Many thanks to Screaming Females who were kind enough to invite me into their tour van for this interview before their June 26, 2016 show at the Brass Rail in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
7th Level Music: Is this your first time in Fort Wayne?
Jarrett Dougherty (drums): Yeah.
7LM: You’ve got one more gig to go before the end of the tour. How’s it been?
Mike Abbatte (bass): Pretty good.
Marissa Paternoster (vocals, guitar): Smooth.
JD: Yeah, it’s been pretty easy. We did three weeks, and then the two weeks off, and then this is the end of another two weeks after that. We went down to Florida and then back up the coast over the three weeks, so the drives were really easy, and then we just went through Canada for a few days, and then Michigan, Wisconsin, and Chicago, and now we’re here. It’s all been pretty easy.
7LM: You’re off to Pittsburgh next?
7LM: Where are you playing there?
JD: It’s a venue we haven’t been to yet. Cattivo.
7LM: If you can get to the Warhol Museum there, it’s amazing.
MP: We got a tour of it the last time we were there from…Andy’s nephew?
7LM: Oh, right on.
JD: Yeah, Donald Warholia.
MP: It was awesome. There was so much stuff to look at, it was overwhelming.
7LM: Weren’t you in Australia earlier this year, or maybe last fall?
JD: We’re going for the first time. It’s at the end of our summer, so it’s the end of their winter.
7LM: You get there in time for the good weather, then.
JD: Yeah, they said it’ll be a little cold when we first get there, but by the end of the trip spring will be kicking in.
7LM: I imagine that’s hard to change your logistics of planning for packing and moving all your gear.
MA: I have not thought about packing.
MP: Yeah, I haven’t thought about it.
MA: This is the first I’m thinking about it.
7LM: Oh, I’m sorry to plant that seed of panic in your head.
JD: Mainly the panic’s been about how long the plane ride is to get there. Marissa doesn’t really like planes, Mike doesn’t like that he has trouble fitting in the seats, and then I just get really bored, but that’s not nearly as bad as compared to what they’re going through…but at the same time I don’t want to be bored.
MA: I’m a giant so I’ll end up sitting like this (turns sideways in the driver’s seat of the van).
MP: And I’m crazy, so I’ll be having a nervous breakdown.
7LM: Have there been any countries where you were surprised to discover how popular you are? Have you ever heard from fans from some place where you never imagined we’d get played there?
MP: (laughing) I wish it was another country.
JD: Well, yeah, other than Miami, already for the Australia stuff, it’s pretty amazing. We’ve already been getting all these e-mails from people who are like, “I can’t believe you guys are coming here.” We’ve done a number of tours in Europe, and there we have really good experiences and a lot of the shows are really good, but it’s a lot of promoters who are just good at having people that come out to shows regardless if they know the bands or not because the promoter’s like, “Everybody should show up for this one.” But, already for Australia it seems like there are people who are excited about us getting there. We did a bunch of interviews the other day for Australian things, and people were like, “Oh, yeah, I saw your band at South by Southwest one time. I’ve been waiting for you guys to get here for years.”
7LM: That’s fantastic.
JD: Yeah, so that’s pretty exciting already. I feel like the number of people who said they were excited about our band is equal to all the people in Europe who know who we are.
7LM: I was wondering about your songwriting process. Grooves first or lyrics first? Or does it depend on the song?
JD: Always grooves first. Yeah, for sure.
(Marissa and Mike bump fists.)
JD: Occasionally, Marissa will come in with a song that’s pretty formed already, lyrically. For the songs we’re working on coming up, eventually it will be a new album, but we’re just writing the songs right now, Mike brought in a song like that as well. But the vast majority of stuff is us getting together and just playing music together.
7LM: One of the things I love so much about the stuff you guys play is how you’ll sometimes go from a song that’s quiet and just heartbreaking and then you’ll make this right turn and it’s like a punch in the gut and you’re hitting so hard and knocking walls down. I wondered if there were songs on the new record or ones you can think of where you came in thinking, “Okay, this is going to be kind of a mellow heartbreaker,” but then one of you thought, “You know what? This just needs to be like a kick in the junk, or vice versa.”
