Talking With Jessica Clavin of Bleached

Jessica Clavin of Bleached, a punk rock band from California that offers a breath of fresh air in a music world as polluted as the Los Angeles skies they come from.

From L to R: Jessica Clavin, Jennifer Clavin,

Who said rock and roll was dead? Sleeping, maybe. On hiatus, sure. But whatever cork was plugging the powerful jams not heard since the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bob Seger or The Who has popped out. Nurturing their musical creativity from a young age in California’s San Fernando Valley, sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin started off playing in thrash-punk bands such as Mika Miko, hopping from one dive bar to the next, raising pulses and calming a rock angst that had been building in fans of the genre for years.

Since Mika Miko, the Clavins have formed Bleached, a back-to-basics band that twists classic California beach rock into the awesome punk structures that made bands like the Ramones so famous. A breath of fresh air in an era polluted by standardized, formulaic pop anthems, Bleached makes you happy you didn’t lose all faith in the genre after Doherty fell off the wagon and Seattle crumbled with the fall of Cobain. They strike me as what the Sonics would have been with more original material and a little less forgiveness.

So far, Bleached has only released a few seven-inch singles, but each supply two-and-a-half minutes to be coveted, and leave listeners anticipating their first full-length album, due out at the beginning of the new year. Jessica, the younger of the two Clavin’s, talked with me earlier this week about sneaking into California punk clubs with her sister at a young age, playing random house parties on the fly these days, and how her musically motivated parents helped push them to become the competent artists they are today.

Emmett: Have you always been a back-to-basics punk band, or has your musical style evolved from your younger selves?

Jessica: Me and Jen started playing with the same music we listened to growing up – punk-thrash. Our first band was punk-thrash, then Mika Miko, an all girl punk band that came before we started Bleached. We totally evolved at that point, where it was more like, “what else can we do with music and take it a little further?” Now, we do harmonizing and more thinking about songs and structures and melodies.

Emmett: What are some of your favorite bands? 

Jessica: Growing up the bands we listened to, and still do, are the Ramones, Misfits, Germs – classic punk bands. We love Metallica [laughs]. But then we also love the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac and I love country; Merle Haggard’s awesome.

Emmett: How is working together as sisters? Any sibling rivalries come up at all?

Jessica: It’s totally chill. We get that question a lot but when we were younger– like junior high young – that’s when we had our time to let out sibling rivalries. But now that we’re older, we’re best friends and it’s perfect. We just get each other so well; we don’t even have to say anything to understand what the other’s thinking. Jen will just make a face from across the room and I’ll be like, “exactly.”

Emmett: You guys were recently on tour, and have more dates coming up. How’s all the travelling been?

Jessica: We were on tour in October, super fun. I’ve actually never toured in the month of October and it was so beautiful ‘cause I’m from L.A. and all I see is sun and the same weather throughout the year. When we were on tour one day it was ninety degrees in Cali and then I got to see the seasons change as we went through the country. We went through a pumpkin patch in Columbus, Ohio and it was so cool. I didn’t drive the whole tour, not until the Rockies – I don’t trust anyone but myself through the Rockies [laughs]. It was really pretty when we drove through there on our way to Vegas.

Emmett: How was Sin City?

Jessica: It was cool. There was another band playing that night, our show wasn’t as populated as others but after the show we went out to Old Vegas and it was a lot of fun.

Emmett: What are your favorite shows you’ve played so far?

Jessica: Somewhere near Nebraska. We go to the show and there’s not that many people there, but there are these three girls and they said they just left this house party to come see us, and the party’s crazy and that’s why there’s no one here. So I asked “can we play the house party?” They called their friend and asked and they said hell yea, so after our show at this bar we drove to this house party and played in the basement and that was so much fun. Everyone was going wild.

Emmett: That’s awesome. Any other good stories from the trips so far?

Jessica: I feel like it was so fun because touring in October you get this Halloween feel everywhere you go and that’s one of our favorite holidays. We went to Salem, Massachusetts and it was so fun being there for Halloween. And then the pumpkin patch in Ohio; pumpkin flavored beer and cider wherever we went [laughs]. We were touring with the band but there was also so much more going on. Cool Halloween vibe…every time we saw a graveyard we stopped and took a picture.

Emmett: What got you and your sister into music?

