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Interview: Screaming Females

By ; March 5, 2012 at 2:00 PM 

Beats Per Minute (Corinne Bagish): Tell us about working with recording great Steve Albini on Ugly. After years of DIY and self-release roots, what did working with the best of the best mean to you?

Mike: If I had known that recording with Steve Albini meant that that’s all anyone would want to talk about then I would have considered recording elsewhere.

Jarrett: Working with Steve was as good as I could have imaged. There were no magical moments. Steve had almost no input. He just setup the mics well, choose good mic amps and effects, and did a damn good job editing. He was really professional.

Marissa, you’ve mentioned before in interviews that you have yet to find a good recording setup… that too many pedals overwhelm you. Did you finally strike the perfect balance on Ugly?

Marissa: I just bought a new amplifier and it turned out sounding pretty good. I’ve been using the same distortion pedals for a few years now so I suppose that I’m bound to them for the long haul. I’m not sure if too many pedals could ever overwhelm me during the recording process, I am quite fond of them, but I try to keep it to a bare minimum whilst playing live.

Tell us one really weird or funny thing that happened during the recording process.

Jarrett: A lady came to take pictures of us for a blog. We were setting up mics on the piano to try one part in one song while she was there. So almost all the photos from the “in the studio” pictures are of that piano and Marissa playing piano. We didn’t like the piano part so there is absolutely no piano on the record.

You just wrapped up a free record store tour. How did it go? Did you pare down your sound in these smaller, quieter venues?

Jarrett: The record store tour was great. In our current time bands, labels, publicists, etc. seem obsessed with how acts are represented on the internet. If a band doesn’t get a lot of internet coverage, a lot of people act as though you don’t exist. A lot of artists that don’t get a lot of internet coverage feel like they don’t exist or have failed. It is an scary fulfillment of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. We’ve never found the internet to really be an accurate measure of a band’s success or influence and definitely not of their contribution. Bringing the first single of our new album, in a physical format, to real people, face to face, in real record stores felt like the opposite of Debord’s “Spectacle.” In other words it felt real, and it was real.

Marissa, you’ve been known to design Screaming Females album art. Is the wonderfully odd dragon-like creature on the front of your new album your creation? How did you conceptualize the cover art?

Marissa: Well, I had been getting really into appropriating symbolic imagery and manipulating their meaning and/or mutilating their sanctity, (as you would with an upside-down cross, for example). I wanted to make a symbol for our band, so I sketched up this tiny emblem containing a Basilisk, which is a mythical creature that I learned a bit about while we were in Basil, Switzerland (obviously). It led me on a real kick, I soon found myself reading up on demon classification and sketching up all sorts of my own monsters (this is nearly Dungeons and Dragons territory, mind you). I was also emulating one of my favorite pieces of art ever, “Saint Anthony Tortured by Demons” by MartinSchongauer. I love his etchings.

And now, for some obligatory NJ questions. NJ tends to get lumped in with/overshadowed by NYC in many different contexts. Similarly, the NY and NJ music scenes often get lumped into one. What do you find the main difference between the two to be nowadays?

Jarrett: The NJ scene is small enough to actually be able to talk about a scene. Music in NYC is much too big to discuss a real scene. I’m guessing it will always be this way.

Screaming Females developed a totally unique sound during the mid 2000s when it seemed like the majority of the NJ music scene was immersed in emo/screamo. Take your recent tour mate, Thursday, for example. Did this have any effect on your development as a band? Your fan base?

Marissa: I don’t really remember there being a strong “emo” presence in New Brunswick while we were starting out in 2005. It seemed like a much more popular genre while I was still in high school.

Jarrett, we noticed you are a Troll 2 fan. What other ridiculous(ly amazing) films do you suggest we check out?

Jarrett: Well everyone should obviously check out Best Worst Movie, the documentary on Troll 2. Marissa has been real into the Hellraiser movies lately. Those could easily be categorized as ridiculous. Manos: The Hands of Fate gets my vote for worst movie ever. Watch it with the Mystery Science Theater commentary, there is a much better chance you will actually finish it that way.

Screaming Females’ new album Ugly comes out through Don Givanni Records on April 3rd.

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