Bella Donnas

In rock 'n' roll, growing up is never a good idea. Very few artists make the transition from roughneck upstart to dignified veteran gracefully, or without leaving behind a sizable percentage of their original fan base. It may not be the kiss of death, but it's always greeted with apprehension, and with good reason. If your new album is "suffused with a newfound maturity," chances are far better than ever that it's also chock full of suck.

Thankfully, the four young ladies who make up California's The Donnas have been reading the rock manual. While the title of their latest disc, The Donnas Turn 21, might initially lead some to believe they're heralding some new perspective, a quick listen suggests that they're probably just happy to be drinking legally for a change. Turn 21 delivers more of the boisterous riff-rock and bad-girl lyrics offered on its three predecessors, and damn near perfected on 1999's Get Skintight. Singer Brett Anderson (Donna A), drummer Torry Castellano (Donna C), guitarist Allison Robertson (Donna R) and bassist Maya Ford (Donna F) may be getting a bit older, but they're also getting wiser. Wise enough, at any rate, to know what The Donnas are really all about — loud guitars, tight jeans and a hyperbolic projection of clique-y high school cool — and wise enough to stick to the plan.

"For right now this is fine. It's definitely still fulfilling," says Anderson.

Five years and four albums along, she remains content to play the Donna, creating a youthful world of hot boys to pursue, losers to dis, and naughty, rebellious fun to be had. Anderson can, however, foresee a time when she and her fellow Donnas might want to try something a little different.

"Yeah, maybe at some time in the future I think that all of us want to keep doing things that are new and different," she allows. "I don't think we're going to feel the need to become actors or directors, get into a whole other field or anything. If we're not feeling fulfilled, we'll find another way to do it, but we try to keep our band exciting and fun for all of us."

How could it not be fun? The Donnas embody rock 'n' roll's sexy sense of danger, the whole idea of feeling good being bad. You can take 'em with that ironic grain of salt, or embrace their over-the-top rockitude wholeheartedly. Just don't try to re-create any of your favorite Donnas anecdotes espoused in song. The girls' lyrics have gotten racier as they've grown, a fact that may play hell with the younger or more "impressionable" (read: unstable) members of their following.

"We've gotten a couple of letters from people like, "Yeah, I slept with my sister's boyfriend, and you guys were my inspiration.' Really cool, girl," says Anderson. "That's not what we're saying in our songs! But I feel like that's gonna happen no matter what you do. You can't control those people — she was gonna do it anyway. You can't take responsibility for everyone's actions."

The fan reactions are not exactly on par with those of Ozzy's "Suicide Solution" but still pretty demoralizing for musicians who never considered themselves role models of any kind — perhaps because they didn't have anyone to identify with themselves, at least musically. While The Donnas are signed to legendary punk imprint Lookout Records, Anderson says that for most of its existence, the band wasn't a part of any community, punk or otherwise.

"We've never really been a part of any kind of punk rock scene; we didn't grow up in that, and nobody really included us in it anyway," she says. "We're pretty much our own clan; we make our own rules. Which is good and bad. It's good for us now, because we don't have to stand up to any sort of loyalty to anyone, but it wasn't so fun growing up, when we didn't have people to back us up."

Nowadays, buoyed by the success of Get Skintight, rampant hipster cred and several movie cameos, the group has amassed enough recognition and momentum to try pretty much anything they want, including the aforementioned "newfound maturity." But for Turn 21, released early this summer, The Donnas showed what they'd learned by opting to go with what they know. To give the people what they want — to bring the fun. According to Anderson, that's what The Donnas are for:

"People deserve a break, and that's what our goal is — to give people a chance to be in the moment, and not

have to worry about anything for a little while."

The Donnasw/The Eyeliners/The Kicks

Wednesday, Sept. 26

State Theatre, St. Petersburg

Tickets $12

Scroll to read more News Feature articles

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.