"When people ask us, the answer is just 'rock and roll,'" explains Screaming Females drummer Jarrett Dougherty, addressing the one question no band ever wants to field. The New Jersey trio has come up with far more creative ways to describe its sound in the past, though—"queer disco and the moon," and "lesbian dinosaur space rock" rank high on the list. But underneath the nonsensical verbiage is a no-nonsense power trio that cranks out furious, riff-heavy punk-rawk, taking only a slight breath for a ripping guitar solo from the band's lone literal screaming female, vocalist/guitarist Marissa Paternoster.
Dougherty, Paternoster, and appropriately named bassist Mike Rickenbacker are passing the phone around as the band makes it way to Nashville for the final tour stop with Jack White's umpteenth side project, the Dead Weather. The grand scale of the operation is a far cry from the Screaming Females' small-town roots in New Brunswick, New Jersey, a town where bands generally have to retreat underground to shoebox-sized basements in order to get heard.
"There's a state theater there where people like Paul Simon play," Dougherty says. "Other than that, the town is pretty dead."
The Screaming Females could be poster children for DIY punk, booking all 300 of their shows and recording everything themselves. Power Move, Screaming Females' latest platter, and first for Don Giovanni Records, is a more finely tuned set than their previous records, not to say that it's sleeker. Songs were recorded with no guitar overdubs, solos rambling over Dougherty and Rickenbacker's lock-horn rhythm section. There are plenty of odes to '60s garage and '70s arena rock in the psychedelic-stoner grime of "Skull" and the agit-power pop of "Adult Army"—each guaranteed to come with an explosive shred session from the soft-spoken, 5'2" Paternoster.
Screaming Females eventually caught the ears of the elder statesmen of Dinosaur Jr. as well as the Dead Weather/Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence, and its members found themselves making out a tour rider, though Dougherty assured me they didn't force anyone to remove the brown M&Ms. "All we have on there is beer, water, and dinner, nothing too strange."