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Alt-Rock

September 6, 2017

L7: Pretend We’re Dead

L7-Pretend-Were-Dead-600

A documentary celebrating the rockers’ “rags-to-riches-to-rags” story debuts this fall in select cities and on DVD and VOD — plus the OG lineup is on tour!

By Suzanne Rush

There’s just a limited amount of ferocious, free thinking kind of — I don’t want to say, oddballs. But we were all just built a little different,” says guitarist Suzi Gardner at the beginning of L7: Pretend We’re Dead.

The new documentary about the heavy-metal grunge band, from Blue Hats Creative and directed by Sarah Price (The Yes Men, Summercamp!), employs a familiar behind-the-music narrative, to chronicle the “rags-to-riches-to-rags” trajectory of this pioneering foursome. Combining reflective voiceovers by band members and previously unseen video footage — much of which is remarkable “home video” taken long before anyone carried a smart phone — the film tracks L7 from their conception in 1985, through the making of six studio albums and numerous tours, to an eventual breakup in 2001.   

Guitarists Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner, bassist Jennifer Finch and drummer Dee Plakas, formed L7 in Los Angeles during the late 1980s. The band was initially embraced by the Sunset Strip’s big-haired, metal bands But, despite their Motorhead-inspired chops, L7’s decidedly genderless — and oddball — image made them “the antithesis of that scene,” Sparks explains. It wasn’t until they moved to Seattle in the early 1990s that they found real success. “Seattle was … much more
progressive than L.A. — like night and day,” says Finch. “We were accepted as a real rock band.”

Finding a home in the Pacific Northwest’s exploding grunge scene led to recording deals with Sub Pop Records, and later Slash where they would work with producer Butch Vig. “We got a shit deal from Slash,” laughs Sparks. “But on the other hand, we became worldwide.” But, not rich. “In our peak year, we were making $500 bucks a
month each.”

“I think people assume that you’re raking in the cash when you’re on the cover of Spin magazine. But unless you sell an insane amount of records you’re really just a working stiff at best.” – Suzi Gardner from the rock doc, L7: Pretend you’re Dead

“I think people assume that you’re raking in the cash when you’re on the cover of Spin magazine. But unless you sell an insane amount of records you’re really just a working stiff at best.” – Suzi Gardner from the rock doc, L7: Pretend you’re Dead

Records led to numerous tours, including 1993’s Lollapalooza; and tours led to ubiquitous rock band excesses. Notably, the film’s stories of on-the-road hijinks and drug use are recounted without the usual fetishizing. Maybe it’s the passage of time and the affecting drug-related deaths of friends like Kurt Cobain that wrung the glee from those tales.

Much of the film explores the band’s quest to transcend the women-in-rock paradigm by deliberately eschewing superficial sexiness in favor of just playing as loud and hard as the boys. “We were aware of the scrutiny we were getting for being all gals, says Gardner. “If you were too fluffy or cutesy or something, then you weren’t going to be noticed as a musician.” In TV interview footage, the band members are shown employing their hallmark, salty humor to deflect the inevitable focus on gender. “Our fans couldn’t give a shit if we’re women,” Sparks proclaims in one voiceover.

On the other hand, L7 used their clout to start Rock for Choice — a series of concerts headlined by bands like Nirvana, Hole and Joan Jett that raised money for pro-choice causes —in the main, issues of primary interest
to females.

The film’s additional interviews with Jett, Shirley Manson (Garbage), Lydia Lunch, Allison Robertson (The Donnas), Exene Cervenka (X) and Krist Novoselic (Nirvana) — celebrate L7’s legacy as iconoclastic rockers (and, incidentally, women) who inspired countless riot grrrls.

L7: Pretend We’re Dead screens throughout Sept. and Oct. at theaters across the U.S. (see listing on page 34). On Oct. 13, the film will be released on DVD (mvshop.com) and video-on-demand. In conjunction with the film’s release, L7 will play a handful of concerts in California.


disco-290Witness the return of the Fierce-but-Funny Fab Four at one of 14 movie screenings of L7: Pretend They’re Dead ­ or at three live concerts 
near you.  If you prefer to smell the magic at home, the film is available on Blu-ray and DVD, starting Oct. 13, at
MVDShop.com

Film Screening Dates:

9/1: Portland, OR @ Hollywood Theater

9/8: Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA

9/8: Chicago, IL @ The Vic/Brew & View

9/8: Santa Ana, CA @ Frida Cinema

9/9: Santa Ana, CA @ Frida Cinema

9/10: Santa Ana, CA @ Frida Cinema

9/12: Long Beach, CA @ Art Theatre

9/14: Boston, MA @ Regent Theater

9/15: Boston, MA @ Regent Theater

9/17: Austin, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse

9/19: Washington DC  @ The Black Cat

9/16: Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent

9/27: San Francisco, CA @ The Roxie

10/5: Brooklyn, NY @ Nitehawk Cinema

Live Tour Dates:

9/26: Santa Cruz, CA @ Catalyst

9/27: San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s

9/30: Los Angeles, CA  @ The Greek Theatre






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