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L7

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Biography

Although often lumped in with the "Seattle Movement" of the early '90s (due to their sound, look, and attitude), the all-female punk band L7 originally hailed from Los Angeles. The seeds for L7 (whose name was taken from a slang term in the '50s that meant someone who was a "square") were planted in 1985, when a pair of guitarist/singers, Suzi Gardner and Donita Sparks, decided to start a band. Over the next few years, the group extended its lineup to include bassist Jennifer Finch and drummer Dee Plakas, as its sound grew more and more metallic yet never lost the attack and simplicity of punk. In 1988 L7 were signed by the Epitaph label, which issued their self-titled debut the same year, and the group spent the better part of the next few years touring the world. The band issued Smell the Magic for the Sub Pop label in 1991, and the same year formed the Rock for Choice nonprofit organization. Raising money and awareness for the pro-choice movement, the organization put on several benefit shows over the years, featuring such noted performers as Nirvana, Hole, Pearl Jam, and Neil Young, among others. With Nirvana finally bringing punk to the mainstream, bands such as L7 suddenly became "en vogue" as the quartet was signed to Slash/Reprise, issuing its best-known album with the Butch Vig-produced Bricks Are Heavy in April of 1992 (which spawned the popular MTV hit "Pretend We're Dead"). L7's follow-up, 1994's Hungry for Stink, failed to expand the group's following despite being part of the 1994 version of the traveling U.S. alt-rock festival Lollapalooza. Bassist Finch left the group shortly thereafter (eventually replaced by former Belly bassist Gail Greenwood) and the group issued such further releases as 1997's The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum, 1998's Live: Omaha to Osaka, and 1999's Slap-Happy, while the group was also the subject of a 1998 concert film made by former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, also titled The Beauty Process. In 2000, a 12-track retrospective collection was issued, Best of L7: The Slash Years, but for all intents and purposes the band was no longer touring and was widely believed to have ceased operations. Indeed, the following year saw L7 announce, via their website, that they would be going on "indefinite hiatus." The members continued to be musically active, however, with Sparks pursuing a solo career, with help from Plakas, under the moniker Donita Sparks & the Stellar Moments and Finch playing with the punk unit the Shocker. In 2014, Sparks, Gardner, Finch, and Plakas announced via L7's Facebook page that the group would be reuniting. L7 played their first show together in 18 years at the Echo in Los Angeles on May 23, 2015, followed by an international tour. ~ Greg Prato
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