Their name is somewhat misleading – there's only one woman in Screaming Females, and although Marissa Paternoster's vibrato-drenched voice can hit insane heights, she knows how to balance such whirling dervish wails with sneering verbal tics, flexible quiet/loud contrasts and some of the most jaw-dropping guitar work around. But that moniker serves as a handy summation of this New Jersey band: They contain multitudes, and what first meets the eye and ear isn't necessarily what lies below the surface.
Take their 2010 and 2012 albums Castle Talk and Ugly, for instance. Released in the wake of Screaming Females' attention-grabbing opening slot for megawatt hard rock stars the Dead Weather, these records contained noisy, ferocious blasts of punk, hardcore and psychedelia, all filtered through a shred-worthy classic rock prism. And then came the 2015 follow-up, Rose Mountain, an elegant downshift into poppier, more streamlined territory that was recorded and engineered by an outside producer, Matt Bayles, for the first time in Screaming Females history.
"We had a great time making Rose Mountain," Paternoster tells Orlando Weekly in a phone interview. "The weather was beautiful in Seattle, we were staying in a cool place, Matt was fun to be with ... overall, it was really pleasant. And I think we succeeded in doing what we aimed to do: make a melodically concise record by paring away some of the things that we might deem excessive. We were trying to get down to zero and really analyze what made a song successful and what might be unnecessary."
So even though Screaming Females' music has evolved out of the frenetic basement punk show scene from which it was birthed, that sense of deliberation remains a hallmark for the band. When Paternoster, bassist "King Mike" Abbate and drummer Jarrett Dougherty first came together in 2005, a bad case of tendonitis sidelined Dougherty for the first few months. But he spent that time reading Our Band Could Be Your Life, Michael Azerrad's tome about the iconic 1980s indie rock movement, and injected its DIY ethos into every move Screaming Females made.
"The three of us have handled every aspect of the band imaginable," Dougherty laughs. "Everything from making merch to recording, getting albums pressed, driving the van, booking the shows, answering emails. A lot of young bands don't get that experience. They record music, put it up on the Internet, and then say, 'How do I get someone to put this out or book my band?'" It's that self-sufficiency that has allowed Screaming Females to cultivate a decade-long relationship with Don Giovanni Records and its founder, Joe Steinhardt. "Joe has always been super supportive of everything we want to do," Dougherty says. "We've entertained potential managers and labels over the years, but as soon as we start talking about the way we think about our music, they're like, 'Oh yeah, I gotta run.' Joe and Don Giovanni are the exact opposite. I can't imagine having a better dialogue or experience."
Of course, not everything has been hunky dory in the Screaming Females world. Paternoster's struggle with persistent mononucleosis informed much of the strangled lyricism on Rose Mountain. And despite her best efforts, some of those patterns still persist. "It's really easy to get sick of yourself for writing about having your heart broken," Paternoster says. "So lyrically, I'm trying not to pull from those traumas because they're kind of old hat – I want to write more sophisticated metaphors about things that are bigger than myself."
Dougherty and Paternoster say that should be evident in their new material, a few snippets of which they'll perform on this upcoming tour. "We've definitely changed in that we don't want to do the same thing on every record," Paternoster says. "Our ability to self-edit has improved. But our incentive for making music hasn't changed at all. We're still playing rock music and trying new things together until something sticks and we're excited about how it sounds. In that sense, there's no big science to it."
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