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scene

100 gecs embodies everything great about music

| Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Jackie Junco | The Observer

In recent years, a concept called “death of the author” has gained a lot of attention in literary fanbases. The idea is that once a book is published, the author’s intentions and personal beliefs are irrelevant to the interpretation of the text. When a fanbase believes in the death of the author, it is free to creatively engage with the text without fearing backlash for an “incorrect” interpretation. The fans transform the text into a living, breathing entity, using it to fuel their passions and build relationships. 

The death of the author is nothing new, but I believe the framing device can be extended to music as well. My evidence? Hyperpop duo Laura Les and Dylan Brady, otherwise known as 100 gecs. In May 2019, Laura and Dylan released their debut studio album “1000 gecs.” They gained popular recognition after touring with Brockhampton, and several songs from “1000 gecs” went viral on TikTok over quarantine. 

100 gecs’s rise to fame might appear conventional, but that’s the last word anyone would use to describe them. On the contrary, Les and Brady make musical magic. Some listeners worship at their altar. Others sharpen their stakes and wax nostalgic for ye olde Salem. 100 gecs welcomes the controversy, and in my opinion, the debate over whether to embrace them reveals their artistic genius.

The biggest misconception about 100 gecs is that they’re just a meme. Les addressed this perception in an interview.

“We’re not joking all the time … we’re not f—ing being ironic.”

I decided that the best way to take 100 gecs seriously was to bring the discourse to the reader. I quote several Notre Dame students in order to explore 100 gecs’s cultural impact. In the process, I explain the “death of the artist” and its centrality to understanding 100 gecs.

100 gecs makes abrasive, maximally-produced pop music that borrows from rock, ska, dubstep and everything in between. 

“100 gecs sounds like if an algorithm read Twitter and then tried to make electronic music based off of it,” senior MaryKate Drennan said. 

Drennan captures Laura and Dylan’s complete lack of reverence for musical convention. The duo shamelessly autotunes their voices to chipmunk pitches. They insert dog barks and grating sound effects at random. To 100 gecs, music is a science experiment and they’re the mad scientists.

Juniors Max O’Connor and Will Bailey call this style the music of the future. Others, however, aren’t so generous. Junior Duncan Donahue describes 100 gecs as “an utterly pointless band” whose music is “a perfect example of what happens when no one in the studio says no.”

Interestingly enough, 100 gecs fans wouldn’t deny Donahue’s description. By ignoring every inhibition, 100 gecs creates music that’s exhilarating, fantastical, and captivating. Some would even call it scandalous. Laura and Dylan pop the listener’s bubble of comfort and savor every second of it.

Out of this chaos, 100 gecs creates beauty. Andrew Cameron, class of 2020, calls 100 gecs “real and meaningful.” To him, Laura and Dylan’s genre-bending and distortion are “an antidote to irony poisoning.” Cameron rejects the blithe descriptor of “ironic” and sees 100 gecs as intentionally profound.

Junior Lilly Witte concurs — although 100 gecs “makes [her] ears bleed,” she “appreciate[s] their lyricism.” Songs like “800db cloud” and “gecgecgec” jump between heartfelt romance and headache-inducing synth all within the same song. “Gec 2 Ü” borders on saccharine in its poetic embrace of vulnerability. 100 gecs even produced a “normal” song, the tranquil but infectious “ringtone,” as if to prove that nothing about music escapes their mastery.

Although not everyone agrees with my praise, this is perfectly natural. Everyone needs to start somewhere with 100 gecs. Junior Nick Trittipo “thought they were TERRIBLE,” but eventually he realized “all their songs are bangers.” Senior Dakota Rivers took a similar stance.

“At first I was really put off by their sound, but I found myself itching to return to their music,” Rivers said.

Trittipo and Rivers are describing the quintessential gecs journey that every fan undertakes. The listener experiences disgust, intrigue, confused admiration and finally, obsession. The universality of this journey allows every 100 gecs fan to share in a sense of comaraderie. Initial hatred of 100 gecs is actually a key element of their appeal.

Even if someone never progresses beyond their disgust, this only adds to the fun of the gecs journey. Haters argue that 100 gecs’s irreverent eccentricity makes them irredeemable. Fans laugh right back, agreeing to some extent but loving them all the same. 

This hilarious, contentious dialogue recreates the death of the author in a musical context. Just as literary geeks bond over their shared love of freely interpreting a text, 100 gecs is a communal joy rooted in disregard for the artists and love of judging the music. Les and Brady, as human beings, are irrelevant to the gecs journey and the revelry it brings. Fans and haters alike caricature the duo in whatever way supports their opinions, and their opinions are always based on the music. Thus, the music takes complete priority. The collision of listeners’s passionate opinions creates a playful atmosphere open to all.

Although no one owns the objective truth of 100 gecs, their music provides a shared starting point for every interpretation. Les and Brady’s philosophy follows one principle — make music like no one’s listening. They have fun. They break with convention. They’re bold and creative. They’re profound when they feel like it. They throw concerts in Minecraft. They make bizarre TikToks. They play a collection of assorted sounds at a show and everyone cheers anyway.

Laura and Dylan use their platform to unleash the beautiful madness of their artistic vision. They share the free, creative spirit of so many great artists before them. This time, however, no one who listens to 100 gecs can help forming and expressing an opinion. The elevation of music from an individual to a relational experience produces the humanity and shared emotion that make music so special. This kind of experience is typically only accessible during the frenzy of a concert.

At the end of the day, I’m just another gecs fan who is utterly convinced that his interpretation is correct. Paradoxically, I needed to investigate Laura and Dylan’s philosophy in order to argue that Laura and Dylan are irrelevant to the phenomenon of 100 gecs. 

Still, the evidence aligns with my convictions. In July, 100 gecs collaborated with a group of high-profile artists to release the remix album “1000 gecs and The Tree of Clues.” 100 gecs is already experimental and oversaturated, so it’s no surprise that most of the remixes are subpar. Laura and Dylan, as the minds behind 100 gecs, surely anticipated this outcome. They see themselves as facilitators of a collective project to embrace unabashed musical creativity. If the outcome goes awry, so be it. Artists should make music like no one’s listening. If they do, fans will react viscerally and enthusiastically. 

The remix album shows 100 gecs actively working to spread their philosophy of music. A remix by Charli XCX or Fall Out Boy isn’t any more valid than something a Notre Dame student would make. To Les and Brady, music isn’t made in an ivory tower. Artists are just another kind of fan. They’re fans that delight in the products of their own minds.

We should focus on the experience of 100 gecs as a dysfunctional community of fans. After all, the artists are dead. Long live the artists.

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