Interview conducted by Jupiter Beck
On Thursday, September 14th, I got to talk to Marissa Paternoster, the guitarist and lead vocalist of New Jersey rock band, Screaming Females. We discussed her experiences with Riot Fest, their recent documentary, her artistic process, and how bands can better sustain themselves!
Hi, this is Jupiter! I’m calling to interview Screaming Females for WLUW, the Loyola University radio station.
Hello! It’s Marissa from Screaming Females!
Hi, first I just wanted to ask before I start, do I have your permission to record this conversation?
Yeah, you do. We are outside right now, we’re about to hop in the van. So, I’ll probably throw some headphones on once we’re in there. I don’t know if that makes any difference to you.
So just to get started, would you like to introduce yourself?
Yeah sure, my name’s Marissa, I play guitar and I sing in the band Screaming Females.
Sweet. All right. Um, before I ask any more questions, I just want to say I’m a huge fan of you guys. I’ve been listening since like, 2018 when “I’ll Make You Sorry” dropped. So, I’m like, super excited to ask you guys some questions about this.
Yea, thanks for calling!
Okay, so my first kind of thing I want to ask about: so, you guys are going to be playing at Riot Fest tomorrow. Right?
Okay, sweet. And this is your second time playing.
Yeah. The first time was a really long time ago. I don’t even know when it was.
Yeah. So, are you guys excited to be back?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, we’re, we’re always excited when like big festivals ask us to play, and small festivals too.
Awesome. Are you going to see any other artists perform?
Um, well, we have to get there. So we’re leaving New Jersey right now. So [laughs] we’ll see when we get there, in time to catch, um, I know Jarrett wants to go see George Clinton, Turnstile despite the fact that we kind of came from similar scenes, the scene being DIY from the east coast so I’m excited to see (audio cuts out)
Sorry, you’re kind of cutting in and out a little bit.
Hello? Hold on. Can I call you back once we get in the van?
Yeah, of course.
All right. Cool. I’ll be like five seconds
I don’t know if you heard, but there’s some audio issues. So she is going to call back once they’re in the car, because they’re going to be driving…they’re driving to Riot Fest right now. So she’s going to call back, because she has to like get in the van and stuff. So yeah, I’m still just recording everything.
Hey! This should probably fix the problem.
Alright, so back to Riot Fest. I wanted to ask from a band’s perspective. If you have noticed any differences between Riot Fest now and from what it was–because I think the last time you guys perform there was in like 2012.
Yea, it was a long time ago.
Just wondering, Have you been able to see any differences in like how Riot Fest is now versus like 10-11 years ago?
The first and only other time we played Riot Fest, I had the flu, I remember. So I was–I didn’t really go to the festival [laughs]. I spent most of the day asleep. And then Jarrett came and got me when it was time to play. But unfortunately, I didn’t really get to check out the show or most of the bands. I saw a little bit of Alkaline Trio–(van beeps) Sorry, our van’s making a bunch of sounds–I saw a little bit of Alkaline Trio, but other than that, unfortunately, i guess, like 99% of it, I would say, but, I mean, I’m just gonna assume that it’s way bigger.
Yeah, I mean, I’ve, I mean, I’ve seen it the past like, few years, but I was like a little kid in like, 2012. But, yeah, how did you perform with the flu?
Oh, I just did it [laughs]
Like, stuck through it? [laughs]
Yeah, I mean, we, yeah, we’ve been in a band for 18 years. So at any given time, one of us, or Multiple, couple of us are probably sick with a cold or flu or, in recent weeks with COVID, and kinda, plow through it.
[Jarrett & Mike jump in] : Well, we went home.
Yeah, well, we went home, but [laughs], when I had COVID, I thought I had a hangover. Turns out it was COVID.
I also, I wanted to ask you about you guys have a documentary coming out. Tomorrow?
Tonight. Cool. Um, and that’s you guys performed, like, did a little tour in Alaska. Right?
All right. I just want to ask what was performing while making the documentary like, like did filming your performances change the way that you guys played at all?
No, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t really say so. It was such a unique experience to be able to go to Alaska and the person who came with us to document it has been our friend for over a decade. Her name’s Kate Sweeny. And I can’t really think of another filmmaker who we might be more comfortable being around. She’s just like, you know, essentially family at this point. And she’s made documentaries in the past. So I know she is very conscious of like, if she thinks she’s being too intrusive in any capacity, she’ll usually ask. But it was kind of our idea. So it’d be kind of silly if we found the documentarian to, like, be annoying, or like affecting our performance or something. Yeah. So it wasn’t invasive at all.
How did you come up with the idea for filming specifically in Alaska, like that really intrigued me.
I think like a big focal point of the documentary is just that there are people who live in Alaska, there’s like a pretty active DIY music scene. And it’s just really, it’s a very faraway place. I’m sure the people who live there, which you’ll see in the documentary would love for more bands from the lower 48 to come up to Alaska. But if you’re not like in a monolithically famous rock band, you might not–or any bands–you might not have the resources to fly yourself all the way out there. You might not be able to use the equipment that you want to use, etc, etc. So it is it is like a profoundly difficult thing to do, despite the fact that there is like a great demand for it. And so it’s just a point of discussion, like throughout the documentary that a lot of musicians and music fans out there who would like to see more bands. It’s a beautiful place to visit, if you get a chance.
Cool, so how was like–what was it like performing in Alaska? Like, what was the scene like?
It was kinda like, performing anywhere else. Except the context, I guess, is radically different because you’ve traveled like 24 hours to get to the show. And, and then you know, I mean, Anchorage is like a proper city. It’s–if you dropped me there blindfolded, I wouldn’t really know that I was in Alaska, unless you told me. But then when we went to some of the more like remote cities like Talkeetna, and even Fairbanks, so it’s like, oh, wow, these I’ve never seen places that look like this before. And the shows themselves I mean, they’re just, they’re just like rock shows in a bar and community spaces. Same stuff that we do down here.
So you mentioned that there are some difficulties with touring in Alaska. Were the difficulty just, like, the distance or were there like Technical difficulties?
Yeah, well, I mean, last was really far away, which I guess I didn’t even realize, because of the way maps look, you know, it’s just like, it kind of skews it. So it doesn’t quite look as far as it actually is. And then I also didn’t realize how large it is, the state itself is very, very big. It’s like a third of the lower 48. So, there were definitely some long drives, but nothing that we aren’t used to. And then we didn’t go during the summer, and we didn’t hit any like inclement weather, really, obviously, there was a lot of snow on the ground. But I can imagine that if you were trying to tour there during the dead of winter, it would be incredibly challenging. But yeah, I mean, I think the biggest challenges facing like DIY rock bands and going into Alaska is just how much the plane ticket costs and then trying to orchestrate getting gear and transport from show to show. But that’s the challenge that exists in the lower 48 as well. [laughs] But yeah, plane tickets to Alaska are very expensive.
Yeah. I mean that, that makes sense. Like, especially having, like, smaller, like DIY bands like, that can’t always be a possibility for people.
Yeah, we were coming from the other side of the country. So it was just a lot of a lot of hours on the plane. A lot of hours at the airport.
Yeah. I also, I wanted to talk to you about your album art. That is–and like the art from the band in general. That’s been some of my favorite, like, I really, I really love your guys’s album art. Do you make it?
Okay, sweet. Um, I just wanted to ask about, like, what inspires the art for your albums? Or like for, what, like, what, uh, what else you would use it for, like, merch or something? Like, what– where does the inspiration come from to make your art?
Well, before I ever started playing music, I mostly was just really interested in drawing and painting. And I did that pretty much all day, every day. And then I went to school for drawing and painting. And I kinda always just like have a sketchpad on me, wherever I go. I always have, and we started playing in Screaming Females, I, you know, brought my Sketchpad on tour, and I kind of just like, keep all these sketchpads is like, just, just like memories, like, maybe articles that were in, like the cultural, weekly rack or whatever, like, cut them out for my sketchpad, and like doodle stuff while we’re driving. And, you know, all the while we’re like, touring and writing songs, I’m like compiling these kinds of like visual representations, I guess, that experience. So usually, I’ll kind of like pull stuff out of those sketchpads. And use kind of kind of, like, re contextualize them for whatever album we’re working on. Yeah, that’s kind of it.
