Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Rock, Scream, Girls, Shoot!

Written by Jessica Hopper and Marissa Paternoster; Intro by Jesse Sposato
Before Jessica Hopper wrote The Girls' Guide to Rocking, ladies had to figure out how to play music on their own. Which is not to say that they couldn’t, but let’s face it, girls weren’t exactly handed instruments when they were little the way boys—who often didn’t even express interest in playing music at all—were.         Active Image   
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Click here to read an excerpt from The Girls' Guide to Rocking.  
Before Jessica Hopper wrote The Girls' Guide to Rocking, ladies had to figure out how to play music on their own. This is not to say that they couldn’t, but let’s face it, girls aren't always handed instruments when they are little the way boys—who often don't even express interest in playing music at all—are.

I happen to personally be part of the unfortunate school of rejection where I was told by my third grade music instructor that my hands weren’t strong enough to play the drums (not to mention my parents thought they would be too loud and didn’t want them in the house). In protest, I boycotted all instruments, which prolonged my path to playing music until years later when I finally (thank goodness!) braved the courage to teach myself to play in my early twenties.

I’d like to think Hopper’s book is written for the me’s of the world, the girls who always wanted to play but were told they couldn’t, the ladies who dreamed of making music but needed the extra encouragement, the ones who had no idea where to start…until now.

While The Girls' Guide to Rocking didn’t always exist, Jessica Hopper has been painting towns riot grrrl for at least a decade with her music playing and criticism. She inspired Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females so much that Paternoster wrote her college thesis on some of Hopper’s writing. It’s no coincidence that Paternoster took an interest in the well-known, highly acclaimed critic—Hopper has been writing about Screaming Females for a few years now.
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Paternoster and Hopper recently got on a call, with Joan Hiller Depper, publicist and owner of Riot Act Media, mediating, to discuss Jessica’s new book, The Girls' Guide to Rocking. What you wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall of a conversation between a few very rocking ladies…well, now you don’t have to wait any longer.

Marissa: I feel like I’m in third grade being on a three-way call. Should we talk about boys? OK, so what was your intention in making a book about how to rock that was for girls, and do you feel like girls need a separate set of instructions from boys?

Jessica: There’s no information in the book that can’t be used by boys. I don’t think girls need special instruction, but I do think it’s always been much more acceptable for boys to spend five hours after school in their room playing guitar along with records, than for girls. I just wanted a book that offered extra encouragement. I think making music and playing in a band is the funnest thing ever; I think every girl should have a band and go on tour. I want girls to know that rock and roll belongs as much to them as any boy and for them [to] have all the info. they need to make their band-dreams a reality. When I was sixteen and starting a band, I had no idea about anything, and I never wanted to ever ask questions because I didn’t want to look like the dumb girl that didn’t know anything. So, this is the book I wished I had then.
Marissa: Yeah, I was definitely afraid to play with people for a long time when I guess I didn’t think I was good. I think it probably had a lot to do with being the only girl, always—but I was lucky enough to have people around me who wanted to show me stuff.

Jessica: When I got older, I wasn’t so scared, and living with people in bands and playing in bands, I picked up so much. But when I was first trying to play in bands, I wound up having fruitless practices with guys who’d say stuff like, ‘I thought you said you’d been playing for a year’—guys who’d been playing hours a day since junior high.

I was just noodling around in my room alone. I wasn’t like, practicing scales and solos. I felt really diminished and frustrated by the idea of what “playing” was supposed to be, by this idea that you had to get super good AND THEN you were allowed to start a band.
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The kid who got me into punk rock, he thought the way to get good is, he would walk around his house with his bass on for hours a day, practicing slap technique. [He was], like, incensed that I started a band the day after I got my guitar.

Marissa: The people I first started playing around [with] were jazz dudes who were really into Medeski, Martin, and Wood…

Jessica: [Laughing] Oh no! Not those guys.
Marissa: So, I was really hard-pressed to learn stuff quickly because they were the only people who I had around to play with. I had to play along with stuff that was way beyond my range [laughs] and like, practice my Smashing Pumpkins guitar tabs at home. I [was] learning all these ridiculous chords like diminished sevens. That had a lot to do with how I learned to play.

Jessica: And now I bet you can play right along with any number of Steely Dan records.

Marissa: Man, I can wail on a Phish song [laughs]. For ages. You know you love it. They’re awesome…they groove. I think everyone’s got to have those uncomfortable first band experiences to help figure out what you really want to be doing. There are so many horrible videos of me floating around, playing the worst stuff. Ween songs…

Jessica: [Laughs] Wow.
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Marissa: [Laughs] Bob Marley. All the classic high school stuff.

Jessica: You have really had a stylistic trajectory.

Marissa: I didn’t even listen to any of that stuff—I JUST WANTED TO PLAY GUITAR! I would play in any cover band as long as I could solo [laughs]. I hope all those videos never see the light of day.

Jessica: Just keep wishing. You know as soon as you get famous enough, they are going to be all over YouTube.

Marissa: Then that’s when I will kill myself and the record will REALLY start selling.
Photos of Marissa Paternoster & Screaming Females courtesy of Riot Act Media

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