Screaming Females with Small Bones and Baby Boy
7:30 p.m. Thursday
Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 592-3220; www.zeitgeistinc.net
For a city with barely 50,000 residents, New Brunswick, N.J., has strange pop-culture clout. MTV's Matt Pinfield is from there, and both the TV series Charles in Charge and the film Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle took place there. Not to mention Bon Jovi ...
"You're naming some of the worst things in the world!" interrupts Marissa Paternoster, singer/guitarist for the New Brunswick trio Screaming Females. "Bon Jovi?"
Point taken. Many New Orleanians would similarly object to being tossed into an aesthetic gumbo with The Real World, The Big Easy, Better Than Ezra and Zebra. Despite describing her hometown as "pretty much just bars and places to get fat sandwiches," Paternoster knows better. Her Females (of which she's the only one — both bandmates are male) belong to New Brunswick's best-kept musical secret: a circuit of literal underground rock shows, hosted by a circle of friends in each other's basements.
"Jarrett (Dougherty) used to book tons and tons of shows," Paternoster says of the Females' drummer, a recent immigrant to Philadelphia. "(Bassist) Mike (Rickenbacker) books a lot of shows. He just moved into a show house. ... Most of the shows I go to are at this house called Meat Town USA. I'm not sure what Mike's house is called nowadays. A lot of the houses don't have names — so the cops don't show up."
Out of this insular scene, Screaming Females is something of a flag waver. The band has booked its own shows and produced and issued its own records (with an assist from area imprint Don Giovanni) since its 2006 debut Baby Teeth. Next week marks the release of Castle Talk, the Females' fourth LP. Advance single "I Don't Mind It" hit websites in July, followed by a visually striking, stop-motion animation video by New Brunswick artist Mr. Pillis in August. The latter features swirling, naked paper puppets drawn by Paternoster dancing in what looks like a sex-ed notebook imbued with Magic Eye life.
The song is an electric guitar pop anthem, with Paternoster's tremolo vocals leading a strong six-string throng. But the album isn't a departure from previous punked-out platters, she says. "There are definitely songs that hearken back to (2009's) Power Move, if you're looking for more aggressive stuff. We're all suckers for a good hook."
Doing everything yourself has its disadvantages, of course. Like cramming a month of studio time into one week when your equipment decides to betray you, as it was with Castle Talk. "It was a nightmare," Paternoster says, shuddering. "Every time we'd commit something to tape and try and play it back, the tape would loosen and bunch up on the reels. There was a new 2-inch tape machine at the studio that hadn't been addressed in like 30 years."
Then there are the little details to consider, like travel routes and regional obstacles — a lesson the band learned en route to a February gig at Hey! Cafe on Magazine Street. "We were driving into the city and there was a ton of traffic, and it was pretty late at night," Paternoster says. "We get a call from (tourmates) Jake and Jamin (Orrall) from Jeff the Brotherhood, and they were like, 'It's Mardi Gras!'
"We had no idea," she laughs. "Right at the corner there was a tremendously huge parade going on. We just kind of stood by the floats and caught beads and other plastic novelty items for like two or three hours before going on."