The only girl band in Palo Alto, they were relatively unknown until they were out of high school. They are all self-taught musicians and practiced in Castellano's garage nearly every day during high school. They are sometimes described as a 'punk' outfit but the band themselves have always stated that they take in broader musical influences such as from the glam rock of Kiss and the power pop of Cheap Trick. Experimenting with different musical styles, they underwent a variety of band names (including Screen, Raggedy Anne, and the Electrocutes) before settling on the Donnas. They worked with producer Darin Raffaelli for their first two albums, the first of which, simply called 'The Donnas', was entirely written by Raffaelli and released on his own Superteem! record label.
It was later re-released on Lookout! Records. The band took a week off of their senior year of high school to tour Japan and tried more of a 'riot grrl' sound. They signed with Lookout! Records completely, and, as the band grew, they were urged to sign with a major label company. In 2001, they finally teamed up with Atlantic Records. In 2002, the Donnas released 'Spend the Night'. Coming after commercial misfires, that album was their mainstream breakthrough, spawning appearances on programs such as 'Total Request Live', 'Saturday Night Live', 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno', and 'The Late Show with David Letterman'.
In the summer of 2003 they played the main stage at Lollapalooza. In 2004, they released their sixth album, 'Gold Medal'. Although continuing to hold successful tours, a new studio album release has not been forthcoming, and the has group reached a mostly dormant state since 2012. They remain still known for the top 40 hit tracks "Take It Off" and "Fall Behind Me". Some of the bands' other influences include L7, Bikini Kill, Shonen Knife, The Muffs, Guns N' Roses, R.E.M., Ramones, and Bratmobile.
Until the release of 2004's 'Gold Medal', the band used pseudonyms. Each member was known as "Donna" followed by the first initial of their surname (e.g. Brett was known as Donna A). They decided to drop the stage names prior to the release of 'Gold Medal' to present an image appropriate for the more 'mature' sound they had adopted.
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