MA: (laughing) With the new stuff that we’re currently writing, it all has just come together naturally.
MA: There hasn’t been a song where we went into it thinking one thing and then it turned out completely different – that I can think of.
JD: The one I can think of that most dramatically represents that is on Ugly. The song is “Expire.” When Marissa first made a demo of that, it had this very…
MP: (chuckling) It was like a merengue.
JD: Yeah, it had a very arpeggiated Latin acoustic guitar feel, and then it turned into something entirely different by the time we were done.
MP: (laughing) That’s probably a good thing.
MA: I don’t remember that at all. “Hopeless” (from Rose Mountain) had a bit more of an Americana vibe to it and then we took that and made it more straight-ahead. We turned it into like a Weezer song.
JD: We had a couple ideas about that one, too, that included thinking about the beginning of Stop Making Sense. David Byrne comes out to do “Psycho Killer” with just the boom box and that idea stuck in my head, that you could do a song in that fashion. So when we were working out “Hopeless,” I was thinking about playing very robotically, like a drum machine. We even tried to drop a drum machine in on that first part of that track to see if it would work, but we couldn’t get one work that mixed with the vibes of the instruments. So we left the drums, but I was trying to play like a drum machine.
7LM: Nice. I know on Chalk Tape you three basically wrote the stuff out on a chalkboard and kind of went with “First thought, best thought,” kind of thing?
7LM: Did any of that carry over into Rose Mountain at all on any of the tracks?
MP: Chalk Tape was like a vacation away from overthinking things, and then we revisited overthinking everything when we got to Rose Mountain – which is not something we necessarily dislike doing, I think.
MA: Wait, Chalk Tape was before Rose Mountain?
Everyone else: Yeah.
(Laughter fills the van.)
MP: Because Ugly was such a big project and there were so many songs, and we demoed everything five thousand times. We demoed songs at different speeds. We like doing stuff like that.
MA: It’s true.
MP: I mean, I do. It’s fun for me. So Chalk Tape was like a little bit break from that and we threw caution to the wind and just had fun. Demoing stuff is fun for me. With Rose Mountain we definitely were very focused on melodies and songwriting and analyzing our demos and getting rid of things that we were like, “This is extraneous, and that’s unnecessary. It doesn’t benefit the song in any way.”
7LM: What are your favorite misheard lyrics? Do you have any that just crack you up?
MA: We have a couple.
MP: One I can’t say.
7LM: No, you can say it.
JD: About our band? (Looking at Marissa) You like those misheard lyrics about the Fall Out Boy video.
MP: Yeah, it’s just “don-don-don-loora-loora.”
MA: Yeah, it’s like “Ooo-lee-ooo-rah.”
JD: We watch that video a lot because they attempt to animate what they think these nonsense words mean and it’s really, really good.
MP: Misheard lyrics from other songs?
7LM: Or from yours.
MP: There’s this one song we have called “Pretty Okay,” and I say, “You make me feel so enlightened,” and our friends in a posthumous band called Full of Fancy thought I said, “You make me feel like Steve Martin,” which I think is a better lyric.
MA: The next line is “A lady found God in her purse,” and another friend of ours said it sounded like “A lady found God in her puss.”
MP: It’s a little risqué.
JD: We didn’t say it! They just thought we said it.
MA: I just said it. It just came out of my mouth.
MP: I think Full of Fancy did that, too. It was always them.
MA: No, it was probably (producer Steve) Albini.
7LM: It wouldn’t surprise me. Are there any bands that have inspired you that you fans might be surprised by?
MA: (no hesitation) Fall Out Boy. We love Fall Out Boy.
MP: (laughing) Yeah, we love Fall Out Boy.
JP: Just the one album, though.
MP: I celebrate two albums.
JD: I mean, collectively, we like the one album.
MP: Yeah, that’s true.
