Charly-Bliss-Photo-Credit-to-Beth-Eisgrau-Heller_KEXP-1

Interview:

Charly Bliss

Vocalist and guitarist Eva Hendricks chats the band’s new album

and the power of vulnerability

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words by ben tipple

photo by beth eisgrau heller

Eva Hendricks, vocalist and guitarist in New York found piece Charly Bliss, brims with an infectious enthusiasm as she opens up about their debut full-length, Guppy. She speaks with remarkable depth of a record that candidly soundtracks her own coming-of-age. As the band’s lyricist, Hendricks puts her vulnerabilities on display in an uncensored tale that covers the last four years of her life. At its core, Guppy deals with anxiety, depression, jealousy and shame, but the upbeat power pop sounds that deliver Hendricks heartfelt storytelling inject a healthy dose of fun.

“The lyrical content definitely doesn’t match the feeling of the record,” Hendricks happily concedes. For her, and for her bandmates, Guppy would never be about sadness. Instead, it’s a deliberate juxtaposition that plays to her own tastes. “I’ve always been obsessed with lyrics. I love when I hear a song and think it’s about one thing, but then I’m reading the lyrics and it’s about something completely different. I try to do that in our music.”

It’s part of what has led Charly Bliss to their atypical sound, sitting somewhere between 90s inspired garage rock and unashamed all-out pop. “People often say to us that we’re the kind of band that would be playing at the end of 10 Things I Hate About You,” Hendricks jokes, in-keeping with the coming-of-age theme. “That makes sense. It’s one of my favourite movies.”

But Charly Bliss are so much more than a retrospective homage to a long-dead era. Hendricks is helping to repackage the angst and frustrations that underpinned the iconic movies, and to firmly reclaim the power. “It’s funny to see how different parts of yourself, and things you didn’t think would seep into what you do, absolutely do.”

Hendricks grew up in a creative and supportive household. Her mother, a photographer, and father, a writer, placed more kudos on her creative endeavours than schooling, Hendricks laughs. Her brother Sam, drummer and founding member of Charly Bliss, learned the instrument from an early age. Her other brother picked up the guitar. Looking up to her older siblings, Hendricks opted to sing, beginning her creative life in musical theatre.

“I’d put my whole life into musical theatre, and thought it was what I was going to do forever. Then I stopped for a second and I just thought, ‘do I really like this?’”. It was this realisation that led Hendricks towards guitar driven sounds. Having already been introduced to the likes of Death Cab For Cutie and Weezer by Sam, Hendricks found her musical horizons broadening. It was Spencer Fox, now fellow vocalist and guitarist in Charly Bliss, who persuaded her to fully embrace songwriting.

“I met Spencer when I was 15. He weirdly came to me one day and said that if I wrote music it would be really good. I sincerely believe that if he hadn’t said that I’d never would have started writing music. It kind of all happened at once.”
Combined with her friendship groups love of outright pop, Hendricks began to build what would become Charly Bliss. Trying to introduce her peers to indie and emo music fell on deaf ears; road trips would still be accompanied by the tones of Miley Cyrus. “I think because of that it kept my taste of music very much in the middle. Our music is kind of like that. It’s very poppy but I can definitely see how it’s influenced by other things I was listening to. It all kind of kept it in the centre space.”

It’s also what led to Guppy’s fun sound, despite the heavier lyrical content. Eva, Sam and Spencer, joined by bassist Dan Shure, recorded the album twice, disregarding the first take for its lack of vibrancy. “The first time we went in we had absolutely no idea how we wanted it to sound. We’d written the songs, but sonically we didn’t really know what we wanted. We went in to work with the producer and said do whatever you think. The way it came out was very garage-y and indie sounding. We heard it and immediately realised that the fun was missing.”

Finding their sound through trial and error, a method Hendricks wouldn’t necessarily recommend in retrospect, Charly Bliss realised they needed more. “We needed a pop record,” Hendricks recalls the moment of realisation. It’s easy to see how the initial producer might have not taken that route. The record is filled with tales of embarrassment and struggles with mental health. “It’s kind of like when you read your diary back when you were in the middle school,” Hendricks explains. “Lyrically I try to always say whatever is most embarrassing or shameful. Things I’d be too embarrassed to say to other people, or things that torture me about my personality and keep me awake at night. I think a lot of our lyrics are about that, making fun of myself.”

“Julia” surrounds Hendricks’ jealousy. It speaks of her increased obsession with a now ex-boyfriend’s former girlfriend. “At a certain point I realised I was thinking about the person’s ex more than about the person. I am in love with the ex, in a way.” Westermarck, one of the equally unusual tales on the record, recounts an ex-boyfriend’s developing relationship with his cousin. “There’s probably a lot of people who read an interview and are like, ‘what, that’s song is about her boyfriend falling in love with his cousin?!’,” Hendricks laughs. This surprise is part of Charly Bliss’ charm.

But more broadly, Guppy is about wrestling with anxiety. Written over the course of four years, Hendricks still feels the direct relationship with each track, pulled together by her ongoing management of mental health. “Even the stuff that feels a little far away I still feel very connected to it,” she notes.

It’s for this reason why the element of fun remains so important. By exposing her most embarrassing moments with a light-hearted feel, Hendricks takes back control. “It makes me feel so powerful to sing about the most difficult things I go through on stage, partly because the songs are really upbeat and fun to play, and partly because when I’m on stage I feel like this super version of myself. More confident and more brave.”

“A lot of the time I’m singing about things that are completely out of my control, but because of the way we put them in our songs, I feel very in control. It helps me feel like I’ve wrangled them and used them for something good.”
To that effect, Ruby is a love-letter to Hendricks’ therapist. She explains how her brother and drummer Sam writes most the instrumentation, although he sometimes leaves little time for Hendricks to pull together lyrics ahead of entering the studio. “It’s hard for me to fit lyrics into a prewritten melody,” she admits.

“I had gone to therapy the week before and told her about how I needed to write the song.” This encounter led Hendricks to pen the ode to her therapist. A week later, when asked whether the song was finished, Hendricks had to break the news. Her therapist loved it.

This balance of fun and her confident honesty underpins Charly Bliss’ sound. There’s a serious message of hope, power and control, brought together by vibrant, upbeat pop. “I didn’t go into the song thinking about that,” Hendricks says of Ruby, “but I think it’s been a result of that song. I think it’s cool to be able to talk about that, and not to have the shroud it in shame.” With that, Charly Bliss consistently pull empowerment out of embarrassment and shame, and have a lot of fun while doing it.

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Guppy is out now on Barsuk Records

Order it here

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UK/EU Tour Dates:

14 September – London, The Garage
15 September – Liverpool, Studio 2
16 September – Leeds, Headrow House
17 September – Glasgow, The Hug and Pint
19 September – Manchester, The Eagle Inn
20 September – Birmingham, The Sunflower Lounge

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