Hard-touring SoCal rockers Bleached confront the banal 'women in Rock' pigeonhole

Frustrated by the types of questions she was receiving in interviews, vocalist and guitarist Jennifer Clavin put together a magazine focusing on gender issues in Rock & Roll.

click to enlarge Frustrating interviews led to Bleached’s Can You Deal? EP and ’zine full of essays. - Photo: Nicole Anne Robbins
Photo: Nicole Anne Robbins
Frustrating interviews led to Bleached’s Can You Deal? EP and ’zine full of essays.
Led by sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, Bleached is a Rock & Roll band from Southern California with a soft spot for fuzzed-out Punk and Power Pop. The quartet — which currently includes Jennifer on vocals and guitar, Jessica on lead guitar, Micayla Grace on bass and Nick Pillot on drums — dropped its second full-length, Welcome the Worms, last year. An extensive U.S. and European tour followed, which was accompanied by a round of press interviews to promote the record. Frustrated by the types of questions she was getting — like “How does it feel to be a girl in a band?” — Jennifer decided to write a new song to address the gender issue. “Can You Deal?” appears on Bleached’s recently released four-song EP of the same name.

It also inspired her to put together a ’zine called Can You Deal?, which opens with her own essay in which she writes, “Why is gender pointed out in nearly all coverage of our band? Labeling me as a woman in a band just puts me in a box, and doesn’t allow everything else I am to be seen and heard.” She recruited a host of fellow musicians to contribute essays on the topic, from Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Paramore’s Hayley Williams to Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s and Liz Phair.

CityBeat recently touched base with Jennifer to discuss everything from the band’s current gig opening for The Damned’s 40th anniversary tour to the importance of speaking out.

CityBeatYou guys have been on the road for most of the last year…

Jennifer Clavin: I’ve been thinking about that too lately. An exact year ago we just started our U.S. tour for Welcome the Worms, and since then we have been touring nonstop. It gets a little bit tiring. It’s nice that we have a van. We all have our spots in the van. And we get hotel rooms every night, so it’s cool. It becomes part of life and we get used to it. But then when you go home for a second, you remember how much you love your home and then all of the sudden you have to leave. It has its ups and downs. 

For this tour we’re opening for The Damned, and it’s really different. When you’re headlining, everyone is there to see you play and the majority of the room is singing along with you. But when you’re opening for The Damned, everyone is there to see The Damned, except for the three superfans we have in the crowd every night. And I’ll find them because they will be like singing every lyric and have their arms in the air. 

CB: What is it like writing songs with a sibling? Is she more honest with you than someone who might not be as close personally about what is working and what isn’t working?

JC: Jessica never judges anything I write or sing. We get along really well and we understand each other. I just feel so comfortable around my sister. There are some people who say, “I don’t know how you could be in a band with your sister,” but I think we are just really compatible. We’re only two years apart. We can almost read each other’s minds sometimes. A band is like a family, so there is going to be drama, but we don’t fight ever. We used to when we were kids but not now.

CB: The EP has a lot of seemingly personal, first-person lyrics on it, but it’s done with a lot of pronouns, which allows listeners to place themselves in the songs. One exception is near the end of “Dear Trouble” when you sing, “Poor Jennifer, I’ll be crazy all of my life.” Why were you interested in injecting that very specific reference in there as opposed to the way you approached the rest of the lyrics?

JC: Yeah, that was a little bit of an experiment. We were like, “Is it cool if we do this?” because obviously I’m singing about myself in the song. It was actually from an old demo from before Welcome the Worms that we were able to rework for Can You Deal?

I was in a specific state of mind when I wrote that song. I live in Los Angeles but I was housesitting in New York for a week and drinking every night and going out every night and partying. I felt like I was away from home and I could do whatever I wanted because I was in this apartment in the city for a week, and that’s when I wrote that song. When it came to that part, I could have said, “Poor me, I’ll be crazy all my life.” But we thought, why not make a little bit of a joke out if it and have me sing to myself?

At the same time we were referencing something like the Rancid song when Tim Armstrong says, “My name is Tim and I’m a lesser-known character.” I thought that was so cool when I was growing up. When I heard that I was like, “Whoa, why don’t more people say their names in their songs?” It’s kind of a bold move to make, but why not just go for it?

CB: The EP also inspired a ’zine that you put together about gender issues in Rock & Roll. Injecting politics and other cultural critiques into music can be a tricky thing; you don’t want to come off as preachy or didactic. Why were you interested in delving into that realm so directly? 

JC: I think we all, as Americans, have to speak up about the state of the world and what we believe. It seemed like in the ’80s and ’90s people were always speaking out, and that was so cool. I remember as a kid that TLC were wearing condoms on their outfits when they were on MTV, which was a bold statement. I feel like we just got too comfortable and thought, “Oh, it’s 2017, things are going well.” And then Trump was elected. It was like a slap in the face. Everyone needs to keep speaking their minds. For me, there was no question that I wanted address what’s going on in some way, and the ’zine was just one way to do that. And Bleached is a Punk band — we should be speaking out.

BLEACHED opens for The Damned Thursday at Bogart’s. Tickets/more info: bogarts.com

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