Charly Bliss' Eva Hendricks on how the band used synths and the strength of pop music to make Young Enough
There’s one line on Charly Bliss’ sophomore album, Young Enough, where frontwoman Eva Hendricks snarls, “I’m f—ing joy and I hemorrhage light.” It comes in the second verse of the side-B opener, “Bleach,” a palpitating rock stomper that’s sandwiched between the band’s first ever ballad and a song that’s more akin to Carly Rae Jepsen than the Breeders. The track is a retrospective reckoning with an abusive relationship, and that lyric is the righteously furious apex when Hendricks reclaims her sense of self-worth.
Stripped of its context, though, it’s just a really effective way of describing Charly Bliss. Blindingly bright, gleeful-sounding power-pop with teeth like piranhas.
Hendricks is an understatedly clever lyricist, especially considering the mode of songwriting Charly Bliss are employing on Young Enough; glistening pop songs and beaming rock songs that are also made in the image of pop grandeur. Hendricks is a self-proclaimed lyrical perfectionist who painstakingly considers every word she writes, and obsesses over the visual elements that accompany her music. Her brother (drummer and co-writer Sam Hendricks) is the same way except in relation to the arrangements and tracklisting.
Together, along with their bandmates Spencer Fox (guitar) and Dan Shure (bass), they expanded the respective boundaries of melodic rock and synth-pop on Young Enough. Entertainment Weekly caught up with Eva Hendricks to talk about the writing process, making music that sounds “cinematic,” and whether or not she’s nervous to release a record as different as their beloved 2017 debut Guppy.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Guppy was initially recorded and then re-recorded to meet a specific vision. Did you know exactly what you all wanted to do with Young Enough going into it?
EVA HENDRICKS: I think we had a much clearer vision for Young Enough from the very beginning. I think so much of the reason we recorded Guppy twice was even broader than what that album would sound like. I think the issue was also who we were as a band. The first time we recorded it felt very vague to us. And I think by the time we were writing Young Enough and thinking about recording — who we were gonna work with in terms of a producer, and what we wanted this album to be — we were way more sure of ourselves.
At its core, Young Enough is still a guitar record, but it definitely blurs the lines between traditional rock and synth-pop. When did you know you wanted to put synths and drum machines and vocal effects and all these pop sensibilities into your sound?
As a band we just really listen to a lot of pop music. It just felt like a natural progression. I also think that Guppy itself was a very pop-forward record. I think the melodies are super catchy and really memorable and it felt like a natural progression for us to explore that further on this album.
And the synth sounds, I think we were just really excited to break out of our comfort zone. I think none of us had ever gone really far in that world, and a benefit of that when you’re sort of new to something is that you’re really open to experimentation. And for myself, as a writer, I find that when I’m writing with guitar I tend to fall into the same melodic patterns. Whereas when I started writing with synths and having a base that was piano, it felt like I was coming up with ideas that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.
Are you in any ways nervous about putting out a record that’s a lot different than Guppy?
No, I don’t feel nervous about that. I think something that I feel nervous about was just, when Guppy came out some of the songs had been written four years [ago]…. Whereas the songs on Young Enough still feel very fresh and I still feel very connected to all of them.
Once it comes out people can hear it and pass judgement on it and whatever. Part of being a musician is learning how to not internalize any of that. But it kind of does change, your relationship to the songs does change. And I think I was a little bit, at first, like, “Oh man, they’re getting pushed out into the world. There they go.” I’m nervous about that.
This record was largely about an abusive relationship you were in. That’s obviously a painful subject to write about, so why do you think your outlet for those sentiments manifests into these grand pop songs?
I think there was some difficulty for me, in terms of when “Chatroom” was finally coming out and trying to figure out how much I wanted to say about it and how much I wanted to reveal about my intentions lyrically behind the album. But I think that ultimately I try to trust my impulses and I wrote it with no motives and I kind of just have to stand with it at that point.
And I think in terms of pop music being the right form for it, pop just makes me feel really strong. It makes me feel very brave and larger than life and invincible, and I think I kind of needed to feel like that in order to write these songs and get out some of these feelings and process them.
Between the album art, the “Capacity” music video, and the arrangements of the tracklist, everything seems super intentional. Are you trying to tie all of the visual art into the story of the album? Is it all part of one big artistic piece in your mind?
Yes, and I think what I was thinking of specifically when we were designing the album artwork and thinking about the music videos, I wanted it all to feel really cinematic. Obviously, I know what I’m writing about and my bandmates know what we’re writing about, but for the audience it’s kind of like walking in in the middle of this dramatic moment and not knowing much about what came before and what comes after.
On the first track, “Blown To Bits,” it feels like you’re singing about uncertainty of apocalyptic proportions. What are you mourning being “blown to bits”?
I had the idea for that song the day that everyone in Hawaii got the notification that there was missile headed toward them, and it turned out to be a false alarm. But we were on tour and I had a friend who was in Hawaii and I just remember seeing her posts and what she had experienced and hearing from her about it. Just horrifying. I think we were driving through some small town in the Midwest. And I was just looking out and thinking about how sad it would be for the world to end and to lose all of the really small, really beautiful things that I like in the world.
And I think ultimately, though it’s a really sad song, I think it’s [also] a really hopeful song. Because once again, as we’re in this moment that feels really depressing and really difficult and kind of a black hole that we can’t see out of right now. I think it’s also really important to remember that people are still people and to look at the world with some kind of wonder and hope for the future and that it could get better.