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Interview: Bleached

By ; November 16, 2011 at 2:30 PM 

Sitting down with with Jessica and Jennifer Clavin, the pair that make up the Los Angeles rock band Bleached, it is important to remember that the girls are more than just bandmates; they are sisters (as their last names would indicate). They finish each-other’s thoughts, talk over one another, and often get sidetracked to speak amongst themselves. It’s endearing, and an indication of why the two have as much musical chemistry as they do.

The Clavins met with us at a Downtown L.A. pizza shop before a recent show supporting No Age in celebration of the 10th anniversary of PPM (Post Present Medium) Records, the label of No Age’s Dean Spunt. Over the course of our time together, we spoke about the pair’s recent cross-country tour that took them to CMJ, releasing seven inch records, the band’s famous friends (Cold Cave’s Wesley Eisold sat in for the entire interview), and about the differences between this project and their former band, Mika Miko.

One Thirty BPM: So, you guys just got back from a pretty extensive tour. Tell me about it. What types of venues were you playing? Were you basically just trying to find places to play on the way to CMJ and back? And how was the turnout and the reception?

Jennifer Clavin: It was really good.

Jessie Clavin: Yeah, it was really good.

Is it mostly people who were fans of Mika Miko?

Jessie: Yes. A lot of times people would come up and say “I used to listen to Mika Miko.”

Jennifer: Yeah, there would be a writeup ahead of our stop that would be like “sisters formally of Mika Miko,” which is cool, but I feel like a lot of times people come out expecting us to be a punk band like Mika Miko was. But, then again, I don’t really know what they are thinking when they leave. I’m kind of curious to know what they think, because I know we are not what a lot of them expect.

Jessie: Yeah, like the crazy show and crowd of Mika Miko, with crowd-surfing.

Well, I haven’t seen you guys yet, so how is the show different?

Jennifer: It kind of depends, sometimes it’s more laid back.

Jessie: It kind of depends on the audience. Like, the last Smell show was crazy!

Jennifer: Yeah, I was not expecting that. It was really crazy and fun, and I’m kind of hoping it will be like that tonight. [note: it was]

So then, you made it to CMJ. Had you played CMJ before with Mika Miko?

Jennifer: We had, but we only played two shows.

Because it’s so much of a media circus, do you feel like you are selling yourself while you are there?

Jessie: Yeah, it’s a little overwhelming because everyone is standing there and staring and taking notes… actually, I don’t know why I just thought of this, but one time when we were there as Mika Miko, Jenna started reading the notes out-loud over the mic.

Jennifer: I thought of that at CMJ when we were just there.

Jessie: They were, like, the funniest notes! They were describing her look and her curly hair. -laughter-

Does that effect you guys while you are there, knowing that so much of the crowd is media people and writing about you?

Jennifer: A little bit. It’s nerve-racking, but you have to get over it. It did make me a little nervous, though.

Jessie: Yeah, definitely the first couple shows, it was like “that’s right, this is how it is going to be.” But then, we had a few shows where it felt like more people were coming to check out the music more than to write about it.

Jennifer: Yeah, after a bit, I was like “I don’t really give a fuck anymore.”

Jessie: Totally.

And, after you leave, is there any perception of how it went? Do you pay attention to what people say?

Jennifer: No, not really. I don’t, like, search on the internet for stuff about the band. Neither does Jessie. But, every now and then, if something is tweeted with our name in it, then I’ll read it.

Because people are obviously trying to get your attention, and it’s probably good things that they are saying. People aren’t going to tweet at you a review that’s like “I hate you.”

Jennifer: Yeah. -laughter-

Was Bleached something that began immediately after Mika Miko or was there a break?

Jessie: Not even after, sort of during. I remember during the last Mika Miko tour we were trying to think of a name of a new band.

Jennifer: And, I was actually listening to all of our old demos this morning and I was listening to “No Friend Of Mine” when it was just a chorus, and I don’t even think we knew we were gonna call it Bleached then. We were just getting together and writing parts and not really knowing if we were going to take it seriously at that point. I know I was kind of sick of being in a band and I wanted to go to school.

Did you go to school?

Jennifer: Yeah, I went to PCC for a semester, and then I dropped out. I actually dropped out for Cold Cave, though. And I did that for a year.

Jessie: And I was just at home, waiting to play music. -laughter-

Did you guys make music together as kids, even?

Jennifer: We made more dance routines than music. -laughter-

Jessie: Oh my god, that is so right. To, like, Linda Ronstadt and The Spice Girls.

Jennifer: But we did start our first band in high school, which was a thrash band and we were covering, like, The Slits.

So what are you guys doing now with your break?

Jennifer: Well, we just got back, like, five days ago, so we’re just gonna chill and then try to go out again in December. But, while we have this time off, I think we’re going to try to write some new songs. I’m going to Joshua Tree tomorrow and I’m gonna bring a guitar.

