L7's Donita Sparks Talks Women In Rock And The Band's New Album, 'Scatter The Rats' | Connecticut Public Radio
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L7's Donita Sparks Talks Women In Rock And The Band's New Album, 'Scatter The Rats'

May 5, 2019
Originally published on May 5, 2019 2:14 pm
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF L7 SONG, "PRETEND WE'RE DEAD")

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Around 1985, Donita Sparks met Suzi Gardner, and they had an idea. They both lived in Echo Park, Los Angeles. And they both played the guitar - something they saw few women do back then. They also wanted to write and sing - another unusual thing for that time - so they started a band, a punk rock band.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRETEND WE'RE DEAD")

L7: (Singing) When we pretend that we're dead. Pretend we're dead. When we pretend that we're dead. Pretend we're dead. They can't hear a word we've said. Pretend we're dead. When we pretend that we're dead.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Along with Jennifer Finch and Dee Plakas, they called themselves L7. Here is Sparks.

DONITA SPARKS: I personally did not want anybody to be able to tell if we were male or female so we just thought L7 was kind of mysterious, ambiguous.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: L7 took off, and Sparks became one of the greatest female electric guitar players. Her instrument, the Flying V.

SPARKS: A Flying V - a lot of guitars are very curvy, kind of like the silhouette of a va-va-voom woman. And a Flying V is very angular. And it looks like you're playing something from the Jetsons.

(SOUNDBITE OF L7 SONG, “BURN BABY”)

SPARKS: When we first started out, people really didn't know how to react. There were a lot of just, like, staring at us, like, wow, what are these people doing? Are they - is this irony? Is this real? You know, they look so rough around the edges. But as time went on, people were just going completely wild. And a lot of crowd participation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: America, get ready for the most dangerous women in the country. They are L7.

(CHEERING)

SPARKS: When we finally got roadies who were just really our friends, they would be fending off the audience. There was no stage. We would just be playing on the floor where the audience was. And it was just mayhem. And, you know, we would really have to stand firm because our microphones were always getting knocked around, and our pedals were getting stomped on and turned off and unplugged. It was mayhem, but it was really fun mayhem.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: There are a lot of women in the audience tonight.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: So when you're doing your thing in the pit, please be considerate of them. That's all we're asking, OK?

SPARKS: Oh, we would stop the shows all the time, and we would have people ejected. And there's one live tape of me going like, OK, the bloody guy's got to go. You know, security, the bloody guy's got to go.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SPARKS: Goodnight.

In 2001, the wheels fell off. We had no money. Grunge was waning. Our popularity was waning. There were new bands coming up. We got rid of our manager. Our record label dropped us. You know, it's that thing that happens towards the end of a band's life. But I was calling it an indefinite hiatus because I didn't quite think that we were maybe finished yet.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SPARKS: I was checking out stuff online about L7, and there was nothing. It was almost like we didn't exist. And yet I saw these Facebook pages start to pop up with fans posting content. And I was kind of like, well, I've got better stuff than that. I've got the better shot from that. I've got the outtake. So I started archiving my stuff and posting it onto our own Facebook page, not thinking that we were going to be a band again but just, like, honoring our 20-year-old selves. And then it just blew up. And we were seeing all kinds of comments. First, it was just reunite, reunite. And then, you know, people missed us. People missed our voice. People missed bands being feisty. We didn't know we had all these fans still that wanted us (laughter) - wanted us to come back.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UPPIN' THE ICE")

L7: (Singing, unintelligible) on the rocks. (Unintelligible) on the rocks.

SPARKS: Well, in 2015, we decided to do some shows, and we thought, you know, we can't wait too long. If we're going to do this, are we all interested in this? I put it out to everybody, and everybody came back and said, yeah, let's do it. We had been a bit estranged. And now here we are putting out a new record. And it's called "Scatter The Rats."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SCATTER THE RATS")

L7: (Singing) Scatter the rats. Scatter the rats.

SPARKS: Coming back and doing these shows has felt like a victory lap in a way because it ended so crappy and with bad feelings towards each other and stuff. And now it feels like, OK, when we're ready to end this, we'll end it together. I mean, hopefully, that's the way it will be. But connecting with our fans again who are just so lovely and so crazy and such freak-a-zoids (ph) and hearing their stories about how we kind of helped them get through being teenagers, it's amazing. It's like - it's pinch-me moments every night. So right now it's just, like, being grateful for every time we walk out on stage, you know, and that we're healthy enough to do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF L7 SONG, “STADIUM WEST”)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Donita Sparks of the band L7. Their latest album is "Scatter The Rats."

(SOUNDBITE OF L7 SONG, “STADIUM WEST”) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.