LA’s own femme fatales Bleached took SXSW by storm this year. Sisters Jennifer Clavin and Jessica Clavin welcomed Micayla Grace to the group a couple years ago after a rather painful audition process. It turned out to be a match made in punk rock heaven. The three dames supported by drummer Nick Pillot are finally making the music they have always dreamed of creating. Now that they have gained a larger following than ever, they capitalized on the opportunity to use the SXSW festival as a jumping off point for their current US tour and a practice round for the release of their latest album Welcome the Worms. We were lucky enough to be able to catch up with them at the start of the festival to discuss how Grace bolstered the writing process this time around and how the past plays into their present. Anything from how PMS-ing messed things up to hospital visits and their marriage to music were up for grabs. We even got to introduce the Clavin sisters to Miike Snow’s new music. Read the full story below.
mxdwn: I actually saw you ladies play about three or four years ago here. How many SX’s have you guys been to?
Jen: Well, I think I stopped counting because we would go with our old band. With Bleached, maybe this is like our third?
Micayla: Definitely the second with me being in the band because they had Bleached before I was in it. So I think you guys went at least one time before.
Jessica: Yeah, this is our third or fourth. We’re not really sure.
mxdwn: So you are definitely seasoned veterans, but being from LA, it’s a bit of a culture shock coming to Austin for the first time. What was that like for you?
Jen: The first time, we were still maybe teenagers. We were in our old punk band which was all girls. I remember just being like, “What is going on?!” Everyone is drinking all day. This is so rad. It was so hot, and we were all in really short shorts.
Jessica: …And the van that we were touring in at the time didn’t really have A/C, so we were just burning.
Jen: We weren’t drinking enough water, so one of the girls ended up having to go to the hospital, actually, here in Austin. That was really intense.
mxdwn: Sounds like you’ve had your fair share of adventures here. What’s your favorite part about it?
Jen: My favorite part really is playing the shows and meeting new people. That’s the really fun part. I love playing so many shows in a row. On Thursday, we have three shows and I’m most excited for that day. I think it’s fun because it’s like boot camp of shows and we’re about to go on a US tour. So, we’re getting our shows tight and getting really comfortable. These are all the new songs, so…
Micayla: …You need it. You need boot camp. Also with these shows, because there are so many for us, we don’t know exactly what each show is kind of until we get there. Then sometimes bands are listed as special guests, so you don’t know what’s in store each time you show up and you’re like, “Oh my god! We’re playing with that band? I love that band!”
mxdwn: Who would you want to try to catch this year if you have the time?
Jen: There’s this band called The Power Trip Show, and I really want to see them play. They’re so good.
Micayla: I have some friends here that I want to see. My friends James Supercave are here and they’re super good. They were in-between bass players and I filled in. It was really fun.
mxdwn: It’s like a reunion. One of the best parts about SXSW is that you will just be walking down the street and run into people you haven’t seen in forever.
Jen: That’s one of my favorites! We’re playing a show with our really really old friends No Age who we would tour with, so I’m really excited about that.
mxdwn: You’ve definitely come a long way, especially with band and lineup changes over the years. How has that affected the bond of the band, especially between the sisters?
Jen: I feel like the reason Jessie and I started as just Bleached between us two is because we had that bond and we had dealt with so much drama with past members that we were like let’s just keep it us two and then play with other people. Micayla ended up having that bond with us, so it just worked out that way.
mxdwn: How’d you meet?
Jen: We were looking for a bassist and he had found a few people. We were trying stuff out and it was so cheesy because we’ve never done that either. Usually you know someone through a friend and try to play together. So, it was kind of funny because some of the girls were trying out were really out there. Micayla came, and it was just really obvious that we were all going to get along.
Micayla: It was just a cold audition. I had never met them before. I got a message from a friend that they had put the feelers out to. The music community in Echo Park is actually quite small. So, you can just put the word out to a few people and find out where all the female bassists are. I remember I was really excited and nervous to just show up and play the band’s songs. I remember I shook Jessie’s hand twice.
Jessie: I must’ve been just as nervous as you because when the second time came around, I was like, “Oh yeah,” after.
Micayla: Just playing music will make the awkwardness go away, though, because that’s where everybody feels the most natural.
mxdwn: I bet that felt like an SNL audition.
