You Should Know Bleached
Radio Milwaukee recently spoke with sisters Jessie and Jennifer Clavin from the road -- about the new album, influences, growing up with punk, and writing to get yourself through the hard times.
Where they're from: Los Angeles, CA
Their song 88Nine is playing: "Wednesday Night Melody" (see video below)
RIYL: Rock 'n' roll, Bangles, honest lyrics
5 questions with Bleached
1. Jessie, how long have you played music with your sister?
Jessie: We’ve been playing since we were kids. Our dad always had his guitars lying around and he had a really amazing synth, a Yamaha DX7, and we’d always play with it. We tried starting a band in our high school days. We were living in the Valley and we were totally isolated because we weren’t driving yet. If we wanted to go to Hollywood or to Melrose Strip, it was an hour and a half bus ride from where we lived. That made Jen and I get together and practice in our garage and that’s when we really started playing music together.
Jen and I started Bleached in something like 2010. It was a very slow start. 2010 is when the ideas started, but then Jen moved out to New York. We had the idea and we were still playing music with each other but we kind of let each other go off and do other things to try it out while we were still communicating. She was in New York and I was in L.A. Jen joined Cold Cave while living in New York. I was in L.A. trying to start new things. It was fun, but it didn’t feel completely right.
That sounds hard after playing with a sister, trying to replicate that band relationship.
Jessie: Yeah. It was almost a little scary, because I thought I was so used to it, but when I started playing with other people I was like, “whoa.” Like, this is kind of different.
Have you ever done a family band?
Jessie: We’ve never done that, but we used to do Christmas cards every year. One year we did a Christmas card where we are a family band and we’re all wearing black turtlenecks. We actually took the picture at The Smell venue in downtown L.A. They are really supportive and fun.
2. What's the first record you ever bought with your own money?
Jessie: The first record on vinyl was a Crass record. The same day or the day after I bought a Minor Threat record. They are both in the punk genre, but weirdly both completely opposite.
Who turned you on to those bands?
Jessie: Jen and I got into punk, when we just knew we didn’t really, fully fit in at school. We had a friend that would take us to a show. I had a neighbor, a really good family friend of ours who gave me a Velvet Underground tape. That was my first punk tape. He gave me the book, “From the Velvets to the Voidoids." I was really young, listening to this tape, reading this book and I was drawn to this music and lifestyle. From there, we were going to Headline Records, going to Taang! Records, before Amoeba was even open.
We would just go to records stores all the time. Sometimes we’d buy a record just because we liked the way it looked. I don’t know what made me get Crass or Minor Threat, but sometimes you go to a show and see a person with a patch on their arm next to a patch for a band you do know. I would think, they are wearing a Crass patch next to a GBH patch and think, maybe I should get into GBH.
3. There is an awesome production style on this record. I loved your early songs, but these feel very evolved. I also hear a Bangles style and then I saw Joe Chiccarelli produced it . Where you inspired by the Bangles?
Jen: It's funny that you asked that, because when I was seven I had a Big Bird record player that only played 7”s. My mom gave me three 7"s and one was Cindy Lauper, one was The Go Go’s and one was the Bangles. So we were saying recently that the Bangles secretly inspired Bleached.
How did you connect with Chiccarelli?
Jessie: When we first met with Joe, it was literally just a meeting to say “hi” and get some advice. We wanted to work with him, but we didn’t have the budget to do so. We met at Café 101, we like to go there a lot in L.A.
We met Joe and he said that he wanted people to put this record on and get scared. Jen and I thought he knew exactly what he was talking about and we thought we already heard it in our heads. So, when he said that, we thought “we really want Joe to do this.” He knows what sound we want.
It was really cool too because he was saying that a lot of Jen’s vocal melodies are really poppy and you can’t lose that, it really grabs your attention. It’s really true. It’s upbeat and some of them are pop melodies, but he knew that we kind of wanted to make it still scary. He said we can’t lose the melodies because those are there. So we had to figure out how to scare people.
After that conversation, the next day he said, “I really want to work with the girls” and that’s how we ended up working with him.
00000184-c386-d511-ada5-ffdf770500004. The lyrics on “Worms” feel different than the first record. Was that because of stuff going on in your life?
Jen: I feel like it was -- life experiences, and finding more confidence. I think with the first record, my subject matter was to try and escape my own problems. With this one, I feel like I got more personal with myself.
I was really depressed so I just said, “f**k it, I just want to be honest.” Many of my favorite lyricists are really honest with their writing and I’m always inspired by that. I was listening a lot to Nirvana’s “Unplugged” and you can really hear the lyrics there. I was also reading a lot of Richard Brautigan’s books and he’s really, really honest. Jessie and I are obsessed with him, I have almost all of his books. My favorite is his poetry book “The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster.” My favorite is his daughter’s book she wrote about him. “You Can’t Catch Death.” She was really honest with her situation with her dad.
5. I really love the line in "Wednesday Night Melody," “Come on boy dry your eyes/it’s good to feel just a little alive.” Did you write it to cheer yourself up, or were you thinking about the future listener?
Jen: I feel like it’s a combo of both. With that song I was actually writing to myself. Originally, the lyric was “come on girl dry your eyes,” because I was talking to myself. Then I wanted it to be more of a song I could sing to someone else, so that’s when I changed it to “come on boy.” So I feel like I am aware, but it goes back and forth. It’s either coming from a personal experience, or I’m singing to a friend.
Or you’re the friend? The lyrics feel cathartic, but they also feel honest.
Maybe it’s easier to think about it that way – that you’re your own friend singing to yourself and you can be the most honest because it’s just a conversation to yourself. That way there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
Bleached will be performing in Chicago at the Empty Bottle this Friday, April 22. Tickets and info HERE.
You can order the new Bleached album "Welcome the Worms" HERE.
Watch the video for "Wednesday Night Melody" below: