As the guitar-slinging lead vocalists for their respective power trios, Marissa Paternoster and Rebecca Flores both make melodic rackets far out of proportion with their small statures. Paternoster, a native of New Brunswick, New Jersey, leads Screaming Females and works in anthemic, crunchy alt-rock streaked with punk. Their seemingly never-ending tour lands them at the Metro on June 17 opening for Against Me! Flores fronts local act Tyler Jon Tyler, making punchy and highly addictive power pop. They open for Times New Viking at the Empty Bottle on June 29. —Miles Raymer
Rebecca Flores: You guys started out in the New Jersey basement scene. In your earlier touring days, did you experience the same scene in other cities?
Marissa Paternoster: On our first tour of the States, we played at houses in a lot of towns. A good example is Carbondale, Illinois. They have one of the oldest [basement scenes]. Well, that’s what they say in Carbondale. I don’t know if it’s true. I’ve never talked to a historian of punk houses. But they have one of the oldest punk houses in the nation, called Lost Cross. That one always sticks out in my head.
I always feel like the house shows around here will have shows every week for a summer and then will kind of die off and another one will pop up.
We played at a really weird warehouse in Chicago, the Mopery. That place was really wild. We saw people living up there in tents.
Yeah! That place closed down, and there’s this documentary of their last show. Right now I’m waiting for a place like that to pop up. That’s really cool that you played there. So I have to ask since I’m also a guitar player, do you consider yourself a guitar nerd?
I guess I’m kind of nerdy but I don’t really research gear that much. I just get excited about stuff that I’ve bought. If someone sat me down in an aisle of Sam Ash and some guy had a Dio shirt and a goatee and tried to make me have a conversation with him, I probably wouldn’t really be able to talk that much about gear.
You released your first couple records yourselves and now you obviously have a label doing it, and you record in a studio and everything. Do you think it’s hard to keep that DIY ethic now that some of it, releasing and recording, is out of your hands?
We always arranged and paid for our records as far as recording is concerned. It comes out of our pockets. We own our recordings. As far as Don Giovanni Records is concerned, it’s not like an illustrious record label where they have offices in Manhattan or anything. It’s two dudes who are our friends and we’ve known for a pretty long time before we were a part of their label, and everyone else on the label are friends of ours. They never make any kind of important decision for us or without us. If people knew what our situation was like and how hard we work at maintaining and keeping control, I don’t think DIY would even come into question. I don’t think that matters, anyway.
Your vocals are really distinctive. You go from singing to a yell, almost a scream. How did you find your vocal style?
The longer we’ve been a band, I feel like the better I’ve gotten using my singing voice. When I listen to the first few records, I just say, Jesus, I sound awful. I’m glad that I’ve grown as far as that’s concerned. I’ve never taken a vocal lesson. I try weird stuff when we play live; sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it’s terrible. When it’s cool, I keep doing it.
I saw you guys play at the Bottle once, and it was really awesome. You were wearing a long black dress, and in a lot of the live pictures, you have a distinct style where it’s long dresses and black tights. Do you have an inspiration for the stuff that you wear on stage?
For a while I just liked wearing dresses that fit me really badly so I just looked frumpy and gross on stage. Then I realized that no mater what I wear I look frumpy and gross, it doesn’t really matter if the dress is ill-fitting or not. Now I feel super weird standing on the stage in pants. There was a tour where I wore a maternity dress for the entire trip.
What kind of space do you practice in?
For a long time now we’ve been practicing in my grandma’s basement in New Jersey. I still live there. My grandma makes us dinner every day we’re there, and sometimes she’ll have some minor critiques of new songs. It is very pleasant.