Worth the weight: Revisiting L7’s Bricks Are Heavy 30 years on

Emerging onto the music scene in the late 1980s, L7 transcended traditional gender roles and stereotypes in the male-dominated world of rock music with their raw energy, unapologetic attitude, and feminist ethos. The group’s 1992 album Bricks Are Heavy launched the group globally thanks to its powerful blend of punk, grunge, and hard rock that not only provided a sonic backdrop for the ‘riot grrrl’ movement, but also earned them a devoted fan base and critical acclaim. In April 2022, the band announced that the original line-up of Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, Jennifer Finch and Demetra Plakas were heading back out on the road to honour Bricks Are Heavy‘s thirtieth anniversary, with the quartet stopping by Rosemount Hotel on Wednesday, December 13. Ahead of their visit, MICHAEL HOLLICK caught up with lead vocalist Donita Sparks to reflect on the landmark album, find out about the band’s new single, their memories of Australia and what she wishes she could have asked The Ramones.

Congratulations on the 30th Anniversary of Bricks Are Heavy. Looking back, what are your feelings about the album?

I like all types of music, but I do like catchy tunes and I think that there are a lot of catchy tunes on this record, so I am proud of that. I can listen to this album and go “that is a decent song” for each of the tracks. The music is good and the lyrics are good and so I think it holds water after all this time.

Do you have any impression of what your fans and the outside world think about the album?

As a band we were getting the sense of the importance, but not like the critical importance, rather the importance that this album holds for our fans. So it made sense for us to honour and celebrate that. This is our biggest-selling record, it got us all over the world and it’s really cool that people want to hear it and have their own little flashback in time.

So far on this tour I have seen a gamut of emotions from the audience and that blows my mind. Sometimes people are crying, sometimes they are laughing, while other times they are screaming their heads off with their fists in the air and the middle fingers up. It’s really amazing. It’s cathartic to see people unleashing whatever association they have with the songs, and for us it’s really cool to watch a crowd respond so strongly to something that we have done.

On this tour you will be playing the record in its entirety, which I believe means that there are some songs that will be played live for the first time. Is that true?

We never played the last song on the record, This Ain’t Pleasure. We retired Wargasm in 1992 because it is challenging for me to sing. It’s in a really low register and that makes it difficult to project. I’m like *adopts husky tone* ‘Wargasm, Wargasm.‘ And for that to be the first song of the night it’s been so challenging to do it close to the record but people love it so I soldier through and it’s a joyful experience.

The band are not resting entirely on their laurels though, as you do have a new single out at the moment called Cooler Than Mars. What can you tell me about it?

I feel strongly that Earth is cooler than Mars, and that’s also a little pun because of course it’s literally true. But seeing those tech giants that are going into space at the moment, it’s just such an ego chase and such a joke. I really feel that nothing on Mars is going to be cooler than what we have here, so let’s focus on Earth first. Why do you want to Noah’s Ark this shit? Why don’t we fix the problems here before we go colonising anywhere?

Will the single be available as a physical release?

Yes, we’re releasing it on Flexidisc. And it’s cool because there’s going to be four different discs, one for each of the members of the band. They look really cool. It’s really like a ‘hang it on your wall’ type collectable, it’s swag. And we’re making it exclusive. The discs are only available through our merch company website. We may put some aside for the merch table in Australia, but I can’t guarantee anything. 

Speaking of Australia, we’re very excited that you are coming back out here. What have been your fondest memories of Australia from past tours?

The fans in Australia are great. I remember some even followed us from show to show. I would look out and see these gals in the front row who’d been there at the front row at the last four shows. That was great. And of course we got to see all of your really cool animals.

Have you had a chance to get up close and personal with any of our Aussie animals?

Yeah, I actually held a koala. It’s like holding a big sack of beans. Or a very heavy, fat baby. That’s always fun.

And what about the fans? Do you think you’ll get to have much contact with your Australian fans on the upcoming tour?

Well, you know, we would always sign stuff on our departure from a venue. Like, if there were fans by the stage door or near the vehicles taking us from the venue, then we have always stopped and had a chat. We do enjoy it very much. I think we are going to do some sort of Meet and Greet things from a distance in Australia, just like we have done in the US. That was really cool.

We had people come in for our final song of the soundcheck and Suzi and I would hang around for a Q&A with the people that came in for the special experience, and that was cool and they got to ask us questions and that was really fun. Of course, we might still have to be careful about COVID, as that could still sideline us all, so we would need to be careful.

I get how important it is to meet a band. I always think of the time that I snuck in to a Ramones soundcheck once when I was 16 and that was scary enough as it was. To ask them questions I would have been terrified but people, even if they are kind of terrified, still ask questions and it’s a really fun experience.

What would you have asked The Ramones if you could have?

Oh boy, I don’t know. It was so out of possibility. I got Joey’s autograph once. He was walking by me at a show, at one of their shows, and people had stuff for him to sign, and I had the Rocket to Russia lyric sheet folded up in my pocket, and I unfolded it, and he kind of looked at it like, “well, you’re clearly not a collector,” you’re clearly not going to turn around and sell this.

It was a disaster, getting him to sign this crinkled up, wrinkled bit of inner sleeve. I was such a massive, massive fan. That was the band that changed my life. I don’t know what I would have asked. I have no idea, I would just want to stare at them.