Rock and roll high school: The Donnas kick out their jams
By Donna Freydkin
(CNN) - Meet the Donnas, four self-described former high school losers from Palo Alto, California. They're best friends. They like to party. They adore loud music, especially the hair-metal gods of Cinderella. But mostly, they love to rock out.
And that they do, with rollicking, messy, frisky music reminiscent of the Ramones and the Runaways. On their third album, the just-released "Get Skintight," the Donnas tell off fickle guys ("You Don't Wanna Call"), ex-boyfriends ("I Didn't Like You Anyway") and anyone lame who hates loud music ("Get Outta My Room"). They even cover Motley Crue's classic "Too Fast For Love," a song they've been covering since high school. They're sending Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx a copy of the CD, hoping he'll check it out. Maybe he'll even give them a call.
The Donnas are living the dream of every geek, loser and outcast ever to walk the torturous halls of high school. After years of ridicule at the hands of their classmates, they get to rub their somewhat left-of-field success into the faces of anyone who ever mocked them. And they like it.
"We just got s**t for being in a band," says bassist Donna F. of her high school years. "Everyone, like, made fun of us. Our first show in high school was at a community center, at a battle of the bands, and everyone totally made fun of us. There were people there only to make fun of us, just jeering and yelling."
But for all their tough words and tight clothes, the girls display an endearing innocence, an unfettered delight, rarely found in bands that have already been in Spin, Rolling Stone and Detour. Their biggest thrill to date? Why, appearing on MTV, of course. Their greatest musical kick? Opening for Cinderella in Reno, Nevada. Their big goal? To parlay that one performance into a few more.
Ask Donna F. to talk about her album, an open invitation to hype her product and give it a glowing review, and this is what she says: "The packaging is way cool, all pink and purple. We all worked on it. It was like a school project."
When I point out that there must be something magical about our shared name -- mine given at birth, theirs dreamed up in the studio -- Donna F. just giggles. And she's laughing all the way to the bank.
Marilyn Manson is a fan
Donna F., guitarist Donna R., drummer Donna C., and lead vocalist Donna A. have been best friends since middle school. They all grew up loving KISS, the Scorpions, AC/DC, Motley Crue and R.E.M. Inspired by the music in their collective stereos, in the eighth grade, they started their first band, Raggedy Ann, which played covers of songs by L7, Shonen Knife, Syndicate of Sound and the Muffs. Next, they morphed into a punk foursome known as the Electrocutes.
By the 10th grade, at the age of 15, they had formed the Donnas. And they found that their band gave them a much-needed escape from a high school they detested. Their after-school activity became band practice in Donna C.'s garage. Eventually, the dedication paid off. In 1998, they released their eponymous debut, followed the same year by "American Teenage Rock 'n' Roll Machine," a sophomore effort recorded in two days.
This June, they released "Get Skintight," their third full-length effort, recorded in a whopping 10 days.
"All the instruments sound really good. The songs are, like, more exciting and the lyrics are a lot funnier," says Donna F. "Overall, like, the album is really powerful."
The critics agree. Rolling Stone gave "Get Skintight" three (out of five) stars, with Lorraine Ali calling it an album of "garage sound pumped up to arena levels, with stronger songs, blistering guitar solos and split-kickin' metal antics."
And if that wasn't enough, the Donnas even had a cameo in the Rose McGowan flick "Jawbreaker," where shock-rocker extraordinaire and co-star Marilyn Manson asked for their autographs.
Initially, the band was a side project, but now, music is a full-time gig for all four girls. Three of them tried out college, hated it, dropped out and are now focused on their band.
Donna F. says the band still has to prove itself every time it takes the stage. Because of the all-chick lineup, the Donnas get compared to the Spice Girls quite a bit, an analogy Donna F. does not appreciate. But she's not really all that bothered by it, because her band has come farther than anyone ever imagined -- most of all, those pesky high schoolers who for so long were a thorn in her side.
"One time I met this other girl, who went to high school with me, and she was like, 'I saw you on TV,' and I was like, 'Stop trying to be my friend. You're not my friend,'" laughs Donna F. "Nobody talked to me in high school. Not like I wanted to talk to anyone -- I knew they were pretty lame."
"But our band was its own separate entity. We had our own friends and weren't part of high school; we knew it was stupid."
What isn't stupid, says Donna F., is how much fun the band has playing together. The girls live for playing live, and along those same lines, they're hitting the road in late June for a national tour in support of "Get Skintight."
"It's really cool. You get to be with your best friends all the time. It's like going on a really long vacation with all your friends. It's a big party," says Donna F.
Review: 'Jawbreaker' just jaw-droppingly awful
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