There are two things you are guaranteed to hear at a Screaming Females show. One is an assault of melodic, crunchy guitar and driving drums. The other is someone remarking on how incredible it is that such a big sound could come out of the diminutive frame of singer and guitarist Marissa Paternoster.
Paternoster shreds harder than Eddie Van Halen, but she’s sized more like the late Ronnie James Dio. Music reviewers never described that metal god as “petite” or “tiny.” But Paternoster doesn’t take the bait.
“I’m sure lots of people say that about Dio!” she says. “Or [Glenn] Danzig,” of the Misfits. “He’s a stump, a little brick. I can’t speak on behalf of all vertically challenged peoples,” she jokes.
The New Jersey band has bigger things to consider. Over five years together, the trio — Paternoster, drummer Jarrett Dougherty and bassist King Mike — have released four records, landed on “Last Call With Carson Daly” and toured the U.S. with Jack White’s band Dead Weather.
But when Screaming Females last came through D.C., back in March, the group played at St. Stephen’s Church — an all-ages space that’s been at the center of D.C.’s punk scene for decades.
“When we play, what we’re looking for in a venue is a place that cares about music,” Dougherty says. “D.C. does that better than a lot of the places we’ve been.”
It’s this kind of commitment to the grassroots spirit of punk that has allowed the band to hold onto its values as doors have opened for it in the industry.
“That’s when you have to really test what your goals are,” Dougherty says. Paternoster agrees. “Everyone’s definition of growing is different, and sometimes it’s not something we agree with. Like, ‘You’ve got to play the Camel Filters tent! It will really move you forward.’ And we don’t really think it will.”
In the meantime, the band is focusing on cutting its fifth record, a follow-up to last year’s “Castle Talk,” on New Brunswick, N.J.-based label Don Giovanni Records.
“We’re in my grandma’s basement, doing some demoing,” Paternoster says. “We all have a sound in our heads of what we want to sound like, and we’re not there yet. Hopefully, we’ll keep getting closer every time.”
Here’s the premiere of Screaming Females’ new video for “Laura + Marty”: