On a very bitter winter day in Brooklyn, Screaming Females — Marissa Paternoster, Jarrett Dougherty and King Mike Abbate — sat down with Billboard at Greenpoint’s Calexico for burritos, margaritas and a wide-ranging discussion on everything from endangered DIY venues in New York to YouTube videos of people passing out on amusement park rides.
With the trio’s excellent new album Rose Mountain out this week, we’re highlighting our favorite parts from a delightfully tangential conversation that covered Gilmore Girls, pranking townies and why Rose Mountain is the first Screaming Females album that hasn’t made frontwoman Paternoster cry.
Don’t Assume New York’s DIY Venues Will Always Exist
Jarrett: Historically, DIY venues haven’t existed for that long, even in modern music. I think it’s important that people don’t take that for granted and think, “Oh, things close, things open,” because actually, those things take a lot of work. It takes people who are going to dedicate themselves like Edan [Wilber] at Death by Audio. He did that 97 percent of his nights for the last seven years, just making sure things ran smoothly. That’s a commitment most people won’t make, or won’t be good it. It doesn’t just happen. As these places close, the idea that new ones will open isn’t founded on anything. People think, “Well, it’s existed, so it will keep existing.” That’s not necessarily true.
On a Man Sucking a Swirly Lollipop Outside the Restaurant
Marissa: That’s a real man. He seriously doesn’t give any shits. He’s totally comfortable with his masculinity.
Why Marissa Didn’t Cry While Making Rose Mountain
Marissa: It was the first time I didn’t cry while we were making a record out of frustration. I don’t know why. We had a really good time. Sometimes I get really nervous and I want to play everything perfectly and I never do. Usually I’m more satisfied than unsatisfied [with our albums,] but something about recording ups my anxiety to a whole ‘nother level. I’m committing something to record and I have to live with it the rest of my life. Other people will hear it; it will get multiple pressings. I want to make sure I play well enough that I’m happy with it. There’s a lot of pressure I put on myself that’s not warranted. Working with our producer Matt [Bayles] was nice. Having him offer his opinions and having him to defer to made me feel less of the pressure I put under myself. It’s not coming from anywhere — it’s just me being an anxious freak.
Jarrett: Marissa’s quest for perfection often leads to forgetting about what’s exciting about an untamed take or performance. Mike is on the other end. He’s constantly wanting that one moment that happens right and that’s it. We balance each other out. We try to get a take that’s perfect in different ways. Maybe it played perfect, but it wasn’t emotionally perfect.
How They Wrote Rose Mountain
Mike: We worked on these songs for a long time before signing on with Matt Bayles [Mastodon, Minus the Bear]. The shell of each song was there, but he helped bring in different sounds, like bringing in an organ.
Marissa: We write the songs together at band practice, which we have once a week, and then usually I’ll come up with a vocal melody after we commit to a basic song structure. Sometimes we change the instrumentation to accommodate the vocal, but more often than not we do the instrumentation and then the vocals. We always write while practicing. We’ve never written a song in a studio environment — we don’t have the resources.
Jarrett: Writing [Rose Mountain] we had a slightly different process in that we focused on the vocal melodies, but otherwise we still write in Marissa’s grandmother’s basement. But the making of the album was different. This was the first time we ever flew somewhere to make an album, or recorded on something other than our own drum set, or used gear at the studio. We worked with Steve Albini before, but he likes to be credited as an engineer, not a producer. He intentionally doesn’t produce because he thinks bands are the best at writing their own songs and doesn’t want to get into arrangements. When working with Matt Bayles on the new record, he was working on production, which we’d never done before.
Why Marissa Loves Gilmore Girls
Marissa: I was watching Gilmore Girls season 2. In one episode they opened a farmers market in town — and all hell broke loose. I was like, “How is this going to wrap up?!” I love it because nothing bad ever happens. It’s just nice. There’s a little bit of witty banter between the mom and the townsfolk or her child and that’s it. Nothing bad ever happens. I know everything is going to be okay. But I’ve been slacking on my Gilmore intake. For a couple days I was doing like five episodes a day.
Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer Didn’t Grab Her
Marissa: I tried to get into Buffy but it was too hard. So many people that I love love Buffy. But the high school kept getting destroyed in every episode and I could no longer suspend my disbelief. I was like, “Why are they still going to school? A portal to hell just opened.” And the principal died three times in the first season.
On Pranking Townies With Throbbing Gristle
Mike: You know the Internet jukeboxes you can control from your iPhone? Whenever I go to a townie bar where they’re total squares, I like to sit in the corner and put on weird songs. Like Throbbing Gristle. People are like, “What is this?!” And then it ends and someone is like “THANK GOD.”
Their Favorite YouTube Videos
Marissa: I love watching people fainting on the slingshot ride. There’s a guy who’s having a whale of a time on it. He actually says “Holy smokes!” so he must be an adult Dennis the Menace. Then he passes out, like a narcoleptic goat. He’s so cool, I love him.
Mike: That’s why we think you’re the most likely to become a Christian. When we rode the cyclone rollercoaster you yelled, “Please God NO.”
Marissa: It’s just a phrase….