L7 with Joan Jett in September 1992.
(Left to right): Gardner, Sparks, Jett, Finch, and Plakas
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
L7 is an American punk rock band from Los Angeles, California, first active from 1985 to 2001 and reformed since 2014. Due to their sound and image, they are often associated with the grunge movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s,.
L7 were formed by Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner in 1985. A year prior, Gardner had performed backing vocals on the Black Flag song "Slip It In". The punk rock duo were joined by Jennifer Finch on bass guitar and Roy Koutsky on drums. Koutsky left shortly after and was briefly replaced by Anne Anderson in 1988. After Anderson quit the band, Demetra "Dee" Plakas became the permanent drummer.
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 Billboard Alternative Songs chart, reached a high of No. 8 and made No 21 on the UK Singles Chart.
L7's fourth album, Hungry for Stink, was released in July 1994 and coincided with the Lollapalooza tour, on which they shared the stage with other successful acts of the era including The Smashing Pumpkins and The Breeders.
Finch left the band 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. In 1998, the pseudo-documentary "L7: The Beauty Process" was released, directed by Krist Novoselic.
The band's most recent album, Slap-Happy, was released in 1999 and did not chart on either side of the Atlantic. To promote the record, on July 17, 1999, a plane flew 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, with Sparks pursuing her own solo career, along with Plakas and two other guitarists, in the band "Donita Sparks and The Stellar Moments". Finch was working in a punk rock group, The Shocker. During this time, Donita Sparks was working on a documentary about the band, with a rumoured 2014 release date.
On December 10, 2014, L7 announced, on their official Facebook page, that they would be 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.
A documentary was made about the band, largely funded through Kickstarter. The documentary film L7: Pretend We're Dead, directed by Sarah Price, was first shown in the Los Angeles area in late 2016. The band also continued to tour heavily in 2016 and 2017.
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.
April 2018 saw the band announce their plans to record a seventh studio album via PledgeMusic scheduled for release in 2019.
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. 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."
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 UK variety program The Word.
In 1999, the band raffled a one-night stand with Demetra Plakas at a London gig.
- Donita Sparks – vocals, guitar (1985–2001, 2014–present)
- Suzi Gardner – guitar, vocals (1985–2001, 2014–present)
- Jennifer Finch – bass, vocals (1986–1996, 2014–present)
- Demetra Plakas – drums, vocals (1988–2001, 2014–present)
- Janis Tanaka – bass (1999–2001)
- Greta Brinkman – bass (1996)
- Gail Greenwood – bass, vocals (1996–1999)
- Roy Koutsky – drums (1987–1988)
- Anne Anderson – drums (1988)
- L7 (1988)
- Smell the Magic (1990)
- Bricks Are Heavy (1992)
- Hungry for Stink (1994)
- The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum (1997)
- Slap-Happy (1999)
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