Bleached are back in the studio making more of the beachy punk sounds we love.
Jennifer and Jessie Clavin have the easygoing banter of two people who have been on the same page for so long that it no longer registers. In addition to being sisters, they have a decade as bandmates behind them: first in high-school garage bands while growing up in the San Fernando Valley then the all-girl Mika Miko, a staple at legendary L.A. punk venue The Smell, where their live performances included Jessie screaming vocals through a telephone. Now they are Bleached, a duo whose two- and three-minute songs capture Southern California’s legacy of pop, punk, sunshine, and darkness with fuzzy harmonies and catchy-as-hell hooks. A year after the release of their first full-length, Ride Your Heart, Bleached are back in the studio working on their follow-up. Over a meal of guacamole, ceviche, and chipsat Costa Alegre on Sunset Boulevard, the sisters talk about being real-life Valley girls, playing for punks and public radio listeners alike, and growing up without growing old.
So which one of you is the older sister?
Jennifer: I am.
Jessie: Do you want to guess our ages?!
Jennifer: Well, I just turned 30, and Jessie’s 27. I was, like, freaking out before I turned 30 because we have so many young fans, but now that I’m 30, I think it’s the coolest thing ever.
Jessie: I can’t wait to be 30. All the bands that I looked up to from the ’70s, they didn’t start until they were in their 30s. Like, Debbie Harry was 32.
Jennifer: You pass the point of no return, where you’re like, ‘Oh, I do not give a fuck anymore.’
Jessie: That’s exactly why I can’t wait to be 30!
Jennifer: 30 is the new 20!
You guys grew up in and around L.A. What was it like being Valley girls?
Jennifer: When we lived in L.A., I did not know who I was—I was just a weird lost child hating school. Our mom had us on permit to go to school in Beverly Hills, so every year, we’d have to wait like a week to see if they had room for us, and then if they didn’t, they’d put us someplace. Everyone grew up in crazy mansions and a quarter of the kids were famous somehow, or their parents were famous. One of the girls dad directed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Another of the girls dad was Max Azria. Kelly Osbourne went there, and my only friend was the only other girl who was on permit. So when we moved to the Valley, that was when I met my best friends, got into punk, and got into music all together.
Jessie: You’re isolated. You have to force yourself to be super creative. We had nothing else to do but hang out in our rooms, listen to records, and play some music. There’s, like, weirdly no distractions in the Valley.
What was starting your first band like?
Jennifer: Every Friday and Saturday night, we would go to a show that was kind of far, like Corona or Pomona or Anaheim. I remember being at one of those shows and a girl band was playing, and that’s when it hit me: Wait, we can be in a band. Jessie already knew how to play bass, but the very next day, I got my dad’s guitar. All I knew how to do was a down stroke and a power chord. I don’t even know how Jessie put up with me playing guitar.
Jessie: All of a sudden, Jen picked up a guitar and acted like she knew what she was doing. She seemed like she’d been playing for years and I didn’t even question it. I was just like, ‘Cool man! I play bass and my sister knows how to play guitar!’
Jennifer: After that band, we changed it to be really punk and called it Dead Banana Ladies. There was this real estate company called DBL, and every time you would see a house for sale, it would be that company. One night, we were walking to the Troubadour, and saw this flag that said DBL. We took it off the lawn and thought, ‘Oh my God, this will be our band’s flag!’ Then we had to make a band that went with DBL. We played a bunch of punk shows, and then started Mika Miko when we got tired of that.
"We had nothing to do but hang out in our rooms, listen to records, and play some music."
How will the next Bleached record be different from the last?
Jennifer: The last record, we wrote 14 songs, recorded 14 songs, and then put out a 12-song album. So this record, we’re trying to demo 30 songs so that then we can select the ones that we think have the most potential to record and we kinda want to look for someone to produce it. In my mind, I think there’s a producer out there who knows what I’m trying to go for. Like, make it exciting for like a punk kid, or someone who listens to KCRW.
Jessie: We always stick to our roots. It’s not like we even try to be any type of band or sound, it’s just, like, we grew up listening to this, this is what we try to write off of, and this is what we have to give.