In Conversation: Charly Bliss
Charly Bliss have mastered the art of creating ecstatic joy out of the darkest of circumstances. This instinctual decision to contrast pop and interwoven dark themes led to Eva Hendricks exposing part of herself in ways she could’ve never anticipated when writing the band’s second album, ‘Young Enough’.
From scrappy upbringings in Brooklyn, where the band felt like they never fitted in, to recording and re-recording 2017’s ‘Guppy’, Charly Bliss have overcome their self-doubt with a fantastic follow up LP.
Speaking to Clash from New York, while cooking up a batch of shakshuka with the band, Eva immediately radiated a sense of effervescence. Speaking quickly and articulately, her enthusiasm toward the upcoming release is tangible, a refreshing and humbling outlook considering she found herself re-visiting dark memories during the writing process.
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Despite growing up with two musical older brothers and adoring Michelle Branch of Dixie Chicks, Eva didn’t consider picking up a guitar until her high school years. “For some reason it just seemed like a mysterious thing that I would never master and shouldn’t even try,” she reflects. “It wasn’t until I discovered the band Rilo Kiley that I felt like I needed to figure out how to play, because I saw Jenny Lewis doing it and I was obsessed with her.”
During this time Eva met Spencer Fox, the lead guitarist of Charly Bliss, who Eva said, ‘just would not take no for an answer’ when they decided to start playing music together. She also happened to be singing jingles for a friend’s parents, who asked her if she had ever considered writing her own songs. Eva recalls her mother being in the room with her and jabbing her in the ribs to get her to say yes. She laughs as she says, “I'm very emo by nature so I was just writing embarrassing diary entries and poetry, but never anything that I thought would amount to something.”
“That put the idea in my head, but Spencer just came to me one day while we were video chatting and he said, ‘I bet you've been secretly writing songs and not been showing anybody. I want to make them with you, I want to write with you,’ I will never understand that moment,” She says, “because he had no reason to think that, but it was such a totally opposite experience that what I'd had with other boys my age.”
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After making self-described ‘Starbucks music’ as a folk duo with Spencer, she eventually secured a place at the NYU Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. “When I got in I found out that every other kid there had already recorded their debut album and were touring or playing shows,” she says. “I was like, holy shit I'm a fraud and everyone's going to think I'm the lamest person here because I don't have anything.”
After begging her big brother Sam to join the band on drums, and enlisting Dan Shure to take the bass, Charly Bliss recorded their debut EP ‘Soft Serve’ just as Eva reached her second year at university. Though it took a few months for the band to gain critical success, they eventually started gaining momentum, and Eva convinced them to start on their first full-length album.
“I went to my bandmates and was like we need to record an album now, we need to strike while the iron's hot,” she says. “At that point, I think we had written seven songs for what would be the first iteration of Guppy. We went in to record a week after I graduated, and we were not prepared in any way. It's such a bad move to go into a studio and be like we have 10 songs therefore we have an album. It's so embarrassing, but that's what we did.”
“Also, at that point, we never really felt like we fit in to a specific scene in Brooklyn. For a long time, it felt like everything we were doing was wrong. It felt like our stuff was too poppy, and I felt like we never ever played with bands with women in them, and this was five or six years ago,” she says. “I didn't feel like I was a pioneer, I felt like what I was doing was wrong and I was holding us back as a band.”
As a result of this, the first iteration of ‘Guppy’ was left to sit for a year. Realising that they only had the one chance to make a good first impression, the band acknowledged that it wasn’t worth sharing their first album until they were actually happy with it. They would then go on to re-write and record it once more before its eventual release in 2017. When it came time to write a follow-up, Eva felt like she had to shed her uncertainty.
“My tendency just as who I am and within my personality, is to kind of lean towards self-doubt,” she reveals. “I think when Guppy came out I felt like I had to let go of that part of my personality. I had to accept I'm good at this, I guess something is working.”
“It felt to me as though we approached this album with so much more confidence. Even though we didn't exactly know what we were going for, I think we knew in a very abstract sense what was right.”
The singer continues, explaining that her brother Sam took inspiration from the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire when he wrote the instrumentation: “We really didn't want to make Guppy 2 and just do more of the same. We knew we wanted to experiment with different instrumentation as well, so in that sense it felt like we dove right in.”
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Throughout this process Sam and Eva would send each other songs to work on. One day, while attempting to come up with lyrics for a song of his, she wrote ‘Chatroom’. This song, she later revealed, stemmed from her experience of being sexually assaulted while in a former relationship.
“My brain was just in that rhythm because I was coming up with more stuff and after a certain point, it felt like I wasn't ever trying to specifically write a song about X or Y,” she says. “Out of nowhere, it just felt like the entire verse of 'Chatroom' appear with the lyrics and the melody, I just was not thinking about it.”
“Looking back, it feels like I kind of needed to purge that from my brain and examine it further instead of avoiding it,” the singer continues, “Then when it came time to start putting the album out, it started to dawn on me that I was going to have to talk about this stuff, and decide how I wanted to talk about it, whether I wanted to talk about it, how much to say and what to say. It totally messed me up, I was so depressed, and I wasn't sleeping. It was really hard.”
Nevertheless, the band made the decision to release the single earlier this year, bringing Eva to a new-found place of acceptance, “Now that it's so public, I kind of feel like I have distance from it,” she says. “Now that I talk about it so often to total strangers I feel kind of like I'm almost able to fully accept it and feel less shame about it.”
“There are a few people that have reached out to me online, some of our fans, to say that they've been through the same thing or a similar thing, and that the song is helpful to them,” she reflects. “Once that happened, it kind of felt like it had nothing to do with me in a way. If I can help somebody who's been through the same thing as me, then I'm so glad that I did it.”
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After experiencing that feeling of togetherness with her fans, and with the full album’s release imminent, Eva has lost her anxiety and is instead just excited to share ‘Young Enough’ with the world. “I love 'Chatroom',” she says, “I'm super proud of that song. I also love the title track 'Young Enough’ I wrote that with my brother and really that's his baby, but we wrote it together and the process of writing was really special.”
“I look up to him a lot, partly because he's my big brother but also because I think he's so talented as a writer and a musician. What came from it felt like a song that we'd never really done before, lyrically I don't think I've ever been more proud,” she says. “I also really love 'The Truth' that song is just another collaboration between me and Sam and it makes me feel like I'm going to explode every time I listen to it or play it. It's super brutal to listen to.”
She reflects: “When I was writing the album my mantra throughout was if I got nervous about something. All I can do is tell the truth and they beyond that, whatever's going to happen is going to happen.”
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'Young Enough' is out now.
Words: Georgia Evans
Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz
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