"People probably think we're really negative, because we complain a lot," suspects Donna C., on the phone from Portland, Ore. "But we just like to complain. It's fun for us."
Not that The Donnas have much to quibble about these days. The group's latest (and third) release, "Get Skintight," aroused rave reviews from Details and Rolling Stone. With pouty glam shots of rocker-girls-made-good holding together the most irresistible packaging since Malcolm McLaren launched his Sex Pistols, The Donnas are well on their way to becoming a pop phenomenon.
But it wasn't always that way. The Donnas -- Donna C. (drums, Capricorn), Donna R. (guitars, Virgo), Donna F. (bass, Capricorn), and Donna A. (vocals, Gemini) -- began playing in 1994 for their Palo Alto, Calif., school's talent show. They were called Raggedy Anne, a riot-grrrl cover band, and they were 14 years old. Soon, they switched to The Electrocutes, playing hard-punk originals and earning their chops. In 1995, they became The Donnas with the help of songwriter Darin Raffaelli -- once accused of being the group's own McLaren. Since then it's been their hard work (touring, recording, growing up) that's taken them so far.
"When you're driving in the car all day, you're like, Oh, this is work," says Donna C. "But then, like, when we play a show, it doesn't feel like work at all."
Clearly, something is working for The Donnas. The girls took on the role of prom band in this year's dark comedy Jawbreaker, and they cover the KISS classic "Strutter" in "Detroit Rock City" (opening Aug. 13) -- a coup for the self-admitted KISS fanatics.
The reason for the fuss is apparent upon hearing "Get Skintight," a heavy-metal neck-wringing that doesn't quit until the paneling falls off the wall and someone's banging on the door.
"Oh no, not again/ caught hotboxin' with my friends," sings Donna S. on "Hotboxin'." "Turn around, what do I see?/ the police officer next to me." Similar teen tricks turn up elsewhere, as the titles suggest ("Get Outta My Room," "Hook It Up," "Party Action" ), the songs executed without a trace of irony ... or reverence.
"It's kind of annoying sometimes when people are like, 'So I know what your influences are ... it's the Runaways, it's The Ramones'," says Donna C. "And we're like, 'No, really it's more like Poison and KISS,' and then they think we're kind of like joking."
"No," she says, laughing.