Thirty-nine seconds into a telephone interview, after pleasantries have been exchanged, Screaming Females drummer Jarrett Dougherty is singing the praises of Kitten Forever, the Minneapolis-based bass-and-drum punk trio that will open for his band on Sunday in Hot Springs.
"They are so good at doing their thing every night," he says while on tour earlier this month in Oakland, Calif. "I really think they are one of the most confident bands I've ever gotten to tour with."
Opening act: Kitten Forever
10 p.m. Sunday, Low Key Arts, 118 Arbor St., Hot Springs
Admission: $10, advance; $15 at the door. Free for Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival pass holders and Low Key Arts FOLK members
Spreading that kind of love to the opening act shouldn't come as a surprise from Dougherty, seeing as how he and bandmates Marissa Paternoster and "King" Mike Abbate are still firmly rooted in the do-it-yourself punk scene from which they sprang 13 years ago.
"That's the only way we know how to be," Dougherty says. "There's nobody coming around throwing a bunch of money at Screaming Females. From Day One, anything we wanted to get done we had to do ourselves. That's pretty much still the way it goes."
The Females formed 13 years ago in New Brunswick, N.J., after Dougherty met art student Paternoster at Rutgers University and joined the band she had with Abbate. The trio played the house show scene in New Brunswick and self-released a couple of early albums -- Baby Teeth and What if Someone Is Watching Their TV -- before singing with indie label Don Giovanni.
The group sounded like some wonderful fusion of Sleater-Kinney, Dinosaur Jr. and Fugazi while creating its own sonic identity thanks to Paternoster's evocative, image-laden lyrics; cavernous, vibrato-laden yawp and furious guitar heroics and Abbate and Dougherty's thunderous rhythm section.
As they progressed through albums like 2010's Castle Talk and 2012's Ugly, they found bigger spaces in their arrangements and honed their undeniable talent for melody, especially on tracks like the breakneck "Rotten Apple" and the tender, string-laden "It's Nice," both from Ugly, and the sprightly pop of "Wishing Well" on Rose Mountain.
The band also has a wicked ear for a cover, offering their unique and earnest takes on Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy" and a muscular version of the Bruce Springsteen-penned Patti Smith hit "Because the Night," with their friends in Garbage.
All at Once, released earlier this year, is perhaps the strongest Screaming Females album. Stretching out over 15 tracks, it shows a band thoroughly in command of its sound. There are prog rock flourishes (the two parts of "Chamber for Sleep"), pop punk ("Black Moon"), and crunchy, alternative rock ("Agnes Martin," inspired by the Canadian abstract painter).
Dougherty, 34, who grew up in Elizabeth, N.J., says it was hard to tell if the band would last this long, but the three members were aware early on that this project was special: "I was 21 when the band started. I don't think I had the foresight to wonder if I would still be in the band at 34 years old, but we were all really committed right from the beginning. We knew this was something important.
"We wanted to have a good time, but ultimately the point wasn't just 'let's get wasted and play at our friend's house.'"
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
"That's the point for a lot of bands, and they're also important," Dougherty adds with a chuckle. "Having a scene is about having community, having fun and doing projects for a bunch of different reasons."
From the start, Screaming Females wanted to hit the road, but it wasn't easy. Dougherty was trying to book weeklong tours for them and would scrounge up a single gig, maybe.
"We'd end up with like one show in North Carolina, and so we'd go play that because it was the one show we got," he says.
They eventually followed fellow New Brunswick DIY bands that helped build a healthy touring network around smaller cities.
He says, "A lot of times big cities aren't your best spots, but you could get a show in places like Bloomington, Ind., or Carbondale, Ill., where people would show up to the gig and hang out because there was a punk scene."
Over the years they've played huge tours with Jack White and others, but it was from touring with fellow New Jerseyian Ted Leo that Dougherty says he learned the most: "With Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, some nights we played the same venues we played with Jack White, but [Ted Leo and The Pharmacists] were rolling up in a van and loading their own gear. It seemed exciting to watch people operate essentially the way we were operating."
The show at Low Key Arts featuring Screaming Females and Kitten Forever is the After After Party for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.
Dougherty's not sure if the group will be able to take in any pre-show festivities, though.
"We'll know if we can a day or two before," he says. "That's how tour goes. You schedule everything you can, and then you fly by the seat of your pants."
Weekend on 10/18/2018
Print Headline: Screaming Females to play party at Hot Springs festival