Nebraska, the Screaming Females are sorry. The New Jersey trio did not want to cancel a gig because of severe weather, but as drummer Jarrett Dougherty says, "It’s better that we missed a show rather than have broken arms and legs."
Consider it a helpful tip from a band that has long adhered to a do-it-yourself ethic. Dougherty may be exaggerating a bit, but forgive him, as Screaming Females often work in extremes, and the recent cluster of violent tornadoes that roared through the Midwest are a less common occurrence for a band that hails from New Brunswick, N.J.
"They got pretty close to us," Dougherty says of the storms. "It was a last-minute decision as to whether we should try to make the drive. We were almost there to Nebraska, but all the reports were saying to get off the road."
While Screaming Females has a team to help with such matters as publicity, licensing and booking, the band has long acted as its own manager. So when the three were driving on an Iowa interstate and heard about the tornadoes, they started listening to weather updates using their smartphone apps. Better to cancel the Nebraska gig than drive through that.
Dougherty's colorful description of broken limbs is reflective of the vibrant way in which Screaming Females tackle intensity. The band's fifth album, "Ugly," features singer Marissa Paternoster howling with tortured bitterness that she "can't unwind," and then sees the band attempting to find 14 ways to illustrate coming-of-age anxiety.
Yet don't try asking Paternoster to go into detail on "Ugly" or its songs. She'll happily discuss the technical aspects of the work -- lyrics, she says, come second-to-last, and her oddly amped-up vocal phrasing is the last thing recorded -- yet she'll shy away from divulging any hints regarding the meaning of the work or the psychological head space of the band while they were making the album. "I don’t share a lot of those things with people," she says apologetically.
No matter, as "Ugly," released on the Don Giovanni label, presents Screaming Females at their most expansive. The trio, whose members are in their mid-to-late 20s, deliver a ferocious technical proficiency. Paternoster's riffs are as towering as her solos are intricate, and Dougherty and bassist Mike Rickenbacker aim to decorate every second of space in between. Songs are tightly wound, even as they slug their way past seven minutes and jolt from arms-folded toughness to minor key vulnerability.