The Donnas are an American four-piece, smart-ass, bubblegum rock band with punk in their pockets and time on their side. Although Donna A/Brett Anderson (vocals), Donna C/Torry Castellano (drums), Donna R/Allison Robertson (guitar) and Donna F/Maya Ford (bass) are just 21 they have been playing together since they were fourteen. Formed in reaction to the lack of girls playing at a lunchtime band show in their school, Ragedy Ann (as they were then called) played four covers but got a fairly derisive reaction from the audience. According to Brett the guys ‘made fun of us a lot’ and treated the whole thing as a joke. The band did get some quietly encouraging feedback though: ‘some girls would come up to us after school later and say ‘you were cool in there’ but it was in private’. This, together with the fun they had on stage, was enough to keep the girls going. As they ‘didn’t have anything to do after school’ they gathered together to rehearse and released their first single on seven-inch vinyl because ‘it was the only thing we could afford’.
Changing their name to The Electrocutes, and playing what Brett describes as ‘speed metal’ they got some local gigs then started an alternative band called The Donnas. Gradually things moved more Donna-ward and now, with the release of their fourth album ‘The Donnas Turn Twenty One’ they have come of age. Fast and funny, the album should appeal to all those little girls who have become bored with the Spice Girls and want to hear a REAL girl band with REAL instruments. But it’s not only little girls that The Donnas appeal to, judging by some of their lyrics: ‘Somebody called the bouncer and get this guy off the stage/He wrote his number on his boxers/but he's three times my age’ (Are You Gonna Move it For Me?). Brett admits, laughing, that some of the lyrics are ‘tongue in cheek, but I mean it’s all based on reality, based on it loosely anyway’.
A particular high point for The Donnas was when supported they Alice Cooper. Despite the fact that their own fans couldn’t afford to make it to the gig, his fans were suitably impressed with what they saw ‘especially’, says Brett, ‘when we played our Judas Priest covers’. But the girls weren’t interested in doing the spend-time-with-the-rock-star kinda thing and, although they were supposed to hang out on the last night of the tour, ‘we thought that was kinda retarded so we left’.
A younger, sexier, better-looking version of the Ramones, these girls poke fun at critics, boy groupies (band-aids, perhaps) and girls in too-tight hot pants. Three chords and some sassy lyrics is all you need to make an impression over a two and a half minute song and, even if some of the songs start to sound similar after a while, the speed and energy grabs you immediately. Similar to The Runaways (US female six piece 70s band) with their raw sound and punkish attitude, The Donnas have put in the work and seem to have what it takes to make the break through to more than just cult success.
Even though the four girls are with each other 24-7 when they tour, they still hang out together when they’re at home ‘we see each other all the time and haven’t fallen out yet’ which is a fairly impressive achievement. What could be better than touring the world with your best friends and playing your own music, at the age of 21?
'The Donnas turn 21', is out on 22 January.