Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rising Artist EXCLUSIVE- Screaming Females INTV

Few bands these days have really done the DIY ethic of the hardcore acts of the 80's and have it pay off. For New Brunswick, New Jersey's Screaming Females, being a DIY garage-punk band has not only paid off, it has received them a high amount of praise. Being hand selected to open for Jack White's Dead Weather on their first ever tour, to having Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys call them "The best new band in America," to gaining respect from the original Jersey DIY punks, Bouncing Souls. They are a band who, at every show they do on their own manage to sell it out and are the one act who upon arrival in New York City people will come out of the woodwork to see. Screaming Females are a brilliant live act, I managed to witness the experience as I saw them open for Arctic Monkeys last December and they blew everyone's mind away, their energy alone filled Terminal 5 the way the Monkeys did. After finding time in their ultra busy schedule, I had the opportunity to speak to this rising band. Take a look at my exclusive interview with drummer Jarrett Dougherty as we discussed the band's work ethic, DIY style, their new found acclaim and of course, what it means to be from Jersey.

You are from New Brunswick, NJ, which immediately makes me think of basement DIY Shows, when you were starting out you guys like those great New Brunswick bands before you (ie. Thursday), you took a page out of their book and did the basement shows. What are those experiences like verses playing in real venues?

Jarrett: From what I hear (I wasn't around for it) Thursday only played a couple basement shows and then when they didn't have to anymore they didn't come back. Like I said, I wasn't around for it so I don't know if it is true or not but there seem to be a few people who are still bitter about it. By that I mean that people in New Brunswick, NJ have to work really hard to put on shows and get very attached to them and the scene that makes them happen. So when artists go out into the world and talk about their experiences with New Brunswick basement shows they have to be able to back it up or it just seems silly. Again, I don't know if this is true with Thursday but there are definitely bands that it is true for (who I won't bother to mention here!).

I like to use the term 'traditional venue' instead of 'real venue' because to me basements and co-ops and galleries are every bit as real of a venue as a club or a bar. Playing DIY venues has so much more of a sense of community and that the experience of the show is just as much about the people there to see the bands as it is the bands that are playing. Often DIY venues will book an unknown touring band and pair them with a local that has a draw. And a lot of people know to show up early to catch the touring bands. That idea of 'I'm going to go check out a band I have never heard of because that's what it means to be part of a scene' doesn't really exist in clubs and bars. But clubs have much better sound and everyone can see the band and no one has to worry about noise violations. These are just generalizations of course. There are both great and shitty DIY venues and great and shitty traditional venues.

With the new record, what are fans truly in for?

Jarrett: I think Singles is a cool project. It is a collection of songs that were previously only released on vinyl 7 inches. So the songs span a few years and many different recording situations. Bringing those tracks together on a cheap CD will allow people who haven't collected the 7 inches to hear those songs. The 7 inches are still out there for the most part (1 of 4 is out of print and 2 of the others are almost out of print) so people should try to find those too. Three of them were splits with the incredible bands Jeff the Brotherhood, Full of Fancy, and Hunchback. Their tracks are definitely worth hearing too! It does feel a little weird to have a "new" record that is really just a bunch of old songs!

For those that have never herd of you before, how would you describe your sound and style?

Jarrett: Rock n Roll! We are a rock n roll trio. That sounds like such a simple definition but I think it means a lot these days. Most popular 'indie' artists these days kind of just sound like pop music to me. The idea of three people playing guitar, bass, and drums seems passé these days but that's what we are!

You have been cited to be a punk band, do you consider yourself punk?

Jarrett: I can't speak for everyone in the band but I consider us a punk band. To me punk is an amazing extension of American folk music. Between punk being co-opted by the fashion-emo-whatever scene that dominates outlets like Warped tour and almost everything that could be remotely described as punk being ignored by hip music blogs, calling yourself punk is pretty uncool right now. But I've never been cool so it doesn't bother me much. Punk to me is The Minutemen, Husker Du, Beat Happening, The Oblivians, and This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb.

I believe at the root of it all what you guys are doing is so punk, the whole DIY aesthetic and bringing back the idea, if you truly want something you need to fight for it and get it. Do you believe that the DIY philosophy will eventually pay off and you do not have to book your own gigs? Or do you not want it to wear off and still have full control of what you do?

Jarrett: We handle as much of our own affairs as we possibly can. We don't do things just to make money or get famous. All of our decisions are based off of what is best for the longevity of our project.

There is a vast array of styles in your music, who are some of your biggest influences?

Jarrett: The book "Our Band Could Be Your Life" is a huge influence. Also Mike and I have been listen to The Gories and The Oblivians a lot lately.

2009 was a big year for you with big shows. Opening for Jack White’s Dead Weather, Arctic Monkeys and Bouncing Souls to name a few. What was that experience like?

Jarrett: 2009 was crazy. It's all seemed like a pretty natural progression but getting up on a stage in front of thousands of people for the first time was wild. I'm just hoping that we get to keep playing shows with great bands for years to come.

In relation to the last question, all of those acts you have supported boast a different sound, style and audience. Do you find it difficult to fit in and get the crowds attention as an opener? Do you shift the setlists in order to compensate for who you are opening or do you just go out and be yourselves?

Jarrett: We always go out and just play what we've got. We change our setlist every night. We never play the same songs. So sometimes we will kind of judge the vibe of the night and build a setlist from there but never for a whole tour. We were really well accepted opening for Dinosaur Jr, The Dead Weather, and Jay Reatard (RIP). The Arctic Monkeys fans were a bit harder to win over. I think a lot of their fans like clean pop music which we aren't. I think a lot of their fans were having a hard enough time adjusting to The Arctic Monkeys new songs which are a lot heavier and less pop.

When people think of Jersey bands, acts like Springsteen, the Souls, Thursday, Gaslight Anthem, Saves the Day and so on, those bands note the connection to the Garden State and where they are from. How does and has Jersey impacted Screaming Females?

Jarrett: We are all very Jersey (not in a Jersey Shore way though!). New Jersey is ungodly expensive and people are cynical and mean to each other here. People also drive like maniacs. We try to be nice people and sensible drivers but we are pretty cynical.

Who would you love to play with and why?

Jarrett: I'd love to be able to play with Songs For Moms again. They are from San Francisco and we think they are amazing but we have only gotten to play with them once. They were on the East Coast while we were on the West Coast last summer! I would have loved to have played with Jay Reatard again. We were in the process of planning a bunch of dates together when he died. It is frustrating to think about how awesome those shows would have been.

What does the rest of 2010 hold in store for Screaming Females?

Jarrett: Singles comes out in earlier February and then we go out on tour for a few weeks with Jeff the Brotherhood. Then we are recording a new record in March. Then we are doing some dates with Ted Leo. Then we might tour across the country. Then we are going to release a new album around September and do a national tour and then probably go to Europe for the first time in Fall.

Video for "I Do" (Above) / Video for "Mothership" (Below)

Special thanks to Jarrett and Joan Hiller Depper for the interview.