Are you? Captured together on a rare real world meeting, meet the controversial pop-metal duo living their best lives online
Unpredictable, unpronounceable, and unforgettable: welcome to the exaggerated realm of 100 gecs, dimensions variable. Like taking an acid bath at Tom & Jerry’s – they have a track called “Hand Crushed by a Mallet”, so watch your fingers – the music that Laura Les and Dylan Brady make together isn’t playing around. Lava-hot, their sound is influenced by everything from black metal to chip music, galvanised by the bravado of hip hop. They opened Brockhampton’s North American tour last autumn – and got away with it.
Fandom in the post-internet world is an odd thing – you would think that, if you loved something so much, you wouldn’t dare to tinker with it. But the sacrosanct is far away when we’re used to reading the public inner monologues of strangers all day and, when Les and Brady released their debut album, 1000 gecs, last year, people were falling over themselves to remix it. Such are the times.
“It’s been wrapped up for a little bit, two weeks-ish,” Les reveals of 1000 gecs & the Tree of Clues, a remixed version of their debut as reimagined by the likes of AG Cook, Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, and Kero Kero Bonito. The remix of “Ringtone”, featuring a verse from Charli, has all the taut bounce of a shatterproof ruler strummed on the edge of a table. The pop star is a devout fan, having sought out Brady last year to co-produce her own track, “Click”.
“It’s an army of friends – people who showed support for the original album, people who reached out to us and said they wanted to get involved, and others who we really just wanted on the album,” says Les. “We had a ton of remixes after we posted our stems for the original album.”
100 gecs have encouraged all of this. Uploading the building blocks to all their tracks online last summer while the record was still fresh out of the oven, the band invited anyone with the inclination to download the zip files, fire up Logic Pro and do their worst (best). Both Brady and Les know what it is to be self-propelled producers, and in breaking the sonic fourth wall they’ve shown they’re not pulling the ladder up with them. (A couple of the fan-produced tracks even made it on to the record.) Way back, LimeWire, the filesharing platform and none-more-convenient illegal drip of whatever MP3 you fancied, was their jam.
“As artists, if we love a song, we want to remix it,” notes Les. “There are artists who have done similar things (to us) in the past and we were really glad they did, because we wanted to pick apart what they were doing and incorporate it into something else. We just wanted to allow people to be able to do that with us, because I think it (creates) a sort of intimate relationship between the original work and the people who like it. It’s very flattering to us that people would want to mould the original.”
“I’m sure someday someone will write a very interesting article about the aesthetics of nightcore and how fucking influential it was. But we’re like a Rorschach test – people just see so much” – Laura Les
Les has, in the past, described her love of PC Music, the polarising London label-cum-movement whose hyperactive style cut a swathe through the 2010s. Appropriately, 100 gecs provoke equally passionate opinions. That PC Music’s players are boomeranging back in fandom is immaculate. But the Norwegian nightcore style of pitch-shifted vocals, trailblazed by DJ TNT and DJ SOS, has been just as influential in shaping their sound. “I found nightcore in my room, on the internet,” says Les.
“It was something that I gravitated towards super-fast. It’s the perfect mode of music for me, the idea of taking a song and speeding it up 30 per cent. It’s simple to make and extremely cool to listen to. (It has) the best-sounding vocals ever, which is why I started pitching my voice like that. I’m sure someday someone will write a very interesting article about the aesthetics of nightcore and how fucking influential it was. But we’re like a Rorschach test – people just see so much.”
100 gecs take their name from the time Les ordered a gecko online, and received 100 instead. First teased back in October, 1000 gecs & the Tree of Clues was originally titled 1000 gecs & th3 phant0m m3nac3. The new title fits like a glove, since the pine tree on the cover of their debut has inspired both a change.org petition campaigning to make it the eighth wonder of the world, and a Reddit thread attempting to track it down. Someone has helpfully made it a landmark on Google Maps – as Les discovered, you can just type in ‘1000 gecs tree’ and be spirited away. Thanks to the internet as a leveller, it has the same traceability as the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower.
Today, I’m talking to 100 gecs across multiple time zones, Les dialling in from Chicago, Brady from Los Angeles. That makes it both breakfast time and lunchtime in the band’s adopted hometowns, but time is immaterial when you are so far in your own heads. Their bond is tight, their moves in tune, their minds attuned. 100 gecs do everything over the internet – unless they happen to be in the same room. “It’s not like we have to be in the same room to be gec. On our own we are gec as well,” says Brady.
“Every day is gec! I wish it would stop!” chimes Les. “We are tapping into a certain thing that we both have. Which is cool, because it gives a lot of flexibility.”
Aside from the addictive acts of distortion they commit, one reason 100 gecs are one of the most arresting bands around right now is their mechanics. With such long distances separating them, the internet is entirely ambient and about as un-novel as you can get for Les and Brady. They have used the parlance of the web and net culture to build their band and facilitate their path, stepping outside of industry norms. Though they recorded their first EP, 2016’s 100 gecs, together in Chicago, the duo made their name DJing together in a pair of virtual music festivals for the online video game Minecraft – Coalchella in September 2018, and Fire Festival in January of last year. This April, they were due to play the real Coachella, before real-world events intervened and the festival had to be abandoned.