JD: I love a lot of hip hop. I don’t know if people think that’s weird, but it definitely doesn’t seem like it’s attached to Screaming Females. In high school I listened to a lot of world music and jazz and stuff, but I think a lot of that comes out in my playing, and I think people who are familiar with music like Fela Kuti and Gangstarr, could hear that I play drums more like what those artists think of rhythms like instead a punk band.
7LM: Are there any bands you’ve played with on this tour that you think your fans should hear more of?
MP: The first night of tour we played with two of the coolest bands I’d seen in a long time.
MA: Chipped Nails. They were cool as hell.
MP: Chipped Nails from Montreal. It was like their second show ever. They were so good, I wanted them to play forever. They played for, like, ten minutes.
JD: They played this really hypnotically repetitive, slightly funky groovin’ music that was completely atonal and nonsensical, and it was amazing.
MP: They were really good.
7LM: I’m all over that.
MP: They don’t have any Internet presence yet.
MA: They have no music. It was their second show.
JD: Everybody in the crowd, their jaws dropped like, “I don’t know what I’m witnessing.” They were bopping their heads. It was the grooviest show of all time.
MA: We did a couple shows with our friends in this band called Vacation who are really, really good.
JD: Yeah, they’re from Ohio.
7LM: I’ve heard of them somewhere.
JD: Yeah, they’re on Don Giovanni, which is the same label that has been putting out stuff for a long time. They’re from Cincinnati and Columbus and have been playing shows for years and years.
7LM: I go to Columbus a lot, so that’s probably where I heard of them.
JD: Have you ever been to Ace of Cups?
JD: Okay, it’s a cool venue there. Our friend, Evan, who plays in Vacation is usually working the door. So, if you ever end up there, you’ll probably meet Evan.
7LM: Finally, I thought this would be fun to ask you – Who are your favorite scream queens?
7LM: Your favorite Hollywood scream queens.
MA: What’s that?
7LM: Horror movie stars. Screaming females, literally.
JD: Jamie Lee Curtis from Halloween is the classic.
7LM: Oh yeah, of course.
MA: I don’t do movies. I can’t sit still that long.
JD: (looking at Marissa) Green Room?
MA: Maeby from Arrested Development? I don’t even know what her name is.
MP: Yeah, me either (Alia Shawkat). I’m not much of a movie buff. I don’t know too much. I like Hellraiser, that’s a movie I enjoy. There’s two female characters in there. I don’t know either of their names. The woman who’s seducing the men and bringing them to the guy’s room so he can reanimate them. She’s cool. I don’t know what her name is (Julia – played by Claire Higgins), but I like her style. She’s ruthless. She doesn’t give a good damn. Yeah, I think that might be my favorite horror movie. I haven’t seen the others, but I do really like the first Hellraiser.
7LM: Once I was at a horror movie convention and saw Doug Bradley, who plays Pinhead, and Robert England, who plays Freddy Krueger having lunch together.
MP: My girlfriend at the time really wanted to get into the franchise, and I think we got up to the third one and I was like, “I can’t watch these, they’re so bad.”
7LM: They get progressively worse.
MP: The first one’s so cool, and the second one was okay, and by the third one I was like, “What’s happening?” But my friend, Mark Bronzino, who plays in this metal band called Iron Reagan, he was like, “Yo, Marissa, Hellraiser 14 is pretty good, you should go see it.” And I was like, “I’m not gonna see it.”
7LM: Well, they’re remaking it.
MP: The first one?
JD: The fourteenth one.
7LM: They probably are.
MP: I don’t know, apparently it’s pretty good.
7LM: Thanks again. Is there anything you want fans to look up, or anything you want to plug?
JD: Screamingfemales.com is the easiest place to find our real tour dates, because now there are tour date aggregators out there all over the Internet that put up tour dates from five years ago. That’s the best place to find information about us, but we’re pretty easy to get in touch with. You can literally e-mail us and one of us will probably answer you.
7LM: And you’re all on Twitter and Facebook for sure.
JD: Yeah, so if you’ve ever encountered the Internet, you can probably find us.
Keep your mind open.
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