"Our idea of how to get people to pay attention to our band and be interested in our music was never to have the one big show... The right label will be there and the right booking agent and the right publicist and the articles, and whatever. We were always like, 'Let's go out and play a hundred shows in a year and play for a couple dozen people here and there.'"
Five years and five-hundred-or-so gigs later, New Jersey power-trio Screaming Females got their one big show anyway. They weren't the biggest-font name on the poster for this summer's Siren Festival, but their short, muscular set, dominated as always by their guitar heroics, and the Jekyll and Hyde, meek-to-mighty charisma of front woman Marissa Paternoster, loomed largest in the minds of the crowds streaming out of Coney Island's concrete sweatbox afterwards. That performance has led directly to another turn in the bright spotlight, playing alongside The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Blow, and others at the Brooklyn Vegan showcase at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, one of the few must-catch shows of 2010's CMJ Music Marathon. Now, with four albums of material to draw from, and the professionalism to seize the big opportunities that are increasingly thrown their way, the band is poised to bring back a little rock 'n' roll clarity to a haze-addled scene.
We talked to the band about the work ethic that lead to this hard-won moment in the sun, DIY's transformation into a buzzword, avoiding "the butt-rock thing," and how these days being on MTV is mainly just nice for your parents.
So, Castle Talk is your fourth album. The way you've gone about building yourselves up seems really traditional in a way. A lot of gigging, a lot of touring. You've worked your way up to opening for bigger bands, but there was never this big flash of hype. Has that been intentional?
Jarrett Dougherty (drums): I'd say it was out of necessity initially. To be honest, if someone, right after we became a band had said, "We're going to release your record and put you on tour," we would have said, "Cool." But that never happened, so we had to learn how to do all that stuff ourselves, and then once you can do that, you kind of take some pride in it and see value in it.
Do you feel like it's accelerating a bit now, or is it all just a gradual outgrowth.
JD: Very gradual.
So do you feel like what you do is rare?
Marissa Paternoster (guitar, vocals): There are a lot of bands who operate the same way we do. I think we do definitely play a lot of shows, maybe more than your average DIY band. But we work really, really hard, all day, every day.
JD: Most of the bands who operate how we do don't have the opportunities or don't really see the need to do the things we've done.
In terms of...
JD: Having really good distribution for records through stores. Doing publicity stuff, doing interviews and photo shoots with magazines. I know a lot of bands who would never get that phone call or that email, or if they did they'd just think, "That's not worth my time, that's not what I care about." We've put enough work into it this that we're ok with it, doing interviews, an occasional photo shoot. It's kind of fun, and it's cool that people are interested in our band, but I think there's a lot more bands out there who operate the way that we do than people might think.