L7 for me with Mudhoney were the two most important bands to come out of the grunge movement, and wrote one of the five best songs ever in Shitlist. After a break the group reformed in 2014 and last year released Scatter the Rats, up there with their best work, full of energy, venom and humour. Anyone thats seen em live or read any of their interviews know these girls are hilarious and they one day must do a podcast. Guitarist, singer and main songwriter Dontia Sparks was kind enough to ave a chat to me from her LA homebase back in March
Munster: L7's newish LP Scatter the Rats came out last year, the first L7 LP to come out in almost two decades. You reformed in 2014, what made you decided to record at this stage?
Dontia: Well we were getting along as a band and starting to jam on the new stuff at soundcheck, we wanted to keep touring but not be an oldies act so we decided to record an LP. We released a few singles two years before the LP and we liked the outcome of that so we decided to make a full length LP.
Munster : I remember Deniz Tek from Radio Birdman was asked why they recorded Zeno Beach, and he said for a similar reason. He said if you just keep playing the first two LPs over and over live you just end up being a tribute band to yourself. Do you agree with that?
Dontia: Yeah. I mean, after the reunion it was like, "Now what?" I think you find when bands just do what they did 30 years ago... If the Sex Pistols toured every year on that one album I would go see them every time because I am a big fan of the Sex Pistols. I suppose it depends on your level of passion as a fan. But I think it was cool for us as a band to make new music.
Munster: Where did the title Scatter the Rats come from?
Dontia: We recorded in a house and there where indeed rats in the house, where the amps where, and when we getting were lazy, our producer would say come on you gotta scatter those rats on the basement. I wrote it down, 'Scatter the Rats' as I thought it would be a good song, because we have so many rats in government, we need to scatter a lot of rats. We liked the songs title, then it became a good album title.
Munster: Garbage Truck is my favourite track on the LP, love the line "My love's like a garbage truck. Get wasted and I’ll pick you up." Did you write that song?
Dontia: Jenifer wrote that. And that’s the only track she got in.
Munster: With the songwriting do you work as a band or do you tend to work alone?
Dontia: I’m usually in a room by myself. Suzi and I sometimes get together. Sometimes we’ll jam something out. Scatter the Rats we wrote together. I usually, as a songwriter I’m a bit of an introvert so I like to write alone, or with Suzi my long term partner in the band
Munster: For this LP you used crowdfunding the get the record out, L7 was on Sub Pop, then went to a major label now using crowding, it's very DIY and in a way going back to your indie roots. What was the experience like?
Dontia: Well our experience was terrible because they went bankrupt and they owe us $100,000. (laughs) So that did not go well, and our fans got ripped off, Black Heart Records came through with the manufacturing and distribution, but we took the cost with the mail orders. That cost us $30,000. Yeah, it was terrible experience. It was a British company so we can’t sue them they ended up getting away with murder in a financial sense. There bankruptcy laws are different than ours in the states. But we made a record and that’s that. It’s a shame we and our fans got screwed. But it wasn’t just us everyone did that used that platform. Failure, the band, wants to sue, but there’s nothing to do. Anyway it’s a bad subject let’s move on.
Munster: Yes let's move on, but still good onya for looking after the fans and pushing on and releasing it.
Dontia: Yeah exactly.
Munster: You mentioned before, you are a Sex Pistols fan. What were your memories of that Punk panel you were on, where John Lyndon and Marky Ramone went at it verbally?
Dontia: It was incredibly entertaining I love that shit. When shit goes crazy it was one of the most entertaining nights I ever had. Was so unpredictable and scary and I didn’t know where it was gonna go. Was crazy fun. I’m glad I got to experience that.
Munster: Did it continue backstage?
Dontia: After that happened everyone left. I had to leave for a friends birthday party so I didn’t see the aftermath. It was pretty crazy
Munster: You guys of course have a connection with the Cosmic Psychos. How did you discover them? Was that via Sub Pop?
Dontia: Yes. Sub Pop sent us there record. I had a stack of records sent from the label and I found the Cosmic Psychos record. Then I was listening to college radio and they played this song I liked and they said that was the Cosmic Psychos, and I went and played the record and I loved it. It became one of my favourite records ever. And I put so many people onto that record. When we go on the road I dubbed it down to a tape and listened to it all the time. I turned our roadies and bandmates and other bands from other cities onto them. That tape got copied many times. I feel very good I was an ambassador on behalf of the Psychos here in the states.
Munster: There’s a saying, 'things are rosier the second time around'. Is that the case with L7 and the reformation?
Dontia: I think we appreciate what it is we do. When you’re caught up the first time its mind blowing and great but you take it for granted. I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m thankful everyday L7 gets to do something cool and I get to create and there’s an audience for it. So yeah, it is for me, and also a little more understanding of each other’s quirks. Some personality disorders we didn’t understand the first time we understand now. So there’s more tolerance these days and the personal space we need to recharge.
Munster: I saw you guys last time you came to Melbourne and I loved the banter you guys had. I thought, 'fuck these guys need to do a podcast.'
Dontia: (laughs) Our rehearsals are pretty fucking funny. We’re all...we can be sharp witted and we riff off each other. So not a bad idea for us to have a podcast. When you share that much history, good and bad, there’s plenty to joke about.
Munster: And finally what’s your favourite Fall LP?
Dontia: Favourite album by the Fall?
Dontia: The UK band?
Dontia: Oh. I don’t own any Fall LPs. I am a fan and saw them in the 80s, so I’ll say the first album. You know what I have…(phones goes dead). (UK accent) Mr Pharmacists?
Munster: Yes. They did a cover of that
Dontia: Ok that’s my favourite song. We’ll leave it at that. I’m not a musicologist nor do I claim to be. But the guy that passed away, I did met his ex-wife Brix. She was at our London show and she was lovely and super cool. Any album she was on is my answer.