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The Donnas get their flash in the pan after years of simmering.

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Then again, it's all still fairly shocking for The Donnas."We were nervous all day," says bassist Donna F. (Maya Ford) from her Oakland, Calif., home, about the "Saturday Night Live" gig Jan. 18. It proved that sometimes the butterflies never go away, no matter how many years you're at it.

The Donnas will have been at it in some form or another for 10 years this May. During that time, existing mostly on the fringe of the limelight, they've maintained the simple fun of four friends making music together. It's paid off with their latest album, "Spend the Night," their first on a major label (Atlantic).

After critical acclaim for their early, little-noticed efforts like 1999's "Get Skintight," and jabs for the stale Ramones rehashing on their penultimate effort, "Turn 21," celebrity and praise have finally come together. The Donnas popularity is skyrocketing, and many reviewers are saying they're at the top of their game. In fact, the only criticism Ford remembers reading since the album was released in the fall is that it had too much guitar on it. Never a bad thing in her mind.

Overkill is what The Donnas are all about. Ford says they exaggerate their personal lives into songs like "40 Boys in 40 Nights" ("Maybe it's really four boys in 40 nights," Ford coyly admits) to satisfy the tastes of what she calls "the fun generation." For a self-described party band, though, the fun just seems to be ending.

"There's no time off, ever," Ford complains. "[Celebrity] has cramped our style a little bit because we used to stay up all night and sleep all day." Now with all the interviews, concerts and promotional appearances like their recent debut on MTV's "Total Request Live," there's more at stake, and not much daytime left for sleeping.

The four also spend a lot of time defending what they say they've earned.

As we all know, "TRL" is the traditional showcase of corporately-created pop. Strange territory for a rock band with a bad-girl image to uphold. In response, Ford takes the offensive. Though not anti-pop by any means, she says, the difference between The Donnas and the Avrils of the world "is that nobody's really helped us. Nobody's helped us write our songs, and we've been doing it for 10 years." And if Avril Lavigne loyalists found The Donnas presence perplexing, she continues, "Hopefully we can convert all her fans so they have something better to listen to, something that's more real."

The Donnas are still waiting to see if all the hard work will pay off. "People see you on MTV and they think you have tons of money," Ford says, "but we're all super broke." S



The Donnas play an all-ages show at Alley Katz on Tuesday, Feb. 4, with OK Go and Longwave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $13 in advance through Plan 9, $15 at the door.

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