freaky little CGI creature with aviator goggles. The character was created to advertise ringtones in 2003, an innocent time for tech and the Internet, when people still talked about commercials.
Les adds “Hampster Dance,” one of the earliest memes, which featured a parade of animated rodents singing in Auto-Tune. “Guitars,” Brady deadpans. “Limp Bizkit,” Les says. “Working at a job you don’t like.”
“1000 Gecs” alternates between futurism and frustration. Brady puts it plainly: “Phones are dope, but tough.” Ultimately, though, he and Les treat the Internet with wide-eyed optimism, insisting that its benefits exponentially outweigh any negatives. “You have all these resources,” Les beams. “You can teach yourself about other cultures. There’s more on the Internet than you could ever know.” They agree on the mantra “infinite learning.”
Brady and Les, who are 26 and 25 years old, respectively, grew up online. Their ethos, which Brady sums up as “No locked doors, no gatekeepers,” sees the Internet’s original promise — the dissemination of news and knowledge, communication and collaboration — before far-right hate groups weaponized Facebook and tech oligarchs exploited our data. It’s a guiding vision for its future and a call to regain control.
They built something that both challenges and acknowledges conceptions of Internet-induced isolation. “1000 Gecs” is the product of constant connectivity, shared angst and the enduring human spirit. “You can be angry but also positive and optimistic. Just because something is bad doesn’t mean it has to feel bad,” Les says. “It feels good to express these things. Just get it out.”
Any lost sense of community crumbles in the mosh pit, which spans the entire room at 100 Gecs’ Brooklyn show. Fans are finally able to celebrate and share the music they’ve been blasting on their headphones since May. The world they’ve been privately inhabiting has become common ground. “OPEN IT UP,” Brady yells as the moshing intensifies to the sound of mutated death metal. Loyal Gecs disciples catch Les as she jumps into the crowd for the encore. Their fearless leader is one of them.