Visiting Marissa Paternoster | The Making of Stompbox Book

Throughout the 15 years that Screaming Females has been a band, the riff-driven three-piece has practiced in the basement of vocalist/guitarist Marissa Paternoster’s grandmother’s home. Occasionally, Paternoster notes, her grandmother would give her two cents on new arrangements: “When we wrote ‘Doom 84’ (which was on our 5th LP, Ugly), she said it sounded like a ‘funeral dirge’ and that’s how I knew we were headed in the right direction.”

Even though her grandmother isn’t around anymore, Paternoster’s family still owns the house. “We have a very simple set up down there for demoing songs, nothing fancy,” she says. “I am very grateful to have access to this space, it has afforded me with a lot of creative freedom.”


Well, I suppose this is a photo of me taking myself way too seriously.
A rather bad painting from high school, plus some very old pictures of Mike and I in our teens.


Throughout the basement is ephemera that has been collected over the years: old artwork by Paternoster (who draws and paints when she’s not playing guitar), pictures from her teenage years with bassist Mike Abbate, fan art, gig posters, tour memorabilia, and more. The humble and sentimental arrangement makes sense, as Screaming Females has always kept their roots close to heart (and home): they’ve released all seven of their albums on Don Giovanni Records, founded by the band’s close friend and fellow New Jersey native, Joe Steinhart; one of Paternoster’s favorite pedals (the Supercollider) is manufactured by Jersey-based company Earthbound Audio; and for the last two years, the band has hosted their February Annual Garden Party in their home state. 

“Winter is typically a slow time for us, and I guess for a lot of bands that tour for a living—the holidays and weather can really get in the way of getting people out to shows—so a few years back we booked a series of gigs at Monty Hall in Jersey City, which is a lovely little venue below Jersey’s beloved WFMU,” says Paternoster. “This year we move it to a larger venue in Jersey City, White Eagle Hall.” On February 22nd, Screamales will be joined by bands No Men, Mal Blum, and Radioactivity.


An old makeup case that I’ve been using for pedal storage since this band began in 2005. It is also where all the stickers go, obviously.
My father graciously purchased this American made Telecaster for me when I graduated from high school. I switched out the rosewood neck for maple. I seldom play it live but use it often while recording. I think the mid-70’s Ross flanger is the best flanger I’ve ever heard, I just wish it wasn’t so damned huge.


Having started their career by playing basement shows in New Brunswick, NJ, the band has gone on to do some pretty incredible things. They recorded Ugly with Steve Albini, they’ve been featured on Last Call with Carson Daly and MTV, they’ve played and recorded with Garbage, and opened for acts like The Breeders, Throwing Muses, and Dinosaur Jr, to name a few. Last year, Paternoster teamed up with Zvex to create a limited run of Woolly Mammoth pedals featuring her original artwork. (Watch the video, featuring Paternoster and the pedal, here.) But most notably, Paternoster was named the 77th greatest guitarist of all time by Spin magazine in 2012, which comes as no surprise—to witness Paternoster play her G&L S-500 live is a wild and tone-perfected gift.  

Lately, the band has been focusing on writing, with no concrete plans for their next record, but that doesn’t mean Paternoster isn’t still playing and demoing. “EarthQuaker Devices just sent me their Cloven Hoof pedal and I really like it,” she says. “I’m not sure if I’ll ever use it in my live set up, but it’s a great sounding fuzz and I’ve been using it on demos.”

This wall contains a hodgepodge of fan art, photographs, and gig posters. My personal favorite is the fine painting of Shirley Manson Mike made for my birthday.
This sassy little note was written by Riley of the fantastic band Dusk from Appleton, WI. He hid it in my bag after our tour together.
More gig posters! Including an absolutely stunning Toys that Kill silkscreen from one of our San Pedro shows.
Screaming Females met the photographer Ebru Yildiz this year and she kindly gifted us each copies of her book which documents the last days of the beloved DIY venue Death By Audio. We were lucky enough to play DBA a handful of times and we miss it dearly.
This is not my typical setup because I was tracking guitar for demos. Earthquaker devices was nice enough to gift me with their Avalanche Run delay/reverb pedal and I still have no idea how the hell to use it.
My Sunn Concert Lead plus some stray pedals. My pedal box was swiped in Krakow, Poland about a year ago, but the promoter managed to track them all down and send them back, so now I have two of everything!


Full interview and photo of Marissa’s chosen pedal will be featured in the Stompbox Book, coming summer 2020.

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