Jessica: Our parents. Growing up we lived in a small house with just our mom and dad. The whole dining room was dad’s music area, and he listened to music and worked in recording studios. He got me my first guitar when I was seven. He bought me my first bass, and when Jen started playing she used our dad’s [guitar]. He didn’t force anything, he was like “Yea, you like music? Here you go, have fun.” I remember waking up in the morning and dad would be blasting Jimi Hendrix or Miles Davis.

Emmett: How do you go about writing songs? Do you think of a hook and add these great, simple and satisfying melodies?

Jessica: Usually we write songs as a whole. Jen is the main singer and she’ll already have a melody in her head and will write lyrics to it and then write the rhythm guitar to it, and she’ll write it like that. Then we’ll have a simple plan laid out: here’s the chorus and either we’ll structure it together or she’ll do it, and then I’ll add bass, then the drummer will go in and do something.

Or it’s just the two of us jamming together. I think a lot of the time for me when  I’m thinking of something to do, I think about songs or bands I really like. I’ll listen to learn what they’re doing and when I write a song, I’ll subconsciously start thinking about that and make it into my own.

Emmett: What did you listen to growing up? Did you both have the same tastes in music?

Jessica: Yea we totally got into punk together. Even before punk we both listened to nineties music in seventh grade, Smashing Pumpkins or Sound Garden. Then we got into punk together – Germs, Misfits, the Clash. We went to shows together and I started hanging out with Jen’s friends – it was mainly me tagging along with her and her friends, and it was cool. We’d go to the same shows. We had separate bands we liked, but it was always punk or metal.

Emmett: All your songs are great, but there’s no full length album. I know you guys are coming out with an album early next year – how’s the recording going?

Jessica: We’re doing demos right now, laying some tracks down, going to go on a tour. When we come back from that we’re going to start recording more for the new album.

Emmett: Will the musical aesthetic remain the same?

Jessica: Totally. It’s interesting how it happened, but some of the songs we put out on the seven-inch, like “Electric Chair” and “Searching Through the Past,” they were the newest ones we wrote, and the most rock and roll. We’re going to stay on this theme, and we have ones on the new album that are pretty similar.

Emmett: Many of your songs deal with boys. Will the upcoming album stick to this theme or will it stray a little further?

Jessica: Yea it’s going to have the same theme. I think those seven inches for us were really good songs that we wrote and really worked hard on, so for the album we want to work just as hard. Those are all songs we play live so it will be the same theme. We’ll record with the same guy, Rob, who did the last two seven inches, “Thinking” and “Searching.” He knows what we like so it will have a similar sound and theme.

Emmett: Are you planning any collaborations in the future?

Jessica: In the future it would be cool. We were asked to do some projects, but we feel like we don’t want to stop an album and record with someone else. We don’t have time right now because we’re still new and want to grow, and collaborating would take focus off of what we want to do for ourselves. We don’t have time now, but in the future it’s something we’re definitely interested in.

Emmett: Anyone you’d like to work with?

Jessica: I always think about my friends, L.A. bands, like Fiddler – they’re a newer band and we’ve been doing shows with them, it feels like they’re growing with us. We both did some T.V. appearances within the same 2 weeks and I feel like I can relate to them.

Emmett: Do you see yourselves playing music forever?

Jessica: Yea, I totally feel like I have it all planned out. I feel like now music is all about touring, and it’s like a job. But at a certain age me and Jen always joke about how we want to open a restaurant when we can’t tour anymore. I’ll always be doing music, though. It’d be cool to score movies or make a digital library.

Emmett: If you could change one thing about the way music is headed today, what would it be?

Jessica: It seems like a lot of music starts out on blogs, and I didn’t come into the world of music just to blog. Now, to get anywhere you have to be a blog band, then you go up from there. It works these days, I don’t know if I would change anything, but it would be cool to experience a different way than just starting on the Internet.

I don’t go on the Internet as much as many people. I’m on Facebook maybe twice a month. I collect old metal magazines from the U.K., and I love looking through those and thinking, wow, that’s how people used to discover music – cool magazines with Alice Cooper on the front. But I understand we change in society, even though I still think it’s cool to remember those times.

I get a kind of anxiety from the Internet [laughs]. This happened the other day. My roommate has a crazy twitter, so many followers it’s insane, not even for being in a band, just for being himself. He was posting the question to his account if anyone knew where he could volunteer, saying he’s a good person and all that. He had about twenty options within an hour! Wouldn’t it be so much faster to go on the Internet and make a phone call [laughs]?