Screaming Females, Waxahatchee

Screaming Females had such a clear goal for their new album that it became almost a mantra: they wanted songs that were concise, crisp and melodic. That’s exactly what the New Jersey punk trio delivers on Rose Mountain, their sixth LP, due in February on Don Giovanni Records.

The album is a milestone in a number of ways. Not only does Rose Mountain reflect a new approach to the band’s songwriting, the LP marks the first time Screaming Females have worked with an outside producer, and comes as the trio celebrates 10 years together.

“I’m very pleased and proud of us as a band for playing together for so long,” says singer and guitarist Marissa Paternoster, who formed Screaming Females in 2005 with bassist Michael Abbate and drummer Jarrett Dougherty.

Their longevity helped prompt the concise-crisp-melodic mantra for Rose Mountain. Although melody has always been a central part of the band’s music, the musicians have often layered them into massive thickets of interlocking sound on previous albums. They were ready to try something more streamlined with the 10 new songs on Rose Mountain.

“Our last three releases were dense musically,” Dougherty says. “This time, we tried to really hone in on what was important about the songs and get rid of what wasn’t important.”

The trio decided the vocal melodies were particularly important, and were careful to leave room for them while they were writing the new songs. “Before we got to that point where we had a complete, complex, intricate thing instrumentally, we stopped and said, ‘Let’s not finish this off, let’s let the vocals finish this off,’” Dougherty says.

The restraint they showed in writing the tunes didn’t affect the riveting intensity the band brought to playing them. You can hear it on “Empty Head,” the taut, lean album opener. It’s there in the interplay between serrated guitar and a buoyant bassline on “Triumph,” and in the airy verses that build into a tough, determined chorus on “Wishing Well.”

Many of the songs on Rose Mountain deal with Paternoster’s ongoing battle with chronic mononucleosis, which became so severe in 2012 that the band went on hiatus from touring for nearly a year. “I just could not get my act together,” Paternoster says. “We had to take time off, I couldn’t sleep, I wasn’t eating.”

Writing about the pain and uncertainty that accompanied her illness proved cathartic for Paternoster, who was already paying more attention to her lyrics than she did in the band’s earlier days.

“A lot of time it was just an afterthought, and I would just punch in whatever fit phonetically,” she says. “From playing hundreds of shows, I’ve realized that people do actually listen to the words. And if they’re going to take the time to listen to the words I’m singing, then I ought to take just as much time to write something that’s well thought-out.”

If leaving room for Paternoster’s vocal melodies was part of the band’s strategy for Rose Mountain, working with producer Matt Bayles was the other part. With a deeply rooted DIY streak, Screaming Females had self-produced their previous releases (with Steve Albini engineering their 2012 LP Ugly and the 2014 concert album Live at the Hideout) before overturning a long-standing, self-imposed rule and deciding it was time to bring in outside help. “What’s the best way to challenge yourself as an artist? Do something you told yourself you’d never do,” Dougherty says.

Bayles is perhaps best known for his work on albums by heavy metal acts like Mastodon and the Sword, which helped make Screaming Females confident in their choice: they figured he would be right at home with a loud, raucous band. Bayles joined the group in New Jersey to offer advice on composition before the musicians spent a month recording the album with Bayles in Seattle. They delved more deeply than ever before into the intricacies of guitar tones and drum sounds, and experimented with subtle touches that you wouldn’t expect on a Screaming Females album: listen for the organ buried beneath the terse guitars on “It’s Not Fair,” or the eerie, distorted tack-piano that brings the title track home.

“It’s definitely the most eclectic record in terms of instrumentation and dynamics that we have done to date,” Paternoster says.

It’s a fitting way to celebrate 10 years together, a period that has taken the band from playing basement shows in their hometown of New Brunswick to touring with the likes of Dinosaur Jr., Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and Garbage, who teamed with Screaming Females to record a cover of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night.” They’ve been featured on NPR and performed on Last Call With Carson Daly, building an audience without losing the focus and drive that inspired them in the first place.

“It’s pretty amazing that the three of us have been this committed this way,” Dougherty says, and Paternoster agrees.

“At the end of the day, what we really try to do is challenge ourselves musically, so that the three of us remain interested in this project we love very much,” she says. “Hopefully we can continue to do so and make music for as long as it’s feasible for us to do so.”

