Screaming Females: The Lady is a Champ

Originally published in Guitar World, February 2010

Guitar World recently sat down with Screaming Females' Marissa
Paternoster to discuss the trio's DIY attitude, her guitar playing and meeting her heroes.

After forming in 2005, DIY loyalists Screaming Females wielded their guitar-centric take on post-punk at over 260 self-booked shows. The New Jersey–based trio has since gotten a booking agent and played alongside the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Jack White’s Dead Weather, but diminutive singer-guitarist Marissa Paternoster, 23, still looks back fondly at the band’s gnarlier concerts at more intimate venues. She recalls of one memorable Philadelphia show, “There was some kind of mosh pit happening. Arms were flailing, and the kids were getting a little rowdy. Suddenly, my guitar slammed into my face, and then my lip started bleeding.” The band played on, undeterred.

This sort of self-sustaining tenacity has helped propel the band since its earliest days. Screaming Females released three seven-inch singles themselves—compiled on this year’s Singles CD—prior to signing to Don Giovanni Records for their critically lauded debut full-length, Power Move. That album also garnered the praise of alt-rock scene vets like Throwing Muses’ Kristin Hersh and the Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray, and it inspired the New York City alternative weekly Village Voice to name Paternoster the region’s “Best Guitar Shredder.”

Although her blazing pentatonic leads are all over the tracks on Power Move and Singles, Paternoster says she’s largely uninspired by solo-heavy music. “It’s nice that people are excited about my guitar playing,” she says, “but the only band I ever listened to where someone shreds a lot is old Smashing Pumpkins. Other than that, I listened to Gang of Four, X and Pixies. I love those bands because of their character and the songs they write.”

The Screaming Females’ trajectory helped her cross paths with at least one of her guitar heroes this past year: Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis. “I have this really cool picture of my 1x12 combo in front of his Marshall stacks,” Paternoster says. “He has three full stacks behind him, and then he has a [Fender] Twin Reverb in front of him to monitor his guitar—as if he can’t hear the three Marshall stacks behind him. I think it’s so funny.”

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