Donita and Suzi and Jennifer and Dee. L7, the infamously fierce, feminist pioneers of American grunge punk who navigated their own damn lane, are back in business with the insightful retrospective documentary, ‘L7: Pretend We’re Dead,’ and a new single, ‘Dispatch From Mar-A-Lago,’ their first new music since 1999.
A very physical band that came with authenticity, and blended art and politics into a righteously combustible engine, L7 were well aware of the undue scrutiny for being in a band comprised entirely of women. But this focus on being musicians who happen to be women, and that associated cross they didn’t sign up to bear, led them to wish the gender (aspect) would just go away. Just musicians, without the ‘female’ qualifier. As L7 mentions in the documentary during an appearance on ‘Hangin’ w/MTV’, “We not only have poontangs, we also have armpits.”
In L7’s early history, according to the band, men who wanted to play hard rock did not want to play with women. In Seattle, they found a place that was more progressive than LA at the time and where they began being accepted as a real rock band in a time where a musician who was a woman couldn’t be ‘too sexy’ or she wouldn’t be taken seriously. Sparks now feels that the ‘media doesn’t seem to be as gender-obsessed with L7 as they used to. In most cases, I think we have transcended the non-issue.’
Fast forward to 2017, and L7 is back with the full feature documentary treatment in ‘L7: Pretend We’re Dead.’ Released worldwide on Blu-Ray/DVD and Video On Demand on October 13, 2017, the film, directed by Sarah Price and produced by Blue Hats Creative, Inc., takes us on a real-time journey witnessing the rise, fall, and ultimate redemption of a band that has a pivotal presence in American popular culture herstory. Featuring 30-minutes of never-before-seen L7 live footage, interviews and performances, it also includes a full-length tongue-in-cheek satire, ‘The Beauty Process,’ directed by Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic.
The film also features exclusive interviews with, and commentary from, notable fellow musicians and performers the likes of Exene Cervenka (X), Shirley Manson (Garbage), Krist Novoselic (Nirvana), Joan Jett, Brody Dalle (The Distillers), Lydia Lunch, Allison Robertson (The Donnas), Louise Post (Veruca Salt), and more.
‘L7: Pretend We’re Dead’ has been screened over an initial 14-date run coast-to-coast in September, with upcoming one-offs in October and November, respectively.
On September 29, 2017, a scant two weeks before the release of the documentary, L7 released their first new music since 1999: the currently-relevant ‘Dispatch from Mar-A-Lago’ (Don Giovanni Records), produced by Billy Bush and recorded at the legendary EastWest Studios in Hollywood. Fans can also look forward to a second single to be released this fall on the same label.
We recently spoke with L7 frontperson/vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Donita Sparks.
In the documentary, it was mentioned that ‘Fast and Frightening’ was an homage to a wild female, and, subsequently, ‘why does it take ‘balls’ to be fierce’? What are ways in which you consider women to be fierce?
I don’t consider all women to be fierce. I consider certain individuals to be fierce, male and female individuals.
’Dispatch from Mar-A-Lago’ is the perfect lead-off hitter for your reappearance, eschewing ‘First Track weightiness’ by poking fun at a serious-as-shit topic. How does this embody the L7 steez we’ve come to know and love?
Ok, so I just Googled “steez” which shows you how “with it” I am. So yes, I believe that “Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago” does embody one of the many steezes of L7. We’re not always poking fun, sometimes we’re serious as fuck. We can also be melancholy and a bunch of other stuff. We write what we are feeling, not from some stock uniform that we put on. On “Dispatch”, Suzi and I wanted to write a song from the perspective of the people whose job it is to protect the President and them having to decipher what is legit or not coming through on his Tweets. You know, are we under attack, or is Miss Universe getting fat? It’s this constant “boy who cried wolf” shit. Like how does the Secret Service deal with this lunatic? So an angry mob storming Mar-a-Lago was an inspirational scenario for us.
L7 has always been about mixing art and politics. Given the current political climate, it seems it’s about time to be about that business again. Is that partly what precipitated the new music after an 18-year hiatus, the need to speak out…especially with a White house inhabitant who brags about grabbing women by the pussy? If not, what was the instigator for the new singles?
Sparks: Well, we reunited a couple of years ago now, so I think we just wanted to write and play some new material. New music was not part of the plan at first because that would have been too much pressure. Out of the gate, the mission was to just play our back catalog for our fans. We didn’t know exactly how much we would enjoy playing together again. As time went on, we wanted to do some new material. For the record, most of our songs are not political. Personally, I hate politics. Totally grosses me out. That’s not where I want to spend my creative energy singing about those assholes.
(In their parting words, Abiyah asked Sparks about a rumor that L7 partook of dryer rides, the act of a human being taking a spin in a dryer machine, at now-defunct legendary Cincinnati bar/laundromat Sudsy Malone’s.)
I’m based out of Cincinnati, and there’s a rumor that L7 scored some righteous dryer rides at Sudsy Malone’s, the infamous local bar/laundromat from the late 80s through the late 90s. Fact or fiction?
Hmm, what in the world are “dryer rides”? Whatever they are, I don’t think we did them but let the legend live on! L7 are the Queens of Dryer Rides. FACT. (Words: Abiyah Rawers)