L7 blew the doors wide open for female rock bands in the 1990’s at a time when the glam rock scene had died down and grunge was the big thing. They weren’t necessarily an all out grunge band as there was a strong punk rock attitude in their music as well as in their personality but they came at the right time and made an impact straight away. By 2001 the band were on an indefinite hiatus and despite no word on whether they would return, the fans always hoped they would. They finally reunited in 2014 and in October 2016, the band are set to tour Australia for the first time since the reunion. We talk to Donita Sparks about the reunion and what Aussie fans can expect on the tour.
Andrew: It’s good to have you coming back to Australia! Obviously we didn’t see you at Soundwave because of what happened but I guess a headline thing is probably better for you anyway I suppose.
Donita: They’re both great, certainly the money of Soundwave Festival is pretty good which is unfortunate that didn’t come through [laughs] but I think our fans far prefer a theatre/club setting anyway.
Andrew: Yeah absolutely, I feel that your music is more suited to a club than a festival I guess? Do you feel more of a club band?
Donita: I don’t, no. I think we’re a straight ahead rock band and we can play anywhere. Why don’t you think that we’re a festival band? That’s kind of weird.
Andrew: [laughs] Well I don’t know. It’s not that I don’t think your suited for a festival, it just seems that your music fits with a club setting because of that gritty, grungey sound that you guys have. Everyone has an opinion on that I guess. So what’s the kind of thing that we can expect on this tour then? Obviously we would hear all the hits and that kind of stuff but do you have anything special planned for the Aussie fans at all?
Donita: No we’re playing kind of our meat and potatoes L7 set. We’re not going to get too weird with it, we’re not going to play some of our more obscure stuff. We’re not going to go how Prince would play [laughs], he wouldn’t play his hits or whatever, we’re playing the stuff that people want to hear.
Andrew: So you are not the kind of band that likes to change the setlist from night to night or do you have a rigid set kind of thing that you play every night?
Donita: On these last few shows we did in Texas in the U.S., we switched up the set from last years set. When we play a festival, we only play an hour but when we play clubs or theatres, we play about an hour and a half or so. So we switched it up a little bit from last year and we may do that again before we hit Australia but I’m not sure.
Andrew: And is that quite difficult to pick out a setlist now because you have quite a few albums under your belt?
Donita: I mean we’re playing everything that people want to hear. I would say that one song we haven’t been playing is “Wargasm” which is off of “Bricks Are Heavy” but that’s really difficult for me to sing because it’s really low. So I think some people would like to hear those lyrics at this time because they still so relevant with the wars going on but it’s difficult for me to sing.
Andrew: When was the last time you were in Australia?
Donita: Our last time there I think was ’97, we were there I think in ’92 or ’93 and then again in ’95 for the Alternative Nation festival. I can’t remember the name of the festival we played in ’97 but we were there with Primus and Jesus Lizard and we were down there supporting the Tea Party once and we were down there touring with the Cosmic Psychos once. We’ve been down there a few times!
Andrew: How do you find the Aussie audiences? Do you find they are a little different to the American or European audiences?
Donita: It’s hard to tell as I haven’t been there in so long so I don’t know. I find that when you’re the headliner, audiences are pretty consistent. We’re the main act, we’re the band people want to see so they all go crazy which is great. I know Australians like rock which is always good!
Andrew: Were you surprised by the reaction of everyone worldwide on your return from such a long absence? Because it seemed like everyone was waiting for you guys to come back.
Donita: Yeah and I mean we’re really wanted in South America badly which is cool and we’re hoping to get down there too. I think everyone thought we would reunite except for us [laughs], that’s why it kinda took us so long because it just really wasn’t on our radar to do it. But now that we have, it’s been really fun and I think a very good decision on our part to do it. If we waited longer it would of been too late and I think the world wants to hear us right now and I think young women in particular and young queers want to hear us and see us. The grunge era had a lot of women playing in bands of all kinds and I’m not sure that is in the rock world very much right now where rock rock bands are crossing into mainstream and that was kind of a unique time. People are bringing their kids to see us, it’s crazy! They’re bringing them to the zoo to see the endangered leopards [laughs], that we are I guess.
Andrew: [laughs] What sparked the idea to come back? Who’s idea was it and was it something that you had been talking about for a while?
Donita: We were not talking about it at all. Our booking agent brought it to us and said, ‘Can I submit you to festivals?’ And I said we’re not a band as you know and our agent at the time said, ‘Well why don’t you think about it and I can submit you for next year’. And so I called everybody and some of us hadn’t spoken in about 16 years and I just said, ‘Hey what do you think? Give me an answer in 9 months, you have 9 months to think about it’, and they did and they all said yes. I think if I had asked them on the spot, a couple of them might have said no. You have to plant th seed and often times it’s a manager calling everybody up saying, ‘Well so and so will do it if you do it’, and there wasn’t any of that. We don’t have a label, we don’t have a big power machine behind us. It was just us who did it.
Andrew: Right so obviously it needed some time to go through rather than asking and immediately getting a response. Did you expect them to say yes? Or did you think this was never going to happen?
Donita: I did not know. I did not know if I was going to get hung up on, I didn’t know if I was going to get crying, I didn’t know if I was going to get laughter, I didn’t know if I was going to get an apology. I was completely in the dark about how everybody felt about each other and how everybody felt about me and the band as an entity because I seriously had not been in communication with anyone but Dee (drums) in many years.
Andrew: Well it’s good to have you back as you have had a big influence on many bands and artists and we are looking forward to seeing you in Australia. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing the song “Pretend We’re Dead” because I remember that song coming out in the early 90’s and just loved it. Thanx for your time today and we will see you in October.
Donita: Alright thanks so much!
L7 AUSTRALIAN TOUR 2016:
Thursday 6th October – PERTH, Capitol
Friday 7th October – ADELAIDE, The Gov
Tuesday 11th October – MELBOURNE, 170 Russell (SOLD OUT)
Wednesday 12th October – MELBOURNE, 170 Russell
Friday 14th October – BRISBANE, Eatons Hill
Saturday 15th October – SYDNEY, Metro Theatre
Tickets and tour details can be found at Metropolis Touring.