Bleached Are Tired of Your ‘Girl in a Band’ Questions
Last year, Los Angeles punk duo Bleached released their debut LP, Welcome the Worms, opening up about mental health, enduring emotionally abusive relationships, and spiraling into drugs and alcohol. For Bleached’s Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, it was a deeply personal record, not to mention an incredibly ambitious project, showcasing their talent for emotionally jarring lyrics and rough guitar riffs.
Last Friday, Bleached released their latest body of work via Dead Oceans, an EP titled Can You Deal? The centerpiece is its title track, which speaks to Jennifer still having to field questions about her gender in interviews, instead of her art. If you can believe it, this has been happening to the sisters since they were in a punk band in their teens. This EP shows the band trying to make listeners see beyond gender and really hone in on the music that’s being made; Bleached wanted to drop the labels and make people aware that it’s 2017, and yes, women are playing rock ‘n’ roll. Can You Deal? was also an opportunity for the duo to rework demos they had made in the past and ditch the Auto-Tune.
But that wasn’t all: Bleached thought that they could make an even better case for female musicians by going a step further, so they launched a zine to go with their EP. Personal essays, lyrics and poems are weaved throughout the limited edition zine, featuring contributions from Hayley Williams (Paramore), Tegan Quinn (Tegan and Sara), Jane Wiedlin (the Go-Go’s), Julien Baker, Liz Phair, Alice Glass and more. Better yet, all of the proceeds (minus printing costs) will go to Planned Parenthood.
Prior to the EP's release, we caught up with Jennifer and Jessica about the significance of the record, how it was a departure from Welcome the Worms and why it’s a statement for female musicians.
What made you decide to release this EP, and why now?
Jennifer: So, we were touring a lot on Welcome the Worms. We released that April 1, and we had been touring heavily on it through March. We had a three-week break, and we had a week off here and there. We all wrote “Can You Deal?” as a band, and my boyfriend and I wrote “Flipside.” Then we had two old demos we wanted to rework. So, when it came time for those three weeks, we were just like, “Let’s just record those four songs. Let’s just do it.” It ended up working out. We ended up working with this awesome producer, Alex Newport, and we recorded it at Elliott Smith’s studio in the Valley. We thought it was a cool chance to use that limited amount of time and really focus on what we want to create and put out. We feel like it was kind of cool to have that limited amount of time because it captured that energy we had been feeling during all these tours. We were able to revisit some things that we didn’t get to do on Welcome the Worms.
What do you mean by that?
Jessica: It’s kind of an extension of [Welcome the Worms].
Jennifer: With Welcome the Worms, it was a big production: We were recording at Sunset Sound. I don’t even know how long we spent on that record — it was at least two months, and just having these demos from almost a year before we recorded to spending a lot of time on it. Still, all that time, there are things you wish you had done once you put it out. Jessica said an extension, but I wouldn’t agree with that. I think the things I wasn’t happy with, with Welcome the Worms, I could do with this EP. For example, some vocal ideas — I wanted the vocals to be a little more raw. There’s no Auto-Tuning. I was ready to sing it as many times as I needed until the right take happened.
Jessica: We were taking the opportunity to put down some things that I didn’t get to for Welcome the Worms. I think I had been listening to it and I thought I could try something new. For the guitar, I remember recording a whole new way with guitar stuff — this time using less guitar pedals instead of more pedals, and really hearing the sound of a guitar through an amp as opposed to being washed with so many effects.
Why did you decide to make a zine with the EP? How did you go about getting the awesome contributors?
Jennifer: When we wrote “Can You Deal?” as a band, I had to figure out what I was going to sing about. I thought it was a really cool song where I thought that anything I would sing about would be more noticeable lyric-wise, because there are some chanty parts. So, I thought I wanted to sing about something I care about, which I usually do, but I felt like it was a chance to say something that mattered. We kept getting interviewed with the same questions: “What’s it like to be in a girl in a band,” or “What’s it like to be an all-girl band,” even though we have a male drummer. I was just like, I’m gonna sing about that. We had a punk band when we were teenagers and got these questions over and over. I felt like it was the same questions 10 years later, so I thought it was finally the time to say something about it. It was fresh on my mind, so that’s how that topic got brought up among Bleached.
Our manager said we could take it further and talk to other female musicians about it. I was a little bit nervous to actually email anybody, because once I did it, I was making myself vulnerable. I had talked to other female musician friends and how it’s annoying. What do you do? What do you say? I just emailed 10 friends that I knew that would maybe be interested, and then some people started emailing people for me. I got so many responses. People were so stoked on the idea. It was awesome. I was so glad I took that leap of faith and decided to email a bunch of people to see if they wanted to be a part of the zine. It snowballed from there and became bigger than I expected. I imagined it would be midnight at a Kinko’s throwing it together, copying and stapling everything. Now, it’s way beyond that. We have a printer doing it. There are so many people participating in it — either artists submitting personal essays, lyrics or poems. Now there are so many amazing people. We thought it would be a better idea to make it look a little nicer. We started out with 500 [copies], but it sold out really fast, so we added a few. All of the money made — other than reimbursing the printer — is going to Planned Parenthood.
What made you guys choose to donate specifically to Planned Parenthood?
Jennifer: Well, Planned Parenthood because of the government funding being taken away. We’re all supporters of Planned Parenthood — we use it ourselves. Now that Trump has become president, that’s the one thing that has affected me and my friends greatly.
How do you want fans to digest this EP?
Jennifer: I want them to relate, if they do, or be aware of what we’re talking about. I think that was my whole point for writing the lyrics to “Can You Deal?” at first, and then starting a zine about it. I think we don’t need to always be pointing fingers that we’re “women making music.”
Do you think this EP is as personal as Welcome the Worms?
Jennifer: I feel like it’s a different type of personal because [Welcome the Worms] was a very specific time. I feel like the older I get, the more I think I’ve figured stuff out, but when I look back, I didn’t know shit. So, I know in a year I’ll look back at me now and be, like, I still didn’t know shit, but I thought I kind of knew what was going on. I feel like Welcome the Worms was a really crazy time in my life where I was figuring out that I needed to be sober. I was really new at that. Now that I’ve been sober for a year, I can focus on new personal matters.
Jessica: I also feel like it’s cool to show the different ways you can keep your art going with whatever is happening in the now. We’re just being present right now and determining how we can work through the music, and putting this zine together to express ourselves. I feel like it’ll give people ideas to go and do something on their own. There are so many ways to express that. Jen and I grew up with so many ways we would hear people’s opinions.
Follow Ilana Kaplan on Twitter.