Screaming Females Interview: ‘Ugly’ Punk Rock, Pretty Solid Work Ethic

Jun 29, 2012 3:26pm

Screaming Females may be the hardest-working punk band mainstream audiences have yet to hear of. The New Jersey-based trio – comprised of drummer Jarrett Dougherty, front woman Marissa Paternoster and bassist Michael Abbate (a.k.a. King Mike) – can boast of true D.I.Y. roots:

“Our first introduction to the world was going out and playing basements and co-ops and book stores and cafes and anywhere anyone could put together a show,” Dougherty told AudioFile before the band’s April show at The Bell House in Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

Early in their career, the members of Screaming Females were approached by management teams, or as Dougherty described them, “people trying to tell us that they could help us to the next step.” But the band turned them all down, resisting the pressure to fit somebody else’s mold.

They finally teamed up with hometown fellows Joe Steinhardt and Zach Gajewski, who run the label Don Giovanni out of New Brunswick, N.J.

“Then, we got to work hand in hand with friends of ours, rather than have somebody tell us what we should and shouldn’t be doing,” Dougherty said.

 

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Michael Abbate, Jarrett Dougherty and Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females at The Bell House in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 6, 2012. (Alfonso Sjogreen)

Screaming Females’ fifth album, “Ugly,” released on Don Giovanni, is a testament to the young band’s already prolific body of work. For 10 days, the band recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago with producer Steve Albini (who recently helped another fresh-faced, garage punk group, Cloud Nothings, tap into their harder, more aggressive sound).

While Albini definitely helped shape the record, the band takes a certain amount of pride in their own ability to “self-edit” as they’ve matured. Dougherty cited references as wide-ranging as heavy metal bands like Sleep to pop arrangements a la Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. For Paternoster, being able to borrow ideas from different sources is essential to the creative process.

“We’ll talk about bands that we like that we might do something similar to what’s going on, and I think that helps us a lot in creating a vision,” she said.

 

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Screaming Females "Ugly" album cover. (Screaming Females)

Likewise, when it came to the cover art for “Ugly,” the multi-talented Paternoster, who went to art school and has what she calls “a useless degree in drawing,” channeled very specific inspirations. Her style often garners comparisons to Nick Blinko‘s, a British punk rock musician and lead singer of Rudimentary Peni, who, like Paternoster, created all of the original artwork used by the band. In addition to being influenced by the old etchings of Albrecht Dürer, Paternoster said she deliberately stopped working in color, building off of the kinds of compositions and figures seen on Screaming Females’ previous release, “Baby Teeth.”

 

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Screaming Females merchandise table. (Alfonso Sjogreen)

Even as Screaming Females’ star continues to rise – whether from supporting Ted Leo and the Pharmacists‘ past tour to Paternoster being named in Spin magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time - the band insists on maintaining a very hands-on approach. Though there’s always plenty of blame and stress to go around, the band mates never stray far from acting like three friends who have been playing music together for almost seven years.

As Dougherty affirmed, “We do the best we can, and you kind of- Mistakes kind of fade in memory if you go on, and there are more successes than failures.”

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