Cool, does, does your art change depending on like, what music you’re working on? Because I’ve noticed, like, the your guys’s discography, like the art is pretty different from album to album.
Yeah, I mean, I think the older I get as a visual artist, I try and think about doing different things more than I did when I was younger, where I just wanted it to look cool–well, it looking cool is still a really big part [laughs] of the battle. But I guess, when we were a younger band, I didn’t have to think about people asking me about what the album art meant. And now, now people ask me what it means. So I also kind of prepare myself for that, as well, which is like a new element introduced to making album art that didn’t really exist when we first started. I also don’t want every album to look exactly the same. So I try to, I try to make stuff that visually like fits the sonic elements contained in the record. Hopefully.
Sweet, what are your favorite mediums to use? Because I noticed a lot of your art has quite a lot of like texture in it. Yeah, I mean,
Yeah, I mean, I mostly just use pen and ink, and when I paint, I just paint with acrylic. A lot of my drawings now involve painting as well. So it’s kind of like a combination between the two. And the cover of Desire Pathway is just a bunch of Xeroxed collages, like Xerox papers that I collaged, rather, which is something I’ve been kind of like messing around with since college but never made it to an album cover. So I definitely have like tinkered around with a lot of different mediums. And some of them. I’m better at than others [laughs].
Oh, that’s cool. I really love collages, are–is there anything specific that you look for when making collages? Like, because I, you know, I’ll make them sometimes using magazines and stuff. And sometimes I feel like, there is a lot of stuff there. And you’re going to like sort through it. So is there anything specific that you like look for is it just kind of like, whatever catches your eye?
I kind of just look, I try to step back as much as possible, and just look at the composition as a whole, I am usually collaging with my own drawing. So I’m not really parsing through like a lot of random imagery. It’s like imagery that I’m already familiar with. So I kind of just trying to put things place things in a way that’s like visually pleasing to me. So pretty much just thinking about positive and negative space, and not much else.
Cool. Okay, there’s one more thing I want to ask you about. I was reading up on some of the past interviews that you guys have done. And I saw one that was from 2020, with Ashbury Park press, and you talked about sustainability, and being like a sustainable band. And I just want to ask you about like, what’s the best way, or like, what are some good ways you found to be sustainable in your music career, and like, if you have any advice for people who want that sustainability when they’re playing music, and like, want it to be a long term thing.
I guess we’ve managed to exist in the capacity that we do for so long is because we understand a lot of the ins and outs of how, like running, running a band, running this machine that is our band, works. Like we understand how to advance shows, we understand how to book shows, we understand what the booking agent ought to do, and what they ought not to do, we understand what promoters should do. We learned all that because we didn’t have a booking agent for a long time, we did it ourselves. And, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a terrible mistake for somebody to get like something like a booking agent or manager straight out the gate, if you’re if you’re trying to, you know, be in a band or be a working musician, but it doesn’t really allow you the space to learn how to, how those things work. And it makes, it makes you maybe vulnerable to being taken advantage of. And then that could screw up your whole, your whole plan. So it’s good to arm yourself with knowledge of how to do these things so that no one predatory comes in and screws you over. So that that’d be my biggest, I guess, piece of advice.
Have you seen like that happen? Like, like smaller, like DIY kind of bands getting screwed over by, like managers and stuff.
I’m gonna assume that I have but I wouldn’t be able to think of any particular instance, off the top of my head. But yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure in my many years I’ve seen it or been around it, but maybe wasn’t privy to it.
Yeah. That’s all the, the questions that I had for you. Is there anything else that you’d like to promote or anything that you just want to like talk about?
We’re going on tour this fall. And we’re driving down to, the Gainesville fest. And you can find all our tour dates on our website.
Sweet! Alright, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you.
Thanks for calling!
Be sure to check out Screaming Females’ documentary “Screaming Females Do Alaska“
Check out their website for future tour dates and their Spotify below!