ART / Show People: California screaming: L7

THERE'S a song called 'Shirley' on the new L7 album. It's an exhilarating drag-racing anthem in the spirit of Amelia Erhart, wherein the California quartet's characteristic scrawny vocals and brutal guitar riffs vie for supremacy with screaming engines and mangled dialogue from the film Heart Like a Wheel. 'What's a beautiful girl like you doing racing in a place like this?' a sports-track announcer asks the song's heroine with time-honoured condescension. Quick as a tyre blowout, the answer comes back: 'Winning.'

Summer soundtracks don't come more perfect than this. At its most infectious, L7's snarling, high-octane buzz-pop contains an echo of the Beach Boys - West-Coast lifestyle poets of an earlier generation. The band themselves are not so sure. 'I've always been a big surf-music fan,' admits singer and guitarist Donita Sparks, 'so that influence will be there in a lot of my songs or arrangements, but as far as comparing us to the Beach Boys goes . . .' Guitarist and singer Suzi Gardner joins in: 'That's stretchin' it.' But what about the harmonies on L7's first hit single, 1992's irresistible fin-de-siecle party mantra, 'Pretend We're Dead'? 'There was a melody,' Donita says firmly, 'but there were no harmonies.' Bassist Jennifer Finch adds: 'We couldn't harmonise our way out of a paper bag.'

The fourth member of the band, drummer Dee Plakas, is not present at this hotel breakfast table, indisposed after over-exerting herself at teen-idol label-mates E17's end-of-tour show ('Oh Donita,' says Jennifer ecstatically, 'no one there was taller than I'), but three-quarters of L7 in one place at the same time is quite enough to be going on with. Their almost Beatle-like delight in picking up each other's sentences and running with them is liable to leave interlocutors grasping at air as the band cross the touchline.

Do they see themselves as a group of individuals or as an organic whole? 'Both,' says Jennifer. 'We're a four-headed walking neurosis,' Suzi adds, cheerfully. The band's new album, Hungry for Stink (the title derives from an advert in Bear, a magazine L7 say is 'for and about big hairy men', and for which Jennifer sports a promotional baseball cap), strikes a similarly intriguing balance between lightness of heart and seriousness of subject.

The depressive exorcism of 'Questioning My Sanity', the visceral 'Baggage', and the authentically frightening 'Can I Run', which deals with a woman's feelings on being followed in the street, are about as heavy - in the musical as well as the encounter-group sense - as rock music gets, but L7 never lose their pop sensibility. Donita's voice boldly claims the middle ground between John Lydon and Stevie Nicks, and on the delightful 'Riding with a Movie Star' the band's hyperactive Ramone-like thrum is fleshed out with a jaunty xylophone.

The apparently seamless blend of punk and metal pleasures which L7 have now achieved did not happen overnight. 'When we started out in the mid-Eighties,' Jennifer remembers, 'the hardcore punk scene which inspired us was dying out, and speed and grindcore metal were coming up, but we couldn't play that stuff because we weren't good enough musicians.' Do they ever tire of the psychotically gruelling tour schedule upon which their success has been built? 'You miss your life,' Suzi admits. 'We tend to get off the road and write lots of songs about travel-size products,' Donita adds, breaking hoarsely into song: ' 'If I see another miniature soap I'm going to strangle my dog' .'

In response to the stereotyping that goes with being four women making a racket, L7 have taken to calling themselves 'a rock band from LA'. All but one (Jennifer) originate from elsewhere, but hearing Suzi recall her arrival in America's dream factory - 'I got off the bus on Hollywood Boulevard and there was all this trash on Marilyn's star. I was going to ring my friends and tell them 'Don't come here if you want to keep your dream' ' - it is hard to deny their adopted city some credit for L7's unique pile-up of hedonism and moral energy, openness and cynicism.

They have even made their mark on LA's primary industry, making an unforgettable big-screen debut in John Waters's new film Serial Mom, as the awesome crotch-bulge rockers Camel Lips. L7's sterling cameo efforts were rewarded by gifts from the star, Kathleen Turner: miniature pink Swiss Army knives inscribed 'Thanks, Kathleen'. 'She's never given those to anyone else ever,' Jennifer says. 'That's what we like to think, anyway.'

'Hungry for Stink' is out tomorrow (Slash/London, CD/LP/tape).

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent