“She’s got so much clit she don’t need no balls.”- Fast and Frightening (Smell the Magic, 1990)
There are probably better L7 lyrics, granted. But this is the line that made me laugh my head off as a teenager, and gave me something to sneer at squirming boys ever since. It perfectly encapsulates why I love them so much, and have listened to them probably more than any other band since I discovered them.
As a kid, I devoured the weekly music press. Those formative years where you really worship bands. Having no ‘cool older siblings,’ the rock mags were my bible and they taught me a lot. But while I was alerted to the merits of Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Tad and other grunge heroes, L7 were conspicuously absent from the feature pages. This still baffles me. The only reason I researched L7 further was because they kept on topping the ‘most shocking/gross/gnarly moments in rock history’ for the Reading Festival tampon-flinging incident or for Donita’s infamous butt naked TV performances. This endeared me to them, but I had no idea I was about to discover one of my favourite bands musically. What I found was a fearsomely badass grunge-punk rock-heavy metal band that I grew to love more than all the others put together. I started at the beginning. Smell the Magic landed on my stereo, and it didn’t leave it for weeks. I now have a signed vinyl copy framed on my wall. I know, unashamed fan girl.
Harriet, with her dog Iggy Pup and right, the cover artwork for ‘Smell The Magic’ Photo: Kate Beard
L7 are without a doubt one of the most important bands to me personally and in some respects the most inspiring. I can’t put on a record or watch an old YouTube video without feeling a burning surge of FUCK YEAH. Of course, many bands do this to me, but these were women. All of them. They didn’t so much saunter into the sausage party with hot dog buns and condiments, as storm the scene sinking razor sharp teeth into any wieners who stood in their way, infecting the atmosphere with raging lady testosterone. They were fiercer and sleazier than any all-male band I had heard before them.
My coming of age was spent being dragged kicking and screaming through the hideous Spice Girls generation of seriously misguided attempts at ‘girl power’. L7 came, shrieking maniacally on their broomsticks, to rescue me. They were the girl gang I never had in high school and they were something of a gateway drug. Through them, I discovered many more awesome women in heavy music to adore. Through them I found Babes in Toyland, Lunachicks, Hole, Bikini Kill and the whole Riot Grrrl movement that followed. Even earlier influences like The Runaways, Girlschool and Birtha came to me later, but L7 remained my favourites.
L7 had the kind of reckless, anarchic, filth-embracing attitude many of the glorious women I know would take a healthy step back from. Indeed, Sub Pob’s receptionist Megan Jasper mentions in Mark Yarm’s Grunge History book, Everybody Loves Our Town, a sort of ‘stink list’ employees had, where they would rate their grunge acts on how grossly they reeked out the office when they visited. I read with a sense of pride that L7 and Babes in Toyland graced the top of the chart soaring above all the stinky boys (Nirvana following closely behind). These were four ladies who truly did not give a fuck. Given that being drrrty, rancid and stinky is one of the most subversive acts a woman can commit in our patriarchal society, I took this as proof. L7 weren’t in it to sit pretty, they were in it to destroy and disgust. This was real punk rock, and it wasn’t lost on John Waters, my favourite movie director, who recruited them for his movie Serial Mom to play fictional band, Camel Lips. It speaks volumes to me that the Pope of Trash himself adopted them as songbirds for his philosophy.
Donita’s husband discovered me gushing about L7 in an interview and got in touch with me. He contacted me through social media and we’ve been in touch ever since. I’ve exchanged letters and parcels with Donita and was more than a little dazzled when she said she dug my band. At some point along the line, I was sent a picture of her wearing a Black Moth T-shirt to rehearsal with her other band. This was absolutely massive for me!
Of course, at this point in time, there was no hope of a reunion. Inconceivable, the idea of a full, original line-up. Then Donita started putting together the documentary, which I believe got them all talking again. We talked flippantly about how great it would be to do an L7/Black Moth show, but I didn’t dare hope they would end up asking us to support them on their UK dates. I knew the competition would be huge, but Donita is a woman of her word. We’re doing it. The London show – Electric Ballroom, June 16 – sold out in under two hours and the response has been enormous. Being on the bill is a lifelong ambition that I never thought I would be able to fulfil; to play with your heroes is an honour and a thrill.