L7 is an American punk rock band founded in Los Angeles, California, first active from 1985 to 2001 and re-formed since 2014. Their longest standing line up consists of Suzi Gardner (vocals, guitar), Donita Sparks (vocals, guitar), Dee Plakas (drums, vocals) and Jennifer Finch (bass, vocals). L7 has released seven original studio albums and has toured widely in the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia, and South America. L7's song "Pretend We're Dead" became a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Modern Rock chart in 1992.
L7 in 2015
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
Due to their sound and image, L7 is often associated with the grunge movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s; L7 formed Rock for Choice in 1991 and have, at times, also been linked to Riot grrl, although they preceded and are outliers of both of these movements. The band's name, L7, derives from a slang term for square, and was deliberately chosen as a gender neutral sign. The documentary film about the band entitled L7: Pretend We're Dead premiered in 2016.
L7 were formed by Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner in 1985. Both artists were active in the Art punk community of Echo Park and had met in 1984 through mutual contacts at the cultural hub of the LA Weekly. Of their meeting and on hearing Gardner play a tape of her songs in progress, Sparks described it as "one of the happiest days of my life." A year prior, Gardner had performed backing vocals on the Black Flag song "Slip It In".
In 1991, the band formed Rock for Choice, a pro-choice women's rights group that was supported by other prominent bands of that era including Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, and Rage Against the Machine.
Their 1992 third album Bricks Are Heavy, produced by Butch Vig, was featured in Rolling Stone's May 1999 list of 'Essential recordings of the 1990s', and was their most successful release. Their 1992 single "Pretend We're Dead" spent 13 weeks on the US Alternative Songs chart, reached a high of No. 8 and made No 21 on the UK Singles Chart. In a July 1993 article for Spin which featured L7 on the magazine's cover, Renée Crist described L7 as "four of the funniest, meanest, strongest, coolest, most pissed-off women I know" and as "wild, rambunctious, spontaneous" with a stage show that "is a wash of buddy love, crowd working, and acrobatics".
L7's fourth album, Hungry for Stink, was released in July 1994. The band performed on the main stage of the 1994 Lollapalooza tour, which including The Smashing Pumpkins, the Beastie Boys, George Clinton, Nick Cave, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Breeders.
Finch left the band in 1996, during the recording of their next album. Sparks and Greta Brinkman played bass on the album The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum, after which Gail Greenwood – formerly of the band Belly – became the band's full-time bassist.
The album, Slap-Happy, was released on the band's own label Wax Tadpole Records in 1999. To promote the record, on July 17, 1999, the band had a plane fly over the crowd at the Lilith Fair at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, with a banner that read, "Bored? Tired? Try L7." The following day, an airplane towed a banner over the crowd at the Warped Tour at the Stone Pony lot in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The banner read "Warped needs more beaver...love, L7." Greenwood later left the band and was replaced by Janis Tanaka, formerly of the San Francisco band, Stone Fox. Tanaka later played bass for the singer Pink and Greenwood played with the singer Bif Naked.
By 2001, L7 were no longer touring. According to the band's website, "L7 are on an indefinite hiatus. We know that's vague, but that's just the way it is. The future of the band is a bit up in the air at the moment." L7 appeared to be defunct for all practical purposes. From 2007 - 2012, Sparks pursued another project, along with Plakas on drums, in their band Donita Sparks and The Stellar Moments. Finch formed several projects including OtherStarPeople and her punk rock group The Shocker.
In 2012, Sparks started a Facebook page for the band, posting videos and archival images of L7, where their fan base quickly began to regroup.
Reunion 2014 - presentEdit
On December 10, 2014, L7 announced, on their official Facebook page, that they were reuniting, featuring Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, Jennifer Finch and Demetra Plakas. As part of the reunion, the band revamped their website and included a mailing list for fans.
The reunited band kicked off a European tour at Rock am Ring in Germany on June 6, 2015, followed by North American 2015 dates at Riot Fest in both Denver  and Chicago, and the Fun, Fun, Fun Festival in Austin, Texas.
The documentary film L7: Pretend We're Dead, directed by Sarah Price, premiered in Los Angeles in late 2016. The film, largely funded through Kickstarter, features original footage and interviews with the band members and eyewitness accounts of their development from Lydia Lunch, Shirley Manson, Krist Novoselic and Butch Vig. The film was nominated for a VO5 NME Award for Best Music Film.
The band also continued to tour heavily in 2016 and 2017.
