”Are you girls movie stars?” the waiter at a midtown Manhattan diner asks. ”It looks like you’re learning your lines.” The four members of the Donnas look up from the stapled printouts they’re studying and break out into laughter. ”Yeah,” guitarist Allison Robertson deadpans. ”Don’t you recognize us?”
Perhaps he caught their musical cameos in teen flicks like 1999’s Drive Me Crazy (as their alter egos, the Electrocutes) and, earlier that year, Jawbreaker. More likely, though, he’s seen them in their videos on MTV, where the ladies, each 25, will be taping a segment promoting their sixth full-length collection of hard-hitting, diesel-and-lip-gloss rawk, Gold Medal, this very afternoon. First, though, they need breakfast, and the pages they’re perusing aren’t scripts but copies of reader responses to Listen2This’ recent Wish List poll; the Donnas were overwhelmingly chosen above other popular acts like Good Charlotte, Modest Mouse, and Ludacris to front the first stand-alone issue of L2T, and reader reasoning was, well, enthusiastic. ”’I like to Jazzercize to ”Who Invited You” [their 2003 single],”’ reads bassist Maya Ford. ”Yeah!” she hoots. Singer Brett Anderson offers another: ”’It’s interesting to hear about women f—ing in cars.’ That one’s pretty good.” Drummer Torry Castellano pulls a mock-skeptical face as she reads: ”I like that we’re ‘a little more focused on the music than the ego stuff.’ Just a little, though.” Robertson smiles. ”It’s just cool they think we rock.”
Rocking, in fact, is just what the ladies at the table (present reporter excluded) have been doing for more than a decade. Formed in a Palo Alto, Calif., garage in 1993 as Ragady Anne, and later the Electrocutes, the four best friends, bound by a love of metal, punk, riot-grrrl rock, and the Ramones, eventually became the Donnas rock juggernaut they are today. Though their fresh faces belie it, it’s been a long, often rocky trip from junior-high-outcast status to underground cult success and bright-lights MTV stardom; seemingly in acknowledgement of those achievements, all four have recently dropped their longstanding ”Donna” monikers and gone back to the names God (or, whatever, their parents) gave them. Over plates of deliciously greasy hangover fare, the girls talk about life, love, and the pursuit of the perfect handbag.
ON BEING CHOSEN FOR THE L2T COVER
TORRY CASTELLANO Wow, that’s such an honor that they picked us. [A chorus of awesomes and cools fills the table.] Over all those other bands?
L2T You guys actually won by a landslide. But it might help to know too that our readership is about 85 percent male.
ALLISON ROBERTSON Most of our fans are male. We want to change that, though. I think we didn’t realize why girls weren’t listening to us as much or coming to the shows, but after we got signed and we started doing things that normally we wouldn’t have done — doors that weren’t really open to us when we were on an indie label [Berkeley punk stalwart Lookout!] — it started to change. A lot of the stuff was TV, fashiony magazines, or movies, but those were the only things that younger girls really responded to.