Donita Sparks has vivid memories of playing in Tempe, especially the first time L7 came to town. It was 1989 at the long-defunct Sun Club and involves a camcorder they bought for the princely sum of about $1,000 (just over $2,400 when adjusted to 2023) to document their gigs.

“The shows were always really fun,” Sparks says.

“They were sweltering hot … but while we were playing people witnessed a local junkie get onstage and, without us noticing, grabbed the camera. So that was interesting. So, I’ll always have memories of Arizona like that.”

Sparks, lead singer/guitarist for the all-female LA-based four piece, says she was making final preparations for the most recent leg of the L7’s 2023 tour, which features a stop at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Thursday, May 25. They will perform the seminal “Bricks are Heavy” album in its entirety.

Beyond the gigs, the group has been active in the studio, focusing on some new songs to be released over the next several months. Even though the band was formed in 1985, almost 40 years ago, Sparks said the edge that makes it distinctly L7 is still there.

“I don’t think it’s changed that much. A lot of our writing is like something (bad) happens to us or to a friend and we’ll take lemons and turn it into lemonade by writing a cool song about it … and people enjoy it, and they get it. So that’s cool. And I think I’ve still got that as a writer,” Sparks says.

The band’s last album, 2019’s “Scatter the Rats,” was L7’s first full-length release in 20 years. At the same time, changes in the music business have L7 focusing more on singles due to the costs of making an album that can far outweigh the return on sales for bands not in the Top 10 because of rampant piracy and the mere pittance per-play streaming services pay. But even though L7 is not topping the charts doesn’t mean their influence isn’t felt — especially by a younger generation of female artists making an impact and giving respect to Sparks and her bandmates as heavy rock godmothers who paved the way.

“There have been a couple of sightings of our ‘Smell the Magic’ shirt on some young artists,” she says.

“Recently, Phoebe Bridgers wore our shirt at a Madison Square Garden appearance just a couple of weeks ago. I do not know her personally, but I was very thankful she was wearing our shirt. … And a gal from a band named Scowl wore a T-shirt at Coachella. So, it’s just kind of ironic that we’ve never played Madison Square Garden or Coachella, but our T-shirt has.”

If there’s one thing L7 has always been about, it’s empowering women to make their own choices in life, including around reproductive health. As founders of Rock for Choice — a series of benefit concerts between 1991 and 2001 supporting abortion rights featuring major acts like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and notable female artists like Joan Jett and Liz Phair — Sparks says its time a younger generation to fight for the cause, especially with the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022.

“When we started Rock for Choice, no bands were bringing attention to that issue, because Roe v. Wade was under attack pretty much from the time it passed (in 1973), and by that time in the 1990s it was really under attack, and they finally won and they overturned it,” she says.

“But I feel like we shed light. We raised a bunch of money for the Feminist Majority Foundation so that they could defend clinics and get attorneys and all kinds of stuff like that. I feel the baton should be picked up by some younger women and, in particular, some of these huge pop stars who the majority of their audience are young women. So, they need to step up.

“I know a lot of them have said things from stage, which is great, or posted something on their Instagram, but there really needs to be something bigger than that.”


WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 25

WHERE: Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe

COST: Tickets start at $34

INFO: marqueetheatreaz.com