L7 The X-Press Interview

Back in Feburary, legendary LA grunge-punks L7 announced their first new album in 20 years. Out this week, Scatter the Rats is out on Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records and is a welcome return from a band that led the feminist punk charge long before its time. While they’ve been pretending not to be dead since 2015 in the live arena, having them back with their first full length LP since 1999’s Slap-Happy is sure to have a new generation smelling the magic. ELLEN DIMITRIOU gets the lowdown from L7’s incendiary frontwoman Donita Sparks.

How have you and the band been in the last few weeks leading up to the new release?

We’re feeling great. We’ve been very busy. We’ve got a record release party next Friday night and then we go on tour.

So, Scatter the Rats – love the title – tell me a bit about the record and how is this different from previous releases?

We didn’t feel so much pressure, I guess, with this release. I think in the past, we were always hopeful that we’d get a hit or get on the radio and for this one we’re like, whatever, we’re putting this out for our fans and for ourselves. So, we haven’t had much outside pressure.

There’s a lot of buzz about the 20 year gap between this new release and the last time you recorded a full-length album – what brought on this resurgence?

Well, we’ve really been enjoying playing shows. Last year we thought, hey lets put out a couple of singles, which we did, which was Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago and I Came Back to Bitch, we enjoyed that process and felt like we still had something to say. So, we took a bigger bite, and we decided to make a full-length album and we also feel that if we want to continue to play shows, we should stay relevant and put out new material.

I’m not sure if you went on into writing the album with a theme in mind at all but looking back on the lyrics do you notice a thread at all running through it?

No, we don’t go with threads. We write what we feel. I’m probably the majority writer in the band, but Suzi and Jennifer also write. So, we’re all different people coming from different lyrical inspiration. It’s never really a concept album, or “hey, let’s write a bunch of songs about bleh…”. It’s just what we bring in. It’s not contrived.

You worked with two producers – Norm Block and the legendary Nick Launay – how did working with them affect the album?

Well, Norm Block has a studio in his house, so we were working out of his house and that was kind of in my neighbourhood and Suzi’s neighbourhood. So that was really, a cool experience – there was a dog – you know, a studio dog, it was just very homey and comfortable – not posh – but just homey. Then, with Nick Launay, we went into a classic old studio, called Sunset Sound in Hollywood, and that’s where The Doors recorded, and that’s where The Rolling Stones finished up Exile on Main St. so it was just like this weighty, cool, old-school studio. So we were in there for a couple of days as well – we got a good mixture on this record.

You mentioned before about the songwriting process, did the creative process feel different from other albums or was it business as usual?

I think that this album is similar to (1992 breakthrough record) Bricks Are Heavy in the sense that we were all bringing in songs of our own. There are only two songs that Suzi and I collaborated on – Fighting the Crave and Proto Prototype. Other than that, everything else is written by just one of us, and we wrote in the studio too and that was different.

What are your audiences looking like today? Have you noticed younger generations of fans discovering your music and coming to shows?

Oh yeah, we’ve got the older fans and we’ve got the younger fans. There’s a really cool mixture, the older ones are usually in the back and the younger ones are a bit up front, but it’s cool – there’s not as much stage diving, as there was – which I think is a good thing because that got pretty crazy and dangerous, so now we usually have a barricade and it’s difficult to get up on stage, so that’s probably better for everybody.

Aside from this album, what’s your favourite album L7 has released?

Oh! I don’t have a favourite album– I like all of them. They all remind me of different times in my life, they all remind me of different times of the band’s life and what was going on, so I like all of them.

Finally, what can we expect from you live when you tour this record and is there an Australian tour in the works?

Well, we hope we’re going to get over to Australia in 2020 – which sounds so insane, so strange, 2020 – but yeah, we’re hoping to get over there. We’re adding some of these new songs into our sets and we’ve got two videos out right now for the new record, we’ve got Burn Baby and Stadium West and we’re gonna do another video, as well, so it’s exciting and it’s sort of on our own timeline. Blackheart’s been amazing. We’re in a good partnership with Blackheart Records and we’re feeling really good.