Music News

Oh, Donnas

Page 2 of 3

Patronizing attitudes are what the Donnas have dealt with since they began practicing in Donna C.'s family garage after school. "The boys were totally condescending to us in our school," she says. But now the Donnas have to deal with the grown-up version of those boys: club owners, sound engineers and radio station disc jockeys. The world is full of these guys, flunkies who can't appreciate female aggression. Contempt sometimes follows.

But the Donnas have enough experience to know how not to get pushed around. "When it happens, you see that it's happening, but you still do everything you can to get your way," Donna C. says. "I don't think we're out-and-out bitches unless we really have to be. We're not afraid to be bitches. But most of the time when we work with someone, we knew them before. It's usually when we go into a club and people haven't heard of us and the sound guys are like, 'Yeah, right, these girls are gonna be able to rock 'n' roll.' Usually you get that kind of attitude beforehand, but you just set up and [do] sound check. After sound check they're like, 'Wow, you guys are really good.' They usually come around."

The commercial and critical success of Get Skintight, released last summer, has erased any conceptions that the Donnas are puppets. For the first time, they wrote the songs without outside help (save for a blissfully reworked cover of Mötley Crüe's "Too Fast for Love"), and the results are even snottier than in the past. Punk tempos meet metal guitars, which musically jibe with lyrics about doing doughnuts on the neighbor's lawn, trying to talk to a traffic cop after smoking pot in the car, dealing with boring boys and looking for quick love. Ex-Red Kross leaders Jeff and Steve McDonald produced the record, but the duo approached the band after the songs were ready to go.

Donna C. says the band took charge of Get Skintight. After all, the members have all put off going to college indefinitely because of the band. They have a lot more invested than when it was just an after-school activity. "We oversaw every single part of [the album]," says Donna C. "[When] Jeff and Steve asked if they could produce our next record, they were like, 'You can do whatever you want. You can say no to any of our ideas, and it's your record.'

"I think that was really cool, because that's how we wanted to work," she says. "We even remixed a few songs [without the McDonalds] because we didn't like how it sounded. Then we even went down to the mastering [when the tapes are transferred to a duplicable format] in Los Angeles to make sure that everything was totally how we wanted it to be. We did everything for all the pictures and everything. We were really involved in every step. We wanted this record to be really us, and we didn't want to have any regrets."

But the girls are not all business. If the songs are half-true, these four chicks love fast cars, fast love and illicit substances. And throughout the artwork for Get Skintight are pictures of the Donnas at convenience stores, at Disneyland and hanging out with fans. Touring looks like a nonstop party. Alas, life on the road with the Donnas doesn't compete with the group's heroes, KISS. (The Donnas even appeared in the recent KISS road pic Detroit Rock City.)

No Polaroids of naked groupies? "No," she says with a laugh. "KISS has pretty girls that they can take nude pictures of. We haven't seen enough cute boys to take pictures of. We really want to play the best we can every night, so after a few weeks of playing every single night, sometimes you just want to go back to the hotel. If there's a party, we'll go to it, but usually we're in a town where we don't know anyone."

The tough-girl attitude is fine now, but it could paint the Donnas into a corner. Who wants to see 30-year-old teen rebels? Though that's still a decade away, Donna C. suggests that great rock bands don't branch off too far from where they start. As for the Donnas' image, she thinks that it's flexible because it's so close to who they really are. "Personally, I don't think we're ever going to write an album that has all these deep messages and talks about all these issues or anything like that," she says. "I don't ever really think we're going to go that way. But I also think that from American Teenage Rock 'n' Roll Machine to Skintight, we really grew a lot musically. I think we will grow with each record. I think we did grow with this record," she says. "I don't think it is limiting because I don't think we limit ourselves. We're not sitting there when we write songs going, 'Hmmm, is this going to go with our image?'"

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
David Simutis