“We have a lot of fans in (the internet gaming) community, very online peeps,” says Les. “You should go to a virtual festival – I tell everybody it’s cool. For me, it’s like a holiday – I just grab some drinks from the corner store, go to my room and hang out and mess around on my avatar. But I think we have a lot of fans from that community originally, with our solo stuff and our first EP, (who) were already in tune with our sound. It gave them something to be excited about.”
100 gecs’ track titles read like message board usernames: “xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx”; “Gecgecgec”; “Gec 2 Ü”. Their lyrics make reference to Monster Energy drinks, money, and weed (“800db Cloud”); designated ringtones (“Ringtone”) and betting on a losing horse (“Stupid Horse”). When Les ponders throwing her phone into the lake on “Ringtone”, she sounds like a modern-day Ophelia – only this time it’s her handset she’s ready to drown, not herself. “My phone does not ring, ever,” says Brady. “I never have the vibrate on, even when I wake up. I miss a lot of phone calls.”
“And he lays his phone face-down so it’s literally impossible to reach him if he’s sleeping,” adds Les. “It’s fucked.”
Brady and Les grew up in different towns near St Louis, Missouri, and met at a high-school house party in 2012. “It was absolutely not a Springfield-versus-Shelbyville thing,” says Les, laughing. “People get really wrapped up in that stuff sometimes, but that’s not a mentality we had. It would be hilarious if that was true, though. It was more like Riverdale meets... What’s the other one, Dylan?”
“Yeah, it was like a Riverdale-meets-Greendale moment more than anything,” Les continues of the two fictional towns, mysteriously connected in the shows Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. “Dylan had the much more lasting impression on me, probably. I didn’t talk to him. I stormed out almost immediately after I heard him play music.”
“(Everyone) should go to a virtual festival. For me, It’s like a holiday – I just grab some drinks, go to my room and mess around on my avatar” – Laura Les
“We became close over the years,” Brady recalls. “We both made music and wanted to make something together. It took a while for things to line up so we could do that.” In fact, the pair had a handful of solo releases to their names before finally teaming up while Les was back home from university in Chicago. “At that point we were pretty close friends and I invited Dylan to come to my dorm for new year. He loved the idea that it was so desolately cold in Chicago, and he wanted to experience it. I was like, ‘I would love to not have to go through the desolate cold alone.’ So he came back and we made the first EP.”
Though it’s tempting to think of 100 gecs as an unadulterated cloud band – and that is a compliment, because the cloud is always with you, wherever you are, to plug into – they do like stuff. “Somebody made me a guitar-pick that has the logo from the album burned into it,” Les reveals. “Which is really cool.”
“I love having something to hold,” says Brady, sharing his secret taste for physical formats: vinyl, CD, the works. Try scouring the internet for 100 gecs merch at the moment, and you’ll be deluged with pages of bootleg Redbubble product. Les does a quick Google, and finds a fetching miniskirt amongst the pseudo-serious coasters, throws, and shower curtains. “Can you get a skirt, for real?” she asks. “What the fuck – I want that! I’ve seen knock-offs of the shirts that we put out, which is less good, but bootleg merch is so cool. It’s like the remix album: it’s very cool that people would even want to, you know?”
If you’d stumbled across 100 gecs’ performance on Adult Swim’s FishCenter Live, a weird marine-themed call-in show that’s like the best of underground 90s cable TV, you’d want more. In the clip, Les and Brady blast through a thunderous “800db Cloud” as tropical fish swim on a green screen behind them. Brady wears a witch’s hat which, according to Les, follows him everywhere he goes. “He wears it everywhere: meetings, interviews, when he’s out to eat,” she says.
“It smells –”
“– interesting,” Brady interjects.
“It has the most alluring scent in the world. It smells human and also a bit inhuman.”
The band’s own guerrilla-style videos are, by Brady’s own admission, “not very storyboarded”. For “Money Machine”, the idea was to have the band dancing round a “big-ass truck”; another, “800db cloud”, consists of nothing more than Brady and Les peering over a succession of walls. The results are funny, and a little bit unnerving. “We show up then, fuck it, it’s five (in the morning),” says Brady.
“We didn’t have the location for ‘Money Machine’ plotted out, it was this shipping facility with a ton of huge trucks. You go in and it says ‘no trucks’– and it has hundreds of huge shipping trucks there. We come across things and think, ‘That’s good for the video,’ and then just do it.”
On stage, Les jumps around with a can of Monster, not a bottle of Hennessy or Armand de Brignac. The contentious hyper-energy drink is entirely on-brand: you’re not quite sure what it is, but you know it’s a lot, with the potential to fuck you all the way up. “The best thing to do after drinking one is sit completely still,” she suggests, as a way to heighten the experience as it surges through your veins. “Don’t move your body at all – it feels great. You feel completely at ease after you drink a can of Monster. Listen to nightcore and sit motionless.”
This Friday 24th April, 100 gecs are hosting a Minecraft festival to support Feeding America, headlining alongside Charli XCX. The event will also stream on their website – find out how to attend here