Hitching a Ride With Screaming Females
Photo by Christopher Patrick Ernst
Screaming Females' drummer Jarrett Dougherty said the band has played Houston a few times before, but is still looking for that one knockout performance here as headliners.
Those who know one of rock's most exciting groups may find that hard to believe. Dougherty and bassist King Mike are a solid one-two combination, setting up the haymaker that is guitarist and front woman Marissa Paternoster. It's difficult to fathom they haven't rope-a-doped locals with their punishing live act, but they'll get another chance by stepping into the ring as the main event tonight at Walters.
Aside from a solid turn as openers for Garbage at House of Blues a couple of years ago, Dougherty said the band's most notable moment in Houston occurred at Super Happy Fun Land.
"I won't say which Screaming Females member, but one of us went outside to relieve themselves behind the venue because something was wrong with the bathroom and proceeded to get poison ivy all over the butt," Dougherty says, adding within the same breath, "It was Marissa."
"The next day she was like, 'I went outside last night to pee and now I have a million mosquito bites on my butt," Dougherty continues. "We told her, 'Those aren't mosquito bites, Marissa.'"
Such are the lessons learned by a working, touring band. Paternoster once did the math on the band's travel time for Performer Magazine and estimated the band spends 510 hours together in the close quarters of a van each year. Case in point: the band answered our questions by passing the phone back and forth between Dougherty and Paternoster while trekking from Washington state to California. (King Mike was driving.)
"I probably would have never seen much of the country had it not been for being in Screaming Females," Paternoster says, adding her furthest pre-band excursion was a trip to Florida.
Since its first shows at home in New Brunswick, N.J. in 2005, the band has repeatedly zig-zagged across the U.S. and into Canada. They've toured Europe, unleashing the unbridled energy of their live act in big cities like Paris and off-the-beaten locales like Zagreb, Croatia.
But gigs in exotic places don't just come from having the will to load up and leave home. You also have to have talent. If that was a tangible commodity that also needed loading into the tour vehicle, the band would need a few freightliners.
Recently SPIN Magazine named Paternoster one of the Top 100 guitarists of all time (she checked in at No. 77). They're Rolling Stone favorites; Paternoster chuckles over their recent, frequent appearances. Legendary producer Steve Albini (Pixies, Breeders, Nirvana, etc.) has produced Females albums, including this year's Live at the Hideout. They've shared bills with Jack White and Arctic Monkeys.
And that's only the musical talent. Paternoster is also an amazing visual artist, and creates a lot of the band's original artwork.
"We've been a band for a long time," Paternoster notes, when asked how Screaming Females stay rooted amid the group's growing accolades. "None of those things really came as a shock because they came gradually and we had to work for those things."
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Screaming Females has become a role model of sorts for D.I.Y. acts looking to gain similar notoriety. Paternoster said her best attempt at advice for these acts is to offer as little advice as possible.
"I feel like giving advice turns me into some sort of weird authority figure," she laughs. "Everyone's situation is different, their projects, where they come from, what they want to do with them.
"You do have to care about the project and enjoy it and know why you're doing it or else you're going to lose interest really rapidly," Paternoster adds.
Her band's pressing projects are the current tour, which got even more exciting when they teamed with Nashville's PUJOL. Also exciting, the band's new single, "Wishing Well," a bit of a departure from the beautiful chaos of songs like "Something Ugly" or "Expire," from 2012's Ugly, or "Crushing the Kingdom" from last year's Chalk Tape.
By comparison, "Wishing Well" almost sounds radio-friendly. Is this a new goal for the band?
"It definitely wouldn't hurt our feelings," Dougherty says. "If we could somehow get picked up by radio it would be pretty amazing, because there aren't many independent artists who get picked up by radio anymore.
"It wasn't a conscious effort to be more mainstream," he adds. "The conscious effort went into trying to do something new after ten years."
The band plans a deserved respite from the road come the winter months. Following an incident involving some road ice and a spinning van last year in Chicago, the trio made a pact to chill on winter runs.
So, there will be time to rest and reflect once the tour is done. Asked what she thinks she's learned about her friends and tour mates over all these years, Paternoster had a simple answer.
"We're like adults now," she says. "We talk about vacuum cleaner models. Making jam. Adult things."
Screaming Females performs with Pujols and Sparebones and the Ancient Gods tonight at Walters Downtown, 1120 Naylor. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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