Star Scene: Donita Sparks of L7

Donita Sparks regards her scene as “pretty square”. The co-founder of punk rock trailblazing group, L7 explains: “I’m in my head a lot. I live in a great neighbourhood in Los Angeles – so I just kind of, I’m a voyeur a lot; I just kind of looking at things – looking at people. I’m a cat lady. Um, you know, I don’t go to rock clubs very much, I don’t go to bars very much – I’ll drink; but that’s you know usually at dinner or something. You know I’m just kind of – I’m an adult. You know I’m kind of a shut-in a little bit. I don’t go out too much, you know.”

Being reserved seems to defy the L7 sound but Sparks states that’s why being on stage is a necessity and always been “really great” for her. She continues: “It’s always been really great for me to be in a band because I think down to my core I’m actually kind of a loner. And given the choice I would spend very much of my time alone. But because I am in a band, I must be around other people – so um, that’s probably very very healthy for me.”

Similar to her scene however, the name L7 came about when Sparks thought of the “slang term from the Bebop era in the United States referring to someone who’s a square – someone’s who is unhip. So L and a 7 make a square … it was also non-gender specific.”

Starting off in 1985, L7 were definitely not square – but neither were they the norm. Sparks reminisces: “We weren’t really in the music industry. Suzi [Gardner] and I were from the art punk scene in Los Angeles and there was a lot of arty new wave going on. And I think Suzi and I were a little bit more rebellious in a way, and us doing hard rock as punk rockers – slightly even tongue and cheek was very fun for us you know. I mean it’s weird, anything cool is like you’re serious about it but you’re also not so serious about it. So that’s kind of how we felt about the music. We got a kick out of what we were doing. We weren’t big dreamers of being a big band. We wanted to have a cool band you know.”

Sparks, along with her L7 bandmates, Suzi Gardner, Jennifer Finch, and Dee Plakas, not only had a cool band, they became punk rock pioneers and heroes, and were even, unbeknownst to Sparks, heralded as one of Kurt Cobain’s favourite groups. “I don’t know if I ever heard that,” Sparks laughs. “Is that true? Well, that is great. I think that they were probably my favourite band of that era. You know I would say them and … ah, yeah they were probably my favourite.”

L7’s fanbase is what urged the band to reform. “It’s been really fun. A lot of travelling, a lot of ah laughter. A lot of rocking. It’s been all good.” Sparks continues: “I know that judging from our Facebook breakdown, we have a lot of fans in Australia. It’s like the United States, Brazil, Argentina – like South America is ape shit for L7. We really got to get our arses down there. And then it’s Australia – so it’s kind of funny like you guys are like ah you guys are right up there with our fan base, which is great. The rock scene is very strong and passionate in Australia, which is great. Australia likes a lot of meat and potato rock and roll. A lot of straight ahead cool shit. You don’t need a lot of side dishes – you know. You just want to rock!” Straight out rock and roll is what fans can expect on this tour. [pullquote]Now they are coming from the back. This is the new thing that we’ve noticed like – like you know, crowd surfers are coming from the back of the venues. And taking people from behind so if you are on your cell phone, at an L7 show, you’d going to be fucked.[/pullquote] “We don’t have projections or anything like that going on,” Sparks says. “We have a banner and whatever, whatever light show the club gives us. So there’s not a lot of bells and whistles in that sense. But we’ve never been a band that relied on that stuff anyway. We never had the money to have that sort of bell and whistles. It’s going to be you know, we bring the energy and the crowd brings the energy. So there’s not much distraction going on. There’s not a lot of cell phones going on, which, I’ve been told, is highly unusual for rock shows these days. I think people are just kind of very focused on what’s in front of them – which is super cool.” Sparks continues: “If you’re filming it someone’s going to land on your head. And they’re not diving from the stage. So I would highly recommend taking a couple of snapshots and then putting it away, because you are going to get a boot in the face unfortunately.”

Sparks loves the energy from the crowd and playing her, and their, favourites. “I like playing ‘Fuel my fire’ a lot, I like playing ‘Monster’ a lot and I like playing ‘One More Thing’ a lot. I like playing ‘Shitlist’ too – that’s fun. Because people really get into it, people really scream that one. It’s like, they’ve been waiting 24 years to scream ‘Shitlist’ at the top of their lungs, and flip off and like you know it’s just like cathartic hilarious moment when we do ‘Shitlist’. So that’s really fun to watch.”

Catch L7 on their Australian tour.

L7 Tour Dates

Thurs 6th October – PERTH 

Fri 7th October – ADELAIDE
The Gov

Tues 11th October – MELBOURNE
170 Russell – SOLD OUT!

Wed 12th October – MELBOURNE
170 Russell (With Cosmic Psychos)

Fri 14th October- BRISBANE
Eatons Hill Hotel

Sat 15th October – SYDNEY
Metro Theatre

About Mary Boukouvalas 1612 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos,,,, She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.