L7 brings DIY ethic and attitude to Saint Andrew's Hall
It's been a few years since powerfully, heavy rock band L7 reunited after at least a decade of silence.
The four-piece, an influential group for both the riot grrrl and grunge/punk scenes of the 1990s, is now a few tours into their latest go around, which kicked off in 2015. The reunion includes founding guitarists and vocalists Suzy Gardner and Donita Sparks, along with bassist Jennifer Finch and drummer Dee Plakas, who were in the band during their most popular recordings. (Recently Plakas had to take a break from the road after breaking her arm hours before leaving for Europe.)
The band — which may be best known to casual grunge-era music fans for their single "Pretend We're Dead" — is enjoying having more direct contact with fans without having to depend on record labels and journalists to connect.
Guitarist Sparks said not having a record label is "cool and a pain in the ass at the same time." The band is crowdfunding the release of a new record, asking fans to purchase the music in advance, and offering band merchandise and other goodies. In addition to funding the release of new material, the money raised will go to hire a publicist and other things that a record label would normally take care of.
"I think being on a label has a lot of benefits to it and being on your own doesn’t, however, we’re fortunate that we have a fan base ... so we can reach them directly, which is cutting out the middleman, which is the label," said Sparks. "I think journalists also, you know, they kind of write the story before they talk to you and no matter what you say, it's not going to get through to them. It's just the nature of the beast."
The band's first single since getting back together, "Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago," is fast-paced and anthemic, Sparks and Gardner first collaboration in nearly 18 years. Later, they released "I Came Back to B---h," which Sparks calls an "anti-greed" song.
The attitude-filled new music whet fans' appetites, and so did the 2017 release of a documentary about the band "L7: Pretend We're Dead" which featured vintage camcorder and concert footage of the band, plus interviews with Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, Shirley Manson of Garbage, Joan Jett, Exene Cervenka and others, which highlighted L7's influence.
L7 hits Saint Andrew's Hall on Tuesday, their second Detroit-area show since reuniting. They played a sold-out show at El Club in Detroit in the spring, which was part of a weekend-long celebration of filmmaker John Waters' birthday.
Since then the band has largely been in Europe, where Sparks said they, to the band's surprise, are placed on a lot of metal festivals instead of mainstream or hard rock line-ups. In true calling-out-the-bullcrap L7 fashion, Sparks isn't shy about addressing this.
"We, for some reason are not on the critic darling festival or even the alternative rock festivals, we are on metal festivals and some punk festivals. Why we’re not on the places where like the Foo Fighters play and where Queens of the Stone Age play and those festivals, we don’t know," she said, adding that because of their art-punk background and genre-bending catalog, they really should be playing with those types of bands.
"I just find it ironic that we’re playing all these metal festivals because those are the guys who are supposed to be the most misogynistic and they’re the ones who are welcoming us, so isn’t that strange? We’re doing a lot of head-scratching in the L7 camp these days."
She said they're also scratching their heads over their payment for playing these festivals.
"We come to town and we get the press," she said. "We also fill some female quotas and I don't know if we're being paid appropriately for that, so that's something that we need to sort of pow wow about in our camp."
While the women of L7 may not be feeling 100 percent support from booking agents and festival promoters, the love from fans is visible. Their Pledge Music campaign to pay for a new album has nearly reached its goal with just a few days of fundraising left to go.
The new studio album, their seventh, should be released in 2019.
7 p.m. Tuesday
Saint Andrew's Hall
431 E. Congress, Detroit