Jessie: -to Jennifer- Ohhhh cooooool!

Jennifer: Yeah.

Jessie: That’s so cool. -laughter-

So how does the songwriting work for the band. Like, you -to Jennifer- said you are going out to the desert. Do you usually write the songs and and then bring them to Jessie?

Jennifer: Yeah, that’s how it has been so far, other than a few songs. Like, I’ll write the base of it and make the vocal melody and bring it to Jessie, who will them write the actual bass and the lead guitar. It’s kind of like I am the cake, like the the batter, and Jessie is the icing and the sprinkles. -laughter-

And as far as the people who play with you, it’s just a rotating assortment?

Jennifer: Yeah, people just keep coming and going! Finally, I think that Kevin our bassist now is sticking. He has been the most stable, and the best.

Jessie: It’s really hard finding a drummer.

You guys are playing The Smell tonight, which is obviously an important venue in the history of Mika Miko. Like, you’ve played there probably a million times, and that is where you had your farewell shows as Mika Miko. At the point you are at now, where you are touring as Bleached, you are starting to get some attention — I mean, obviously you are getting attention with Spin premiering your tracks and you guys were on TV recently — is it weird to be back at the Smell now, in a different state?

Jennifer: I feel like with Mika Miko, The Smell was part of Mika Miko. And, I don’t feel like that with Bleached.

Jessie: Yeah, I feel like we grew up in The Smell, but now, with Bleached, we are sort of outside of it, growing up on our own.

Jennifer: With these shows, it kind of feels like I’m going back to a high school reunion.

Jessie: Totally, when I just was in there, it was this combination of old faces and these new, younger kids.

And this show is for Post Present Medium, the label of No Age’s Dean Spunt, that was involved with Mika Miko, which is probably something you jumped to do…

Jennifer: Yeah, it just feels like family. And, there is even talk about us putting something out on PPM, and we might do it, so it could be a part of Bleached, as well. But yeah, I just feel like PPM is like family.

Speaking of family, within this L.A. music scene, with No Age and Best Coast, you have a lot of people in your corner who are pretty big names. Do you think that helps you with what you are trying to do, or would you rather be trying to make a name on your own without having these names attached to you?

Jessie: It would be nice to think we are making a name on our own, but I’m sure it does something when Bethany (Cosentino of Best Coast), who is a really good friend of ours, tweets something at us as friends.

Jennifer: But, I feel like in the end, we’ve all helped each other out. I feel like Mika Miko was a big part of why young kids started coming to The Smell and then No Age kind of took over and made The Smell even a bigger thing, and then Best Coast came along… so it kind of went in this order, and now we’re jumping back on it.

I know what you are saying, though. I don’t want to be popular because No Age and Best Coast tell you to like us.

I can see it both ways. Any help is nice, especially in this industry.

Both: Exactly.

So, you guys did a series of interviews along your tour in all these small towns with their daily or weekly newspapers. And, I read in one that you had this idea, because you have only released seven inches so far and how you had this idea of releasing a compilation of seven inches as your first full length?

Jennifer: I don’t know if that will come out before the first full length, but I just like the idea of having a collection of seven inches on one full length. But, that collection might come out after the first album.

Ah, so you’re not really sure yet.

Jessie: Yeah, we have ideas…

Jennifer: Yeah, so we have three seven inches out, well, the one in December for Searching Through The Past is the third one, but we’re trying to decide whether we want to do a fourth seven inch or do go and record an LP.

But that makes sense to focus on the seven inches for now. If you think of someone like Best Coast, that was really how they built a name for themselves was through this series of releases and by the time they were ready to record the LP there was already all of this attention.

Jennifer: Yeah. Plus, I think that seven inch collections are just so cool. Even if it wasn’t an LP, it would just be cool to have the four seven inches in a box set. Like OFF!, I was at their show and they had the box set. They are another one who have had success starting off with the seven inch.

Yeah, both those models, with Best Coast and OFF! they…

Jennifer: Actually, No Age, too, was one of the first bands that I saw getting really crazy with that because they put out five and the back side of them all had a letter so when you had them all, it spelled No Age. I thought that was really cool.

Well, it’s such a digital age, but these kind of collections make the physical important again, and ’cause people to want to go out there and buy something. I mean, I’m a nerd like that. I like to actually own a record.

Jennifer: Yeah, it’s the feel and the look of it, like having something visual to go with the song. I think that is why I like music videos so much, too.

So, my closing question is usually what your idea of success is for Bleached. Like, with any project, you have to have a goal or something you want to accomplish…

Jessie: I think right now it would be nice to go on a tour and come back with a good portion of rent or some money to live off of. Like, I’m not working right now, I don’t have a job. And, I guess the other goal is just to be able to tour a lot.

Jennifer: I want to do the festival run. I got to do that a bit when I was in Cold Cave and it was so fun. I can’t wait until we can do that.

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