Girl Power
by Jennifer Farmer

Editor’s note: As we’ve done in the past, for the month of January, our features will be focusing on up-and-coming artists, what we call “rated rookies.” These musicians are making what we feel is the cream of a new crop, and we think you will (sooner or later) agree. Enjoy!

Bleached may be a relatively young band, but this sister duo of Jennifer and Jessica Clavin aren’t new to the business of making music. You might, in fact, know them from the now-defunct punk ruckus that was Mika Miko. Or perhaps you recognize Jennifer from her stint playing with New York–based synth-pop outfit Cold Cave. Lucky for us, these unabashedly self-assured and effortlessly cool women don’t shy away from the stage—or anything really. In the past year, they’ve released three 7-inches: the Carter (Art Fag) and Francis (Ooga Booga) EPs and the “Searching Through the Past” single (Suicide Squeeze). Each reveal a poppy kind of punk that’s been first candy-coated before being dipped in fuzz. With each release also exhibiting further refined songwriting, the band seems ready to take on a full-length debut, whenever that comes down the pike.

I had the chance to speak via phone with Jessie from Los Angeles while the band prepped for its January departure on a three-month tour across the States.

How did Bleached come into existence and what was it like transitioning from Mika Miko?

Jessica Clavin: When we were in Mika Miko, Jen and I started doing our own thing because I think we both knew that Mika Miko was going to come to an end eventually. We just had this feeling that it wasn’t going to go forever, so we started playing around on the side. So that’s how Bleached was formed, and we never thought it would be this serious.

So how’s the line-up been working out? I know you guys had some issues finding a steady drummer for the upcoming tour.

JC: Yeah, finding a drummer was really hard—we went through two or three—and bassists too! I mean, we’d go into the studio and record everything, except maybe drums. I would play bass and guitar, but it was so hard to find someone that could actually come on tour with us. It’s totally their band too, but it’s not like they were involved with writing the music. We think we finally found our bassist and drummer, though.

Knock on wood, right? How do you guys generally gear up for a tour?

JC: Well, we definitely like to hang out a lot before we leave. We’ve been doing a lot of demos, and Jen and I meet up a lot and go through songs and practice. We also have jobs on the side, so there’s that too. We’re visiting our parents in the desert soon—they moved there a year ago. We’re all from LA originally, but last year they sold their house and moved to the desert.

Which one of you had the idea to start a band?

JC: I think we both were in it together. When we were younger—I think I was 14 or something and Jen was 16—we decided to start messing around and covering The Slits. We just set up in the garage of the house we lived in and started jamming. I think we both just kind of knew what we wanted to do and what instruments we wanted to play. Then we had two of our best friends come in and we had this really weird kind of audition for a singer. So yeah, that’s basically how it started.

So you eventually started writing your own music then, and it turned into Mika Miko?

JC: Not right away. We actually had this thrash band with the first drummer for Mika Miko, my ex-boyfriend. We’d all just hang out at our house and he would start drumming. I would put a baseline to it and Jen would come downstairs and put vocals to it or maybe pick up the guitar or whatever. Then we added two more members and changed it up a bit and it became Mika Miko.

You were bona fide punks then, teaching yourselves to play the instruments along the way?

JC: Oh yeah, I mean, we had no idea how to play our instruments when we first started. I maybe knew a tiny bit because I’d had my bass for a little while and would pretend to know how to play it. I started out covering Jimi Hendrix—on a bass! So we really didn’t know what we were doing. We were just like, “Fuck it, let’s learn to play some Slits songs!”

Speaking of your younger years, I was reading an interview you guys did where you said that you and your sister used to pass the time making up dances to the Spice Girls. How did you make the leap from “Girl Power” to riot grrrl?

JC: Yeah, we were totally into the Spice Girls. I definitely remember a point where I was obsessed with Baby Spice. We actually went to the opening of their movie (Spice World) in LA, and I remember standing by the fences, and I touched her hand. I was freaking out. That was a while ago, and then our neighbor, who was—and still is—one of our really good friends, gave me this book called From the Velvets to the Voidoids. And along with that book he gave me a tape of The Velvet Underground. I remember reading that book and this other book called Please Kill Me and listening to that tape and things just clicked. I heard that tape and was like “whoa.” It’s like I knew what music was supposed to sound like. From there, I just sort of explored everything. It was weird. I kind of went from Lou Reed into Black Flag, the Germs and X, and I stayed in that sort of West Coast punk space for a while. Then later on, I finally started getting into other East Coast, New York bands aside from The Velvet Underground.

What did your parents think? I mean, were they into music as well?

JC: Oh yeah, that’s another reason we started playing music: our dad is a musician and our mom is a singer. Growing up we always had music around us. My dad would try to teach me chords on the guitar when I was like seven and my hands were so small. I remember trying to place my fingers on these huge frets, and he was just like, “Okay, it’s easy. Just strum.” I was like, “Are you serious?” It was impossible.

Were you surprised at the media attention for “Searching Through the Past?”

JC: It is surprising, but we worked so hard on it and it came out exactly the way we wanted. It’s all just so awesome. I was actually driving to work the other day and was listening to some station on XM or Sirius or whatever, and all of a sudden this guy was talking about this sister duo from LA, and I was like, “Oh shit, that’s cool. Who is this other two-sister band in LA?” Then they said our name and played “Searching Through the Past.” I got so excited. It was just one of those “holy shit!” moments, and I was sitting in the car by myself, late for work, texting Jen to tell her they were playing our song on the radio. It was such an awesome experience.

That’s really cool. The record really does sound great, though. Pitchfork even named “Electric Chair” one of its Best New Tracks, right?

JC: Oh shit, really? That’s nice to hear. Those are the types of things that other people have to tell me about. I haven’t really had a computer, so I don’t really go on the internet or Facebook too much. I have to get reminded about what’s happening on the internet by other people.

So what are your plans going forward, aside from the tour? Are you working on a full-length at the moment?

JC: We’re doing demos right now, and we’re really excited for it, because I think the songs are really coming together and sounding really rad. We’re trying to finish those up before we go on tour so that when we come back, we can start on the full-length. We’re going to do it with the same guy who did the last two 7-inches.

Will Suicide Squeeze put that out as well?

JC: We don’t actually know who’s going to put it out at the moment, so I guess it will be a surprise.