Arts Desk

Bleached on East Coast vs. West Coast, The Smell, and Doing Karaoke With Ty Segall

Bleached photo by Todd Cole

The album of your daydreams has just cruised in on the back of a motorcycle, straight from the City of Angels. Ride Your Heart, the 12-song debut album from L.A. band Bleached, is a hair-in-the-wind ride through blooming love and tearful loss. These sweet Shangri-Las-influenced tunes were made by sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, known previously for their time in high-energy punk band Mika Miko.

Ride Your Heart is the duo’s follow-up to three excellent 7-inches, one of which included “Searching Through The Past” —probably one of the decade’s best pop songs—which the band re-recorded for its LP. Live, Jennifer handles rhythm guitar and vocals, Jessica plays lead guitar, and a bassist and drummer join them to fill out the sound. In advance of the band's show at DC9 on Thursday, I spoke with Jennifer about making the album, growing up outside of Los Angeles, and doing karaoke with Ty Segall.

Washington City Paper: Did you guys do all the instruments on the album but drums? What did you guys do?

Jennifer Clavin: Okay, well, the way it works is: I’ll be the one writing the songs and then Jessie’ll add other parts and when we go to record, we have a studio drummer that we record with, who’s really good. He’s name is Dan Allaire. And then Jessie and I record all the instruments and he does all the drums. We had our friend Will—I can’t remember his last name—he did organ on two songs.

WCP: Do you see Bleached becoming a band outside of just you and your sister or is it really just your duo project?

JC: I’ve actually never really thought about that, because I just kind of expect it to always be me and my sister. But I just feel like, with other people—we were in a band before where it was five people and it was so hard to get everyone together, and that's kind of one of the reasons why that band ended up breaking up—-when I feel like it could’ve done really well. So when we started Bleached, I was like, it’s just going to be me and my sister because I don’t want anyone getting in the way or potentially ruining something, you know?

WCP: How did you decide to re-record “Searching Through The Past” for the album?

JC: The record label [Dead Oceans] was like, “We really want you to put ‘Searching Through The Past’ and ‘Think of You’ on the record,” and I was just like, “OK, ‘Think Of You’ has been out for so long. I just feel like that song is kind of already been out for so long, I don’t want to put it on our new record.” But then I was like, “We will do ‘Searching Through The Past.’” We actually had to re-record it because the guy who put it out on the 7-inch owns that version of it ... [and] we decided to make it a tad bit faster. ... but in the end, it’s really funny because it almost sounds the exact same.

WCP: Was that kind of weird that Dead Oceans asked you to do something with the album? Were you expecting that?

JC: I don’t really care, because I was like, “I guess so.” I really like that song a lot. It didn’t really matter to me.

WCP: Is that song about a person? It seems like you could read it as a relationship with music or, really, a bunch of things.

JC: I really like when that can be a thing because I feel like people can relate to it, how it affects them, so they can feel closer to it, you know? But that song is about a relationship.

WCP: “Electric Chair”—that’s a really great song and that only has two lines of lyrics, pretty much. How does something so minimal like that become a song?

JC: It’s so funny, I was just talking about this with my sister because, like, we were listening to some—I don’t remember what song it was, but it was really minimal lyrics, but it’s a super huge song. And I was just like, “Oh, this is a thing.” If you just have a really good line and you just say it over and over again, I think it will stick with people and if it’s catchy enough, it works. Sometimes the more simple it is, the better, you know?

WCP: What’s the last line of the song? It sounds like a bunch of people are singing?

JC: Oh yeah, the other thing me and my sister will do is a lot of the backing vocals. I’ll be singing and then she’ll do the harmonizing, but then sometimes I’ll add harmonizing too, to make it sound like more people. But we’re saying, “Never stopping till I find him.” That’s the very last line that we repeat over and over again.

WCP: Do you feel there’s a major East coast-West coast vibe difference?

JC: Yeah, I feel there is. A big part of it is just the weather, I think. I lived in New York for like a year and I really, really liked it, but it was such a different lifestyle. It was hard to write music out there, but I loved it. I loved being able to walk everywhere. The lifestyles are so different, so I feel like, that affects you, you know?

WCP: What do you think is the thing to do in L.A. as a visitor or tourist?

JC: I feel like, definitely going to the beach. Like, Venice. There’s so many beaches you could go to, so one of the beaches. I feel like going to Hollywood and looking at the stars on the ground, near the Chinese Theater. And also, going to eat In-N-Out Burger. There’s a lot of really cool things you could do. There’s this area that I just learned about called Angeles National Forest. It’s really far north of L.A., but you can go on this hour hike, but you have to know where you’re going, and at the end you end up at this waterfall and it’s so nice.

WCP: Do you feel like L.A. afforded you opportunities in music or art you might not have had in another city?

JC: Yeah, I feel like, maybe—for one, I feel like because my sister and I grew up in the Valley, we were kind of isolated because the Valley’s north of L.A. When we were younger we had to take the bus everywhere, so we were just like playing music just to kill time, you know? ‘Cause when you’re in the middle of L.A., you’re probably just—you can go and do anything you wanna do because of buses and stuff. But I feel like because of that isolation we were able to play music more. So I feel really lucky that we grew up in the Valley.

But then also, when we were younger, I feel really lucky that we found this venue the Smell. We used to go to shows every weekend. And then one show we were at—we used to go to big shows like where there would be security guards and it’d just be kind of shitty, and then one show, the band was like, “We’re playing this place called the Smell tomorrow night.” And we were like, “Oh, what’s that?” And so we went to it and it was like this little hole in the wall where this one guy owns it. When we found it we were like, “This place is so awesome.” So we just started going there a lot and then we ended up playing there all the time. Now that place is really awesome. But when we first found it, no one really knew about it.

WCP: How old were you when you first started going there?

JC: I think I was 18 and Jessie was 16.

WCP: How old are you guys right now?

JC: I’m 28 and Jessie’s 26.

WCP: Is that scene around the Smell still going or has that kind of dimmed?

JC: It’s definitely still going. I don’t really go there anymore. ‘Cause I feel like it’s so much a part of my past, that I kind of almost feel a little bit weird going there.

WCP: Do you feel like you’re part of a new scene?

JC: Actually, I feel like I am, but it’s not location-wise, it’s more just like friends and bands. We just hang out so much with the band Pangea, and Ty Segall just moved to LA, and then King Tuff; like, all of us last night were doing karaoke. … We’re just all friends and we just all hang out all the time and go to each other’s shows and stuff.

WCP: When you were a kid it was kind of like the punk scene, and now it’s kind of like the garage scene or something like that?

JC: Yeah, I guess so. It’s funny, I never really think about everyone’s genre, but yeah. I guess we all do play similar music.

WCP: What do you hope to get out of an audience when you’re playing these days?

JC: I just really like it when the shows are really fun and everyone’s dancing, those are my favorite shows ever. ‘Cause it just adds so much energy and makes it really exciting to play. And hopefully with the new record out, people will know more songs. ‘Cause I can tell whenever we play a show, people get really excited for the songs they know, but then when we play new songs, people more stand around 'cause they’re not familiar with it. But now I just hope when we play it will be more exciting.

Bleached performs with Hunters and Priests April 18 at 8 p.m. at DC9, 1940 9th St. NW. $12 in advance, $14 at the door.

Photo by Todd Cole

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