Waxahatchee

On her second full-length record as Waxahatchee, former P.S. Eliot singer Katie Crutchfield’s compelling hyper-personal poetry is continuously crushing. Cerulean Salt follows last January’s American Weekend -- a collection of minimal acoustic-guitar pop written and recorded in a week at her family’s Birmingham home.

On this new record, Crutchfield’s songs continue to be marked by her sharp, hooky songwriting; her striking voice and lyrics that simultaneously seem hyper-personal yet relentlessly relatable, teetering between endearingly nostaglic and depressingly dark. But whereas before the thematic focus of her songcraft was on break ups and passive-aggressive crushing, this record reflects on her family and Alabama upbringing. And whereas American Weekend was mostly just Crutchfield and her guitar, Cerulean Salt is occasionally amped up, with a full band and higher-fi production.

At times, Cerulean Salt creeps closer to the sound of PS Eliot: moody, 90s-inspired rock backed by Keith Spencer and Swearin’ guitarist Kyle Gilbride on drums and bass. The full band means fleshed-out fuzzy lead guitars on “Coast to Coast”, its poppy hook almost masking its dark lyrics. Big distorted guitars and deep steady drums mark songs like “Misery over Dispute” and “Waiting”.

There’s plenty of American Weekend‘s instrospection and minimalism to be found, though. “Blue Pt. II” is stripped down, Crutchfield and her sister Alison (of Swearin’) singing in harmony with deadpan vox. She’s still an open booking, musing on self-doubt versus self-reliance, transience versus permanence. “Peace and Quiet” ebbs and flows from moody, minimal verses to a sing-song chorus. “Swan Dive” tackles nostalgia, transience, indifference, regret — over the a minimal strum of an electric-guitar, the picking at a chirpy riff and the double-time tapping of a muted drum. The album closes with a haunting acoustic-guitar reflection on “You’re Damaged,” possibly the best Waxahatchee song to date.

Tenement is a three piece rock band from Appleton, Wisconsin formed in 2006. They are often associated with the American hardcore punk scene. Their recorded output has been described as everything from "noise pop" to "fuzz punk", while in a live setting they are often known for experimentation, improvisation, and high-energy performance. The visual art of singer/guitarist Amos Pitsch is associated with most of their records, as well as several records by other notable punk and hardcore bands.

Trophy Wife

Trophy Wife has been a band for five years. Katy and Diane met in Washington, DC working on a magazine together.

The two began playing together and developed an instinctual language musically – it became clear early on that any band to emerge from their jam sessions would be a duo. They began crafting songs that would later become their first album. “Patience Fury,” recorded by Devin Ocampo (Smart Went Crazy, Faraquet, Medications) was released on Raleigh, North Carolina’s 307Knox Records in 2010 (Patience Fury 033, LP http://307knoxrecords.bigcartel.com/product/trophy-wife-patience-fury-lp-vinyl).

The band developed a regional following, and began extending its reach, playing frequently in the South, East Coast and mid-West. Drawing comparisons to both riot grrrl aesthetics Diane had never heard and dude-metal persuasions that Katy could never embody, the two were steadfastly determined to eke out a liminal space in between – with an interest in politics and poetry, metal and Americana, identity and society.

The band eventually relocated to Philadelphia, PA. Trophy Wife continued to play events focused on the queer community, economic justice, Girls Rock Camp movement (Diane is the Program Director for Girls Rock Philly), and more – including its staple of metal shows in dive bars. Often being accidentally compared to bands of guys in England or Pennsylvania who bear their same name, Trophy Wife is tongue in cheek about its gender politics, believing music to be a vital space to move across difference and convey ideas.

Their sophomore release, “Sing What Scares You" was recorded by Steve Roche and includes lyrics in German and French, Otto and Foglizzo’s ancestral tongues, respectively. The band toured on this record on the East Coast, in Europe, and on the West Coast.

The two have a host of new songs they've been working on and a number of projects outside of music that fuel the band. Check them out at trophywifetheband.bandcamp.com and trophywife.theband.blogspot.com.

$10.00 - $12.00

Tickets

add to your calendar

Who’s Going

Upcoming Events
First Unitarian Church

Ticketfly

Screaming Females, Waxahatchee with Tenement, Trophy Wife

Sunday, September 29 · Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM at First Unitarian Church