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)

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before