Only one of the Screaming Females is female, and she generally sings as much as she screams. But truth-in-advertising standards generally don't apply to punk bands, so these discrepancies haven't slowed the trio on the road to underground popularity.
The star of the band is guitarist Marissa Paternoster; aside from being the designated screaming female, she pulls out the stops on scorching guitar solos in nearly every song. She's not afraid to get down and toy with her effects pedals, at times making a cacophonous clatter a la Sonic Youth, but ultimately her trick is straight-up guitar-hero stuff. The Females' rhythm section consists of bassist Mike Rickenbacker and drummer Jarrett Dougherty, holding down danceable post-punk beats behind songs that range from blues-derived to nearly disco-like, echoing The Slits in their more dub-influenced days.
The band formed in New Brunswick, N.J., in 2005 and toured big in 2007, passing through Pittsburgh twice. They're kicking off 2008 with another trip around the mid-Atlantic, which will land them at the Mr. Roboto Project on Thu., Jan. 10.
New Brunswick may not immediately suggest itself as a home for DIY punk, but it has a reputation for some of the best basement venues around; for a time, a scene of ultra-political young punk bands (such as The Assistant) blossomed there. Situated somewhere in the periphery of that category, Screaming Females eschew straight-up political content but maintain a DIY ethic and uphold the scene's accepting, queer-positive ideals.
"Basically if you're from New Brunswick and you have a band, no matter what kind of music you play, you're a punk band," posits Dougherty. "Every band that's ever made it out and gotten any national attention has worked really hard for it," booking its own tours, doing its own publicity and so on.
Dougherty is excited about current developments in his hometown scene. "People who have been around New Brunswick for 10 years or so -- and there's not many, of course -- say that this is the most exciting time for music that they've seen." In addition to getting out on the road and representing its hometown, the band will be helping out with a three-day festival in New Brunswick in the spring.
Other plans for 2008?
"Well ... it just started, right?" Paternoster ponders. "I think my plan right now is just to figure out what my plan should be."
Like the man said: When you're from New Brunswick, no matter what kind of music you play, you're a punk band.
Screaming Females with Dirty Faces and The Library is On Fire. 7 p.m. Thu., Jan. 10. The Mr. Roboto Project, 722 Wood St., Wilkinsburg. $6. All ages. 412-247-9639 or www.therobotoproject.org
- High pitched: Screaming Females