Screaming Females ply punk
“Sorry, I fell asleep in the van.”
Ah, the life of a lauded, touring musician whose band just released its seventh album — and is still keeping it DIY.
Marissa Paternoster, the voice and guitar-shredding maestro behind New Jersey punk trio Screaming Females, called from the road to discuss the group’s new LP, “All At Once” — an album more than two years in the making.
“Not to wax poetic on it, but this is all we know. We’ve all grown up making music in this band,” Paternoster says of the past 13 years of Screaming Females. “Jarrett (Dougherty, drummer) said one time that we’re like a shark — you have to keep swimming or you’ll die. We’re a self-managed, self-booked band that drives themselves around, loads their own gear and makes all their own art. We do the best we can.”
After self-producing its debut, “Baby Teeth,” in 2006, the trio hit the road — self-producing and releasing 2007’s follow-up, “What If Someone is Watching Their T.V.?” — before signing to Don Giovanni Records in 2009.
Since then, consistently thrilling studio albums, live releases and performances have ensued. The recipe Screaming Females have been following works: capture the big guitar sound and add pummeling drums, bass and Paternoster’s towering vocals to swallow the listener whole. Why mess with a good thing? Ambition. Produced by Matt Bayles (who also produced 2015’s “Rose Mountain”) at the legendary London Bridge Studio in Seattle, “All At Once” is a buffet of the genre’s best tricks — a mutated take on classic pop-punk riffs (“I’ll Make You Sorry,” “Deeply”) and singalong melodies (“Bird in Space”). The band has slowed things down without losing any intensity, letting the tracks breathe before the inevitable crash.
“We didn’t really talk about what engineer/ producer we were gonna use much,” she says of the decision to work with Bayles again. “We were kind of just like, ‘Well, we had such a great experience with Matt, we should just go with Matt again.’ Everyone was just kind of on board. He knows how to record loud bands.”
The rest remains a democratic process, with everyone’s input equally important to make sure each feels part of what was being created — including which influences they wanted to draw inspiration from.
While recording “All At Once” seemed to be equal parts work hard and play hard, Paternoster acknowledges that when the trio reconvened after taking a post-tour break, the thought of driving around with friends, playing rock music and drinking beer seemed almost rude.
It was after the 2016 presidential election, and the reality of President Donald Trump seemed, as Paternoster puts it, “rattling.”
“It felt wrong for us to play music and have fun when there’s so much pain in the world,” she says. “There’s always so much suffering and pain, but it just seemed like a big magnifying glass placed over that after Trump was elected.”
So the band chose to bring bands from different backgrounds on tour that are fronted by or include nonbinary folks and musicians of color, and write lyrics to songs like “Step Outside” and “My Body” that were more universal so everyone could hear or see themselves reflected in them.
“We can curate the reality we want to live in, where everyone is treated fairly and with the utmost respect,” Paternoster says. “If you’re at a Screaming Females show, you’re hopefully going to be in a pretty diverse group of people.”
The Screaming Females are Jarrett Dougherty, from left, Marissa Paternoster and “King” Mike Abbate.