With the pedal truly to the metal on their world tour, L7 show little sign of slowing down since recently reforming after more than a decade of collective absence from the stage.
Rewind to the late 80s/early 90s music scene, where male bands dominate the rock/grunge scene. Enter L7, a 4-piece, all girl outfit who turned the rock and roll ‘sausage fest’ on its head with their kick ass, no holds barred guitar attack and ‘take no prisoners’ attitude, both on and off stage.
The original line-up, now reformed, consists of Suzi Gardner (Guitar), Jennifer Finch (Bass), Demetra ‘Dee’ Plakas (Drums), and of course frontwoman/songwriter and guitarist Donita Sparks, who we recently spoke with. Having not been to Australia in around 19 years, Sparks was thrilled to be returning and playing for Oz audiences. “It’s great to be coming back to play without the pressure of promoting a new record- it’s just the joy of playing together again.”
After disbanding in 2001, the band went their separate ways and it was only recently (2014) that Sparks had the idea to get the girls back together. On that process, Sparks recalls that “there was a little reluctance on my part in reforming, as with Suzy, but Jennifer wanted back in right away. Dee took a little convincing but here we are again!”
L7 held their own and had a string of hits such as Pretend We’re Dead, Andres, Everglade, and of course Shitlist, which featured on the Natural Born Killers movie soundtrack. They still have the same energy in droves, evident in YouTube videos of recent concerts. They sound tight, hard as nails, and they’ve not only reinvigorated their original fan base but have inherited a newer, younger one in the process! “I’m definitely noticing that a lot in our audiences and on our Facebook page & social media in general,” says Sparks. “There’s also our diehard fans that never went away, or those that did but have been reminded of us through the publicity surrounding the tour. They’re like’ oh yeah, I used to love that band,’ and will come out to see the show.”
Sparks is philosophical about the Grunge era, and has her own views on the influence that the era had on the industry. Bands came and went, and sadly some of the key figures from those bands left us too early. It was a time of contradictions. Poor, working class garage bands were becoming music millionaires, otherwise unknowns were becoming famous, and the temptation to live the ‘sex drugs & rock ‘n’ roll life was a reality. Some of the bands were one hit wonders, some weren’t really grunge at all. Sparks’ view is that “some of that era holds up and some doesn’t. Even at the time there were some bands I wasn’t crazy about, and at least for me though as someone who hasn’t actually listened to L7 in 20 years, I’m rocking out while we’re playing…. and it’s sincere. I sometimes feel like I didn’t even write it. It’s cool to be playing it and know that it’s for real. It was an era with a lot of ‘shenanigans’ going on- drugs etc., but it’s great that we (L7) are still alive, healthy, and living in L.A. Not so many bands came out as unscathed as we did. We had notoriety, but didn’t make a lot of money. Some of our peers did, not us, but it was a fantastic time while it lasted.”
Sparks and her infamous days of throwing used sanitary products at the audience, and dropping her pants on Live TV among other antics, may well be past her, but she confesses to being quite tame these days and has somewhat mellowed. She is also a self-admitted ‘Crazy cat lady, rescuing strays and having a real soft spot for them. “Here’s the weird thing, I’m allergic to cats so I’m this masochist when it comes to them. I’ll be coughing, scratching, dying, but I just can’t help myself.”
Cats aside, Donita Sparks and L7 are the coolest women in rock music today, and they’ll be rocking out in Australia next month! If you weren’t lucky enough to catch them the first time round, get off your ass and go see these ‘no bullshit’ ladies – they’ll musically ‘tear you a new one.’
There’s also a documentary in the works called ‘Pretend We’re Dead’, which should be released by the end of 2016/early 2017, so keep a lookout.
By Dazz Hassan
Thursday 6th October PERTH Capitol
Friday 7th October ADELAIDE The Gov
Wednesday 12th October MELBOURNE 170 Russell
Friday 14th October BRISBANE Eatons Hill Hotel
Saturday 15th October SYDNEY Metro Theatre
Tuesday 11th October MELBOURNE 170 Russel