Music Lyfe: Screaming Females Interview
Earlier this year I watched the A.V. Club’s Undercover for the first time and was blown away by the concept. For anyone unfamiliar with A.V. Club, it is a series where they take bands and give them a list of songs they must cover. The later a band comes in, the fewer choices they have, which gives us incredible covers such as Gwar doing West End Girls or even Iron & Wine doing a Gwar song. Among the covers was the Screaming Females cover of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. I was immediately drawn in by their unique sound, casual appearance, and bad ass attitude of the female lead singer.
Their performance melted my brain as I set it up to loop for days before jumping to their actual music which was even better! I could not believe I had not heard of Screaming Females prior to that video and then followed them since! When I found out they were coming to Arizona, I freaked out and made plans to go and see them. Unfortunately the gods had other plans for me and I was unable to attend, however I was able to reach out for an interview and they accepted!
Here is my interview with Screaming Females:
The Geek Lyfe: Although I am a huge fan of Screaming Females, there might be a few readers who are unfamiliar, would you be able to take a moment to introduce yourselves?
Screaming Females: Screaming Females is a DIY punk band from New Brunswick, NJ. We’ve been a band for 11 years and released 6 studio albums. We’ve toured all over the world playing everything from house shows to giant European festivals. Our focus has always been on doing what we want to do on our own terms in a sustainable fashion.
TGL: What is the origin story of Screaming Females?
SF: Mike and Marissa went to the same high school. It was a private school with no music program but luckily they had a dedicated math teacher who started an after school music club that they were both involved in. I was living in New Brunswick, NJ attending Rutgers University. I had given up on the idea of ever being in a band of my own and was content going to DIY basement shows that my friends were playing. Marissa came to Rutgers where we met. She heard I played drums and instantly asked me to be in a band with her without ever having heard me play. Soon after we formed Screaming Females. Mike was still in high school when we self-recorded and self-released our first album and went on our first tours.
TGL: What Geek Medium(Comics, Video games, anime, novels, shows etc.) has influenced you most growing up that helped you with your career today?
SF: I know Marissa was and continues to be a big fan of comic books. Over the years she has gotten into graphic novels and indie comics but superhero based comics are still her favorites. Marissa handles all the art and graphic design for the band. Years of engaging with comics definitely influenced her as an artist.
Music is most definitely a Geek medium. The term “record nerd” is widely used for a reason!
TGL: Over the years you have created a ton of amazing music. It’s probably safe to assume that you do encounter a form of writer’s block. This is something that kills most aspiring artist. What advice do you have for dealing with this?
SF: There are always different opinions about this but I am firmly in the camp that creative endeavors are primarily hard work as opposed to some kind of magically inspiration. The best way to get past writers block is to just get to work. We’ve had weeks where we worked on a single piece of a song just to throw it away at the end. Some people might feel that that was wasted time but I don’t think so. It may have taken a ton of time but in the end we discovered something very important which is that the idea was bad! Changing up something about your process is always a good way to move past a roadblock. Put yourself in a different environment, grab a tool you’ve never used before, try out a silly prompt, whatever. Just get working!
TGL: You are a super villains on the verge of conquering the world but you have to have a final stand against the heroes. Which three characters from any universe do you have by your side to destroy Earth’s defenders?
SF: This isn’t really an answer to your question but it was something I was thinking about the other day. I always enjoyed the idea of the comic characters outside of the normal hero/villain dichotomy. As a kid I loved Lobo for that reason. Basically a bad guy you could root for. So yeah, rather than have three villains with me I imagine myself riding a cosmic motorcycle into space saying “Let those do-gooders and super villains battle over that planet I’m going to find someone to pay me!”
TGL: You guys have traveled to so many parts of the country and played in various venues over the years. You guys must have some incredible tales from the journey, what would you say is your favorite? (Multiple answers from different band members totally cool!)
SF: This isn’t really a tale but the first time we played in the Bay Area was a truly magical time. San Fransisco, Berkeley, and Oakland just have this special place in punk lore. It is almost like its not real because it is so mythical. It took us weeks of touring and we had no support other than the DIY punk network. We had just self-released our second record and took off for a 70 day tour. When we rolled into San Fransisco and played the basement of a punk co-op record store in a show that had been setup specifically for us it all felt like such a dream.
TGL: You are playing a sold out show on a night like many others when suddenly a zombie outbreak occurs, what are your zombie survival plans? (Where would you travel to that you feel is safe?)
SF: Well when the Zombie outbreak occurs the government will be too bureaucratic to deal with the speed at which the virus spreads. Society will temporarily breakdown but in response to that political space opened up and the need for our basic needs of food, shelter, and defense against the hordes, an anarchist communist utopia will soon take hold. The creativity and heart of a society not directed by authoritarian capitalism will quickly figure out a way to treat the outbreak and the world will experience a level of peaceful empathy never before seen. Duh.
TGL: A lot of us on social media can see just how much success you have had over the years but I know that you are human beings and do encounter bad days or things just go south. What’s an example of a situation that was disappointing and how did you handle it?
SF: I appreciate the thought behind this question but I’m going to go in a different direction. I see a lot of artists/bands out there these days talking about the difficulties of being involved in a creative endeavor. I worry about what kind of imagine that projects to a kid in a shitty situation who needs something to work toward in life. Punk rock saved my life. Being a hardworking musician isn’t easy but it is super fulfilling and I would highly suggest it to anyone who feels empty interacting with the status quo.
TGL: It’s Sunday, you have no obligations, a full bank account, full tank of gas, and all of your friends and family are busy. How do you spend the day?
SF: Probably working on rebuilding the kitchen in the house I just bought!
TGL: What piece of advice do you have for aspiring artists and creators? Before you answer, many other artists like saying “Never give up!” as an answer, which is for sure a great answer but I am wondering if there is a step beyond that advice that you could give? (Ex: Finding and learning from a mentor, maintaining a social media presence etc.)
SF: Don’t measure success in dollars or social media ‘likes.’ Your project is successful if you meet your own goals which can be as simple as “have fun.” Get involved with a community not as a stepping stone to some magical future success but because community, friends, and art are life! That is living!
We want to give a huge shout out to Screaming Females for answering a few of our humble questions! We are definitely not worthy of their time but we thank the gods they gave it to us! Be sure to check out their Website, Facebook, and Youtube!