Let’s cut to the chase: Charly Bliss is a terrific band from Brooklyn that pairs crunchy pop-rock with the sugary vocal melodies of frontwoman Eva Hendricks. The results are sweet and serrated and effervescent and muscular and totally addictive.
Aging music journalists like to compare Charly Bliss to the bands of their youth, like Weezer and Letters to Cleo and Veruca Salt. The band calls its blend “bubble-grunge,” and that’s pretty much perfect.
To be clear: Charly Bliss is not the hottest, newest Brooklyn band. The members have been together for several years (and friends for longer), played a bunch of shows in and around New York City, toured a bunch of times and put out an EP and a couple other stray tracks here and there. Their new album Guppy is not just highly anticipated; it is also nearly perfect.
Besides Eva Hendricks (guitar, vocals), Charly Bliss includes guitarist Spencer Fox, bassist Dan Shure and drummer Sam Hendricks, Eva’s brother.
We caught up with Eva ahead of the group's Tuesday, May 2, Denver concert.
Westword: Some folks know Charly Bliss has been at it for years, but for a lot of people across the country, you guys seem like the hot new Brooklyn band of the moment. Does that bug you?
Eva Hendricks: I’ve been ready to scream for a year waiting for this record to come out; my mom and my boyfriend can attest to that. Now that it’s actually happening, no matter how people perceive it, I’m just happy that we’ve put in that time, because I feel like we’ve had time to hone our live show and we’ve had time to practice and to work on being the best we can be when you come out to see us. I’m happy that we were able to be really critical about what was worth being on the record and what wasn’t. There’s really not one song on the record that I’m embarrassed of or ashamed of.
As painful as it has been to be in a band for five or six years and not have a record out, you do learn a lot. I don’t think any of us in the band could ever get a big head. It’s such a weird business and such a weird career choice. I think we all just have the feeling that this is so fun right now and we love each other and we love playing together and it feels exciting and we still challenge each other and we still bring out the best in each other, especially musically. So I think considering all of that, I’m happy we’ve taken this time.
You guys famously recorded and then scrapped an album before making Guppy. Can you tell me about that scrapped album? What was wrong with it?
As weird as it sounds, we didn’t know how to describe our band to anybody. I think we thought we were strictly a garage-rock band, but we didn’t ever totally fit into the scene in Brooklyn, and I think we desperately wanted to. We have certain elements of garage rock — the fuzzed-out guitars, the distortion — but we are certainly writing pop songs with catchy pop melodies, and I think we ignored that part of our personality for a long time.
So when we were sitting with those first recordings for six months, we realized, “Hey, we’re a pop band and we’re writing pop songs. The four of us can agree that that’s what’s most exciting to us about our music.” So if that’s true, the recordings need to sound fun. They need to have that pop production: distorted but also kind of polished, and you can hear the vocals really well. Once we realized that, we rewrote half the record. Our songwriting took a turn. It was easier to define what we we wanted and what the songs needed as opposed to “These are the ten songs we have right now, and now it’s time to record them.”
People who fall down the rabbit hole of non-Top 40 music generally have someone or something that opens that door for them. What was your path to indie-pop rock?
I have very specific musical memories. My older brother was a huge influence on my taste. We’ve been super-close forever. He got me listening to Weezer. He’s always played drums, and he would lock himself in our basement and cover Weezer songs with his friends. I remember thinking, that is the coolest thing. And then Rilo Kiley was the first band that felt like my band, my first foray into musical autonomy. I became obsessed, and from there I found out about Bright Eyes and the Moldy Peaches and eventually the Pixies. Once I found Rilo Kiley, that’s where the Internet came in. “You bought this? Well, people who bought that also bought this!”
But also, my closest friends were not at all interested in indie-rock music. They were way more into Top 40 and in a way, I think that has so much effect on Charly Bliss and my writing style. I don’t think I was ever able to really go full into the indie world because if I played that stuff for my friends in the car, they’d be like, “What the hell is this? This is awful.” That kept my taste in the middle ground. It needs to have a melody, no matter what it is. That’s what I love, and that’s what I listen for.
As far as your own melodies, they are consistently, relentlessly catchy. Is that something that comes naturally to you? Or do you have to work on getting them just right?
I think pop music lends itself to that feeling of, “Every time I write a song, can I out-write myself with this chorus?” My greatest marker for a song and whether it’s going in the right direction is: Is the melody stuck in my head as soon as I walk away from this? Whether I’m quickly throwing down a voice memo or I’ve been sitting with my guitar, if it’s not really sticking in my head and I can’t recall it a couple hours later, it’s not even worth messing with again. If I think too much about my melodies. I kill ’em. The more I think about it, the less catchy they are.
Do you remember making up melodies and/or songs as a kid? Like in the back seat of the car or in your room or whatever?
I did do that! But I was definitely very private about it. I have another brother, Andrew, who always played guitar, and Sam is one of those people who is ridiculously naturally gifted at anything he tries, especially musically. So I think growing up in that environment, I loved to sing, but I don’t think I felt like I had the musical gift in the family. I think I just assumed that anything I was writing was silly or stupid and not worth sharing with anyone.
So what changed?
I’ve known Dan since I was 11 or 12, and he had met Spencer at this sleepaway camp. And one day, Dan and I were going to see a show at Webster Hall, and we met Spencer there. And I think this is very bizarre for a teen friendship, especially between a girl and a boy, but we immediately became extremely platonically close in a way that was never weird. We started video-chatting every day after school and became close very quickly. And one day Spencer said to me, “Do you play guitar? I’m willing to bet that you are secretly writing songs and not showing anyone, and I want to write them with you.”
I thought that was a remarkable thought for a fifteen-year-old to have. I’d had, like, dudes before say, "You can sing on my track." But I’d never heard anyone say “I bet you’re good at this. How can I make it happen?” It’s hard to imagine my life now without doing this, but I don’t know that I would’ve gravitated to it without Spencer’s influence. So he changed my life in a big way.
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You guys seem like a legitimately tight-knit group that is genuinely stoked on being in a band together and experiencing some success together.
I totally thrive on tight-knit groups. I grew up doing musical theater, and I loved that. I don’t really miss it, but the one thing I really loved about it was working with the same group of people for months and months, and the feeling like we did it together. That’s so satisfying. And that’s been a tough thing over the past three years for Charly Bliss. It didn’t take us three years to write a record or get our shit together to record it, and we went through a lot of ups and downs to get to where we’re at today. And since all of us in the band have been friends since we were really young, I think that makes it all feel even more sentimental.
You know, we made this record twice. We scrapped it once. We’ve been touring some of these songs for years. So I think that’s what’s been so tough. To be sitting on this music and to never really get that moment where you know you’re doing the right thing...we’re doing it for a reason...look how far we’ve come. But now we’re here, and we’re getting that moment, and it feels amazing, like we’re cresting a mountain or something. And all those things that felt like huge frustrations at the time, now I’m like, “Oh, that was absolutely right. That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
Charly Bliss, with See Through Dresses and Blue Lane Frontier, 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $10-$12, 303-733-0230.