“Back for the Ugly”:
The Return with Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females
Words by Keith Hadad
Over the past seven years, New Brunswick natives, Screaming Females, have been blasting away with their own unique brand of punk rock in everywhere from packed local basements and communal homes to clubs and festivals the world over. With King Mike on bass, Jarrett Dougherty on drums and Marissa Paternoster on guitar, the trio is known for playing heavily rocking garage-stomps and frenzied screamers all with white-hot intensity. Despite punk’s reputation for being overtly simplistic, even a casual inspection of the musicianship of Screaming Females would reveal some skillfully intricate and subtle playing that could only be done by very talented artists.
To date, the band has released five exceptional full-length albums, the most recent being, Ugly, which was released a year ago. Since then, the band has been back on tour and has released a limited edition tape cassette EP of songs that were all composed on a chalkboard. Between band rehearsals for a string of shows that started in Chicago on April 11th, Marissa Paternoster took some time to talk about the group and their deeply running New Brunswick roots.
So you’ve been playing music in bands as early as high school. How long have you been playing music in general now?
Marissa: I’ve been playing guitar since I was fourteen. Jarrett has been playing the drums since he was nine, and I think Michael was about fourteen when he picked up the bass.
So with the band getting its start in the established New Brunswick hardcore and punk scenes playing at house shows and the like, do you feel at all like a part of a musical or artistic community there?
Marissa: I sure do. It’s a really small community at that, and I think that is what makes it special. People work really hard to put on shows in New Brunswick; it’s no easy task. I really love New Brunswick. Johnson & Johnson, DEVCO, and Rutgers University all sort of swallow the city whole, but I hope that kids can carry on having punk shows under the noses of those cooperate conglomerates.
Is there a specific reason why the band regularly performs at house and basement concerts? Do you prefer them to shows at conventional larger venues?
Marissa: There is no real legitimate arts & cultural center in New Brunswick. There is one bar that hosts rock shows, and it’s not particularly popular amongst the community nor is it all ages, so it’s non-inclusive. We like house shows because our community could have control. We could prepare the bill, schedule the dates, and make certain that the touring band received all of the donated money. Our band doesn’t have any particular problems with established, larger venues, although we do prefer to play all-ages shows whenever possible.
I find it interesting that each album’s material is credited to the entire band. Could you describe how one of your songs is typically written?
Marissa: We write all of our songs together. Typically, we get together in our practice space, lay some ideas out on the table, and if something sticks, we flesh it out and create an arrangement.
What or who tends to influence your songwriting the most?
Marissa: Nothing and no one in particular.
Your latest album, Ugly, was engineered by Steve Albini who of course is a fantastic artist in his own right and had also worked with the likes of Nirvana, The Pixies, The Stooges, etc. What was it like to work with him?
Marissa: Steve Albini was great. He was a dream to work with and continues to be a terrific friend. He is incredibly skilled, intelligent, efficient, and snarky. I had a great time making a record alongside him.
You’ve toured with many other great bands such as Dinosaur Jr and Garbage. Who was the most memorable and interesting for the band?
Marissa: Personally, Garbage was a thrill for me – they were my favorite band when I first discovered rock and roll, so I was more than psyched to meet them. I’d say we have had the most fun touring with our friends – Lemuria, Shellshag, and The Underground Railroad to Candyland – those tours were the most memorable.
Earlier this year, the band released an intriguing tape cassette/digital release of an EP called The Chalk Tape which was composed on a chalk board and then recorded as is. Could you explain this project further and how did this idea come into being?
Marissa: “Chalk Tape” began with a list of song ideas we jotted down in the van. When we got home from tour, we wrote the ideas down on a chalkboard in our practice space. We wrote the songs without second-guessing our compositions, recorded them, and that was that.
What else does 2013 hold for Screaming Females?
Marissa: Well, I was ill for a good portion of 2012 so we had to take a bit of a break so I could get well. I’m feeling a lot better now and we hope to return to the road soon. We have some shows coming up in the Spring that we’re really excited about.
Tour Dates are as follows:
Apr 20 Maxwells Hoboken, NJ
May 07 Machines with Magnets Pawtucket, RI
May 08 The Firehouse Worcester, MA
May 09 Middle East Upstairs Cambridge, MA
May 28 Bowery Ballroom* New York, NY
May 29 Bowery Ballroom* New York, NY
May 31 Nelsonville Music Festival Nelsonville, OH
Jun 02 The Mohawk (Chaos in Tejas) Austin, TX
Jun 04 Triple Six Klubhaus New Orleans, LA
Jun 05 529 Bar Atlanta, GA
Jun 06 The Milestone Charlotte, NC
Jun 07 Strange Matter Richmond, VA
Jun 08 St Stephen’s Church Washington, DC