January 13, 2017, L7 released Detroit (Live) on record label Easy Action. The live album was originally recorded at a concert in the Motor city on Setember 1, 1990 and coincided with the group's initial release of Smell the Magic on Sub Pop records. Their performance at the established punk venue Clutch Cargo’s in Detroit preserves the raw, kinetic energy of the era". L7 released Fast and Frightening (a collections of rarities, covers, and live performances) as a double album in 2016 with critic Robert Christgau granting it an A minus in a 2018 review.
On September 29, 2017, L7 released its first new song in 18 years, "Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago". The title is a reference to the Mar-a-Lago resort owned by Donald J. Trump. A follow up single, "I Came Back to Bitch", was released in February 2018.
L7 released the first single from their first album in 20 years, "Burn Baby", on February 28, 2019. The album, entitled Scatter the Rats, was released on May 3, 2019, through Joan Jett's record label Blackheart Records. The album received generally favorable reviews.
The band appeared in John Waters' film Serial Mom in 1994 under the name "Camel Lips". Their songs have been featured on the soundtracks of numerous films, including Natural Born Killers, Point of No Return and Pet Sematary Two. "Shirley" appears on the "Foxfire" soundtrack. "Shove" appears on the soundtrack of the movie Tank Girl, and "Pretend We're Dead" appears on the soundtrack of the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and can be heard on an in-game radio station and on the music video game Rock Band 2. "Andres" is available as downloadable content for the Rock Band series. The band was also the subject of a concert film made by former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and a rockumentary Not Bad for a Girl. Finch and Plakas performed several times with Japanese artist hide, in 1994.
L7 appeared on TV shows such as Late Night with David Letterman, The Jon Stewart Show, The Word, 120 Minutes, and Alternative Nation. The band played at the Reading Festival in 1992, the Glastonbury Festival in 1994, Lollapalloza in 1994, Finsbury Park in 1997, and on the Warped Tour in 1995 and 1999. They toured with and opened for artists including Bad Religion in 1988, GWAR in 1989, Nirvana and Alice in Chains in 1990, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, Rollins Band and Beastie Boys in 1992, Pearl Jam in 1994 and Marilyn Manson and The Offspring in 1997. In 1999 they opened for Ministry.
The band, with Finch returning on bass, appeared in the 1999 cult video Decoupage: Return of the Goddess, performing the Sonny and Cher song "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" with actress Karen Black, and being interviewed individually by Decoupage hostess Summer Caprice.
The video for "Pretend We're Dead" was featured on an episode of Beavis and Butthead. Also in Beavis and Butthead (Season 3 Episode 1- "The Comedians") it was stated that "one chick from L7 could kick all their asses combined" while discussing who would win in a battle between Tiffany, Wilson Phillips, and Debbie Gibson.
During their performance at the 1992 Reading Festival, the band experienced "technical difficulties with their audio equipment" and were forced to stall their set. The rowdy crowd grew restless and began throwing mud onto the stage, repeatedly pelting the band. In protest, lead vocalist Donita Sparks removed her tampon on-stage and threw it into the crowd yelling "Eat my used tampon, fuckers!" Sparks has remained unapologetic about the incident, and the tampon has been referred to as one of the "most unsanitary pieces of rock memorabilia in history."
Later in 1992, Sparks caused controversy in the United Kingdom when she dropped her pants on live television, appearing nude from the waist down, during an L7 performance on the late night UK program The Word. Of the incident, Sparks later commented that the Word show L7 appeared on had a number of chaotic aspects already underway including "a men’s bum contest" and a "hidden camera in Oliver Reed’s dressing room, showing him intoxicated with his shirt off, which was really fucked up. So I added my contribution to this craziness."
In 2000, the band raffled a one-night stand with Demetra Plakas at a London gig. The winner got to spend the night on the tour bus. Rolling Stone reported that Plakas and her bandmates decided “We’re not being hypocritical about rock & roll anymore. Rock & roll is prostitution.”
In 2017, Metal Injection ranked L7 at number 7 on their list of "10 Heaviest Grunge Bands".
- Suzi Gardner – guitar, vocals (1985–2001, 2014–present)
- Donita Sparks – vocals, guitar (1985–2001, 2014–present)
- Jennifer Finch – bass, vocals (1985–1996, 2014–present)
- Demetra Plakas – drums, vocals (1990–2001, 2014–present)
- Janis Tanaka – bass (1999–2001)
- Greta Brinkman – bass (1996–1997)
- Gail Greenwood – bass, vocals (1997–1999)
- Anne Anderson – drums (1985–1989)
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