LA-founded hard-rock hellraisers, L7 perform their landmark album Bricks are Heavy in full which is packed full of awesomeness including Pretend We’re Dead, Shitlist, Wargasm, Everglade, Slide and more. L7 debut album came through Epitaph, run by Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz. Their second album Smell the Magic came through Sub Pop. For their third album, Bricks Are Heavy, L7 signed with Slash, knowing that the label had international distribution beyond the US and Europe and could introduce the band to Asia and Australia.
Bricks are Heavy was produced by Nevermind producer Butch Vig and catapulted the band into the mainstream with the timeless Pretend We’re Dead – originally written by Donita Sparks as a break-up song but becoming an anthem for the grunge generation. Donita talks to Hi Fi Way about that album and their upcoming December tour.
After all the challenges of the last couple of years, it must be great to be coming back to Australia for another big tour?
Oh yeah. We’re super excited. We had to cancel a couple tours due to the pandemic and it just seems like there’s a lot of bottled up energy going on in Australia for L7. We’ve got bottled up energy too, to play for you guys. So, we’re excited. Stoked.
Have you have you been stoked with the level of interest and support for the tour so far?
Yeah. Isn’t that wild? We’re so happy. That’s really great. It probably has a lot to do with us playing Bricks Are Heavy back to back, our biggest record probably it had the most exposure of any of our records in Australia, actually worldwide. I’m getting the sense that you guys like the record down there, so that’s probably a lot of the excitement as well. My biggest disappointment is that we’re not playing any all-ages venues, we like to do that. It appears that the logistics for that are very difficult and the insurance as well. There’s a lot of red tape in the US about all ages venues too, but in Australia it seems particularly challenging. So that’s a bummer that we’re not playing for the teens because we love the teenagers and that’s when rock music is the most important to you. So that’s a bit of a disappointment, maybe we’ll do a live stream somewhere.
Is Australia definitely up there as one of your favourite places on Earth to tour?
It’s pretty great. I would say that flying to all the gigs is not ideal because you don’t get to see the countryside as much. In the US we’re usually on a bus, but usually when we go to Australia, we’re flying to each gig. It would be cool to be on a bus seeing more of the landscape and the different towns and stuff like that. I think Australia really likes rock, that’s really great. When we play a show there’s high enthusiasm and there’s a lot of cool rock bands coming out of Australia too. There’s a particular appreciation for rock and roll down there.
Do you notice much difference with Australian fans compared to other fans around the world when you’re on tour?
That’s a good question. Last time we were there I did a DJ set at my friend Bill Walsh’s club in Melbourne, and I took a break to go to the bar to get a drink, and these young women were like grabbing me. They were wasted and they were grabbing me like by the neck to take photos with them and it was really aggressive, but they just thought I was this party animal as they were being. I kind of yelled at them, I was like get your fucking hands off me but they were just so wasted, but they were very, very excited. I guess people do that anyway if they’re wasted, but it was kind of like, a little scary their love for me. So, that’s just one story.
The legacy that Bricks Are Heavy continues to forge and build, when you take a step back and look at that does it continues to amaze you?
Yeah, it is amazing because I’ll tell when the band went on indefinite hiatus in 2001, for years I just felt totally forgotten and swept under the rug. There wasn’t much of us on the internet. It was like we didn’t exist. It was really weird. We weren’t getting a lot of props. We weren’t getting mentioned with important albums of the nineties. We were kind of buried, you know. Then our fans started to post things on YouTube and stuff like that, it was very slow. I was like, God, nobody’s even heard of us. Like, what? How did we vanish? We were told we were kind of influential and important and then we were just gone and vanished.
Since the reunion tour, that has completely changed because we reminded people who we were and are, and we’re on the radar again. People are like, oh yeah, Bricks Are Heavy. That was a pretty good record, you know? So now we’re mentioned in those lists and all that stuff, people can forget about you quite easily. I think they forget a lot about artists and records that I really like, like Urge Overkill is not mentioned that much, they were a great band in the nineties. It’s just weird how some people are remembered and other people are not and then they come back and then they’re remembered. It’s a weird thing, but it is great that Bricks Are Heavy, is appreciated because we never thought that that would happen in a million years. So that’s great.
What are some of the highlights for you from that period of time when Bricks Are Heavy came out?
Well, we got to tour the world, which was great. We made it to Australia, we made it to New Zealand, Japan, South America. When we were on the record before that, with Sub Pop Smell The Magic, we got to Europe, which was great, that was the record that got us to Europe. Then when Bricks Are Heavy, it got us to Scandinavia and everywhere else I just mentioned. So that was truly mind blowing that we got to go all over the world. Just some of the concerts we played were just incredible. It was really, really exciting and I was so naive I thought that shit was going to continue, but we were only hot shit for like four years or something, from like 1990 to 1994 we were hot shit. Then, you know, it all kind of starts to go on the decline and I don’t feel we went on the decline musically. It was just that we weren’t the hot new thing anymore. It happens to everybody.
When you were working on that album, did you have that sense that as the songs were starting to unfold that they would be some impactful?
The only feeling we had was that Butch Vig liked the songs, I respect Butch a lot and when someone you respect is saying, I like your songs, these are good, and I want work with you, that was a huge confidence builder. He certainly did help us bring out some of our pop melodic elements that we had buried in ourselves. When we were recording that record, Nirvana broke, so that kind of put the pressure on us because it was like, oh my God, they’re like huge. They’re getting huge and now we’re recording and that that put the butterflies in our stomachs a little bit. The recording is interesting because it’s very fulfilling, but it can be terrifying too, you feel like what you’re laying down is going to be there. It’s permanent, so if you fuck up, it’s a permanent record, it’s weird like when I play in a studio and it’s being recorded, I’ll think that sometimes like, wow, this is going on tape right now and you better play it well!
How do you find playing the album start to end? Are there some songs that are more of a challenge to learn and play live?
Well, Wargasm’s a bitch, that’s hard. We play it well, but we play it right out of the gate, we usually like to play a mid-tempo number to get the sound right on stage and to ease into the faster numbers. This is just the start of the set. That’s kind of funny as what ends the record is a song called “This Ain’t Pleasure”, and that’s also kind of difficult to play. It’s like the bread of the sandwich which is incredibly coarse and challenging, but once we get into the guts of the record, then it’s a bit more enjoyable to play.
So what was Bruce Vig actually like to work with?
He’s really incredibly down to Earth. He doesn’t have any heirs, he’s not pompous, he’s not like an LA Jive Turkey. He is a Midwestern guy who’s been in a lot of bands that had limited success and he became a producer. It took him years to get these bigger clients, but he really prospered into that. Then he formed Garbage and that was a huge success. So he’s just a guy, you know, he loves music and not a bully in any way. He’s just an encourager and a lover, and builds your confidence. Some people’s approaches to bully you or to make you feel inadequate or not, you’re not worthy to be in the studio or whatever. Butch is not like that, he was great to work with.
Are there plans to record new music and what else is on the horizon?
Our new single Cooler Than Mars is out now and it’s about the douche bag billionaires going into space for their ego race. I think people will dig the sentiment behind the song and relate to it meaning that Earth is cooler than Mars, let’s concentrate on what’s down here. We’re finishing a US tour this month, and then we are going on a US tour in September, and then we are going on a South American tour in October, and then we come to Australia in December. So it’s a very busy autumn, our autumn anyway, your spring. We’ve got a lot going on, which is exciting and we are very grateful.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Tickets from Metropolis Touring