Girl Group Week

Why Girl Groups Rule: The Donnas' Brett Anderson On Why 'Being a Girl' Isn't A Genre

The Donnas' Brett Anderson performs in 2009 (photo: John Shearer WireImag)

"We're girls! But we're not trying to be an 'all-girl' band," says the "Take It Off" singer.

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On each day of's Girl Group Week, we'll be posting an interview with a member of an all-female musical artist about some of the finer points of being in a girl group. A lot of us listen to girl group songs, follow their dance moves and buy tickets to their shows -- but what's it like actually being a member of a girl group?

Billboard continues Girl Group Week by featuring Brett Anderson, the leader of all-female rock group the Donnas. Best remembered for "Take It Off," the lead single from major-label debut "Spend the Night" and one of the most underrated girl group singles ever, the Donnas released seven albums from 1997 to 2007.

Billboard: What's an underrated advantage about being in a girl group?

Anderson: After being in a mixed band and in an all-girl band, I can say that [in an all-girl band] it was really nice, when we were starting out and didn't have any money, to be able to all stay in one hotel room! They were two beds, two girls in each bed. There was one night where we were in Canada, and we were drinking something purple -- I don't remember what it was. But we were sitting around a hotel room and talking about, 'When are we gonna grow up?' It was one of those conversations. That's a really good memory.

Was being an all-girl group in a male-dominated genre always a challenge?

It was crazy. We did get notes saying, "Go home and play with your dolls." There was definitely a sense of "Get a load of this, I can't wait to see these girls try to play!" whenever we played shows. And I'm the singer, so I can say that the girls in my band shred and kill their instruments. The best part was the looks on their faces after we'd soundcheck. It was like, yup, that's right!

When did you realize that you wanted to be in a rock group?

We started when we were 13, and I grew up wanting to be an environmentalist. The fact that there was a statement and a political aspect to the band made it really satisfying. I felt like we were doing something really important, but also totally fun. It wasn't like I grew up being like, 'I want to be a rock star!'

Which all-female groups inspired the Donnas?

When we were first starting out, it was right when L7 first had videos on MTV, and I had never seen anything like that before. And then Bikini Kill were cute and tough. You didn't have to choose one side! And then at the same time, I was personally into AC/DC and KISS, Poison, Motley Crue. We eventually got to play with Ratt, which was amazing.

What's the biggest misconception about being in an all-female group?

I guess the fact that we think of ourselves as an all-female group. We thought of ourselves as a rock band. Everyone else was constantly saying, 'And you're girls, and you're girls.' We were like, 'Okay, fuck, we know! We're girls! But we're not trying to be an "all-girl" band.' 'Being a girl' isn't a kind of music.