Screaming Females

Live music is proof that there's some things the internet can't kill
Marissa Paternoster, lead guitarist and singer for Screaming Females, photo by Becky Yee

Rooms full of unmasked strangers gyrating sweating and jumping all around you was no way to spend the pandemic but now that most people are all vaxxed and boosted, mask restrictions are over and people feel safer, the live concert halls are where all the action is.

After two years of isolation and living on the internet, the concert halls are coming back to life and leading the charge are some talented women.  At a recent sold out show at White Eagle Hall we caught up with the Screaming Females, a three piece rock band with top female guitarist, Marissa Paternoster at the helm.

For the uninitiated, how would you describe your music and live shows?

Jarrett: No bullshit, just three people on stage ready to let it hang out there. We live in the moment as far as live performance goes. Lots of bands have a tightly rehearsed set that they do the same way every night. We are the complete opposite. Some nights that means things are rough around the edges, some nights it means we are able to transcend and seemingly pull inspiration out of thin air, some nights it is both at the same time! I think we give off the vibe that any three people might have stepped out of the audience and on to the stage and delivered something truly special... because it is the truth, we are just three people from the crowd!

How do you want your audience to feel, think or remember after they leave one of your shows?

Jarrett: I hope that people feel like they experienced something unique. I don't think there are a lot of bands like Screaming Females out there, performing the way we do.

Screaming Females got their start doing DIY basement live shows in New Brunswick NJ.  How do you think that start has helped the band to navigate the current landscape of music?

Jarrett: I think it is beneficial for bands to learn a bit about all the aspects that it takes to make this thing run. If you've recorded your own songs, released your own music, booked your own shows, made your own merch, etc you have way less of a chance of someone doing something stupid if you do eventually hire someone to take over those pieces. Also, it is harder than ever to make money playing music so the more parts you can keep in house the better chance you have of actually making a few bucks out there. And last, but most important, being an artist/musician is a way of life, not just a job. Making the real connections it takes to do things DIY is what creates community and meaningful relationships and friendships.

Getting back to live music, what is the band looking forward to the most and how has the pandemic helped to inspire the live performance or music you may have revisited or created during the pandemic?

Jarrett: Screaming Females had been touring the world for 15 years before the pandemic. It is my life's work to be able to create and bring this music directly to people. Missing that for the past two years is an indescribable loss. Getting to tour again will feel like a void has been filled in my soul. I don't really think the pandemic has had any inspirational input on our process. It is just a terrible thing that has taken an unbelievable toll on the world.

Marissa:  Our entire adult lives have been lived through the lens of Screaming Females, so having it all abruptly taken away was nothing short of traumatic.  Getting back on the road will just be one small step in what I suspect will be a long healing process.

I read that Marissa does paintings and sees lyrics in shapes and colors aka synesthesia.  Can she shares with us about some of her favorite shapes and colors of her favorite songs?

Marissa:  The way I remember chord progressions and scales is through visualizing them through shapes, a lot of which don't really have names, but are typically some assemblage of rectangles.  My visual and musical practices are inextricably linked, and that connection is so complex it would feel impossible to isolate a specific set of colors for any one song.

You can see Marissa paintings and drawings here.

What's new on the horizon for the band? 

Jarrett: We have a tour coming up in the spring! We are very excited to head out on our first proper tour in two years! We will be bringing along the amazing bands TVO, Ghösh, and Catbite. Also we just announced Screaming Females' Annual Garden Party 2023! Feb 17 and 18 in Jersey City, NJ!

Marissa:  Can't wait to hit the road with our friends!  Ghösh is one of my favorite bands out there right now, so I'm especially excited to see them a few nights in a row!

How do you keep finding inspiration and working together after all of these years?

Jarrett: I still really, really look forward to going to band practice every week. It honestly seems bizarre to think that it has been 17 years. There just seems like there is so much more left in the well. I think that communication and understanding each other as people comes first. Everything else is built off of that relationship. We are like family at this point.Marissa:  I also still love working on this project.  I still feel like there is room for a lot more exploration, which is really special.

Any advice, words of wisdom you want to share about your music and live performances?Jarrett: A friend of ours once said that if you play everything perfectly that means you weren't playing hard enough. He is probably right about that.

Follow and get more information on The Screaming Females here.