Micayla: Yeah, I remember the first go-around, it was like, “Ok, play it!” And luckily they wanted me to play it again.
mxdwn: Was there ever a moment where you felt like you all just broke the ice?
Micayla: It went well, and then I think we had dinner that night so we could just talk. I kept thinking that I hope I get it and sent a text to say how that was really great. Then, it took a couple weeks.
Jen: I think because we were on tour.
Jessie: I feel like you also don’t really fully get to know someone until you go on tour with them. So that was definitely when we really felt like we liked Micayla because, ok, she’s chill and cool.
mxdwn: So now with the ups and the downs, do you guys fight? What do you guys think you fight about the most?
Jen: We don’t really fight at all anymore. When we did fight, I remember our biggest fight was a night that I was wasted out of my mind and being crazy. I don’t really drink anymore, but I think that’s when I’d start my fights, or if I’m PMS-ing.
Jessie: I was probably crazy wasted, too. Just being crazy wasted was when we’d fight, but I don’t drink anymore either.
Jen: …And we haven’t fought! Jessie and I really just want the best for each other. There’s really no competition.
mxdwn: Let’s talk about the album. I know you guys went through a lot of intense personal experiences that brought you to the now. What inspired the writing?
Jen: For me, personally, I was in a really emotionally abusive relationship and I was really depressed. We’ve been doing a lot of interviews and I flashbacked on how depressed I was the other day. Something came across me and that definitely inspired so much of what I was going through. I think me being in an emotionally abusive relationship was feeding my depression. So we would all three go out to the desert and find these moments of clarity. We realized that life is bigger than just what’s happening in LA, and we’d all write together.
mxdwn: How’d it feel to be a part of the writing process this time around Micayla?
Micayla: Awesome! Super fun because I was just open to it and not having expectations one way or the other. I was stoked. I love the process of writing. So, even if it was just that and none of the songs I worked on got on the record, I still would’ve been stoked for the opportunity. Some got on. It was a nice combination. I’m really stoked on the ones that we did collaborate on and how they turned out. For me it was really really exciting.
Jessie: It was different doing that. It was a new way to write and really cool. I feel like it also made me focus more on one section or area of that so or whatever.
Jen: Because we were writing so many demos, and I think 30 ended up becoming the final list, and we were then doing it that way where we would write by ourselves, write together, or all three write together. There wasn’t any pressure. Whatever happens happens. Because there was no pressure, we wrote these really cool songs that I don’t think we ever would’ve written if we hadn’t been just jamming in the desert without worrying too much about what we’re making.
Micayla: There was a lot of output. I feel like it was really nice to present them with an idea and have them be like, “Cool, let’s work on it.” It just felt like a really natural movement of songs. I really liked doing it that way.
mxdwn: How are you progressing the sound?
Jen: I feel like this record is the sound that I’ve always wanted Bleached to have but I didn’t know how to get it. Basically, Joe [Chiccarelli] the producer was like, “You can’t lose the melodies in these songs. No matter how scary you make the sound, the melodies won’t be lost.”
Jessie: Yeah, he first said to us, “I want someone to put on this record and get scared.” We were immediately like, “Ok, we want to use you.”
mxdwn: What was it like working with Joe Chiccarelli?
Jen: It’s funny because we had heard these horror stories that he’s really mean and gets mad. We were all waiting for it to come out, and he’s the nicest guy ever. We feel like he’s the lost uncle. Then the other producer Carlos is like family too.
mxdwn: Any surprising things we should look out for on the album?
Jen: Yeah! We did this one song “…Mystic Mama.” It’s kind of a surprise.
Micayla: It’s a desert jam. It’s definitely different than anything Bleached has ever done – a psychedelic, 90s kind of…
Jen: …Rolling Stones inspired, too… 60s meets 90s meets the desert.
mxdwn: What else are you trying to accomplish this year besides touring?
Jen: There’s so much I want to accomplish. I just want Bleached to go really well, and I also just don’t give a fuck half the time, too. I like that we’re getting involved with fashion because I went to school for fashion. I would be into designing a line somehow for a company or something. I want us to keep getting better at our instruments and putting on a really awesome show. I want to get to a point where we can have a bigger production, if possible.
Jessie: Yeah, I want to be selling out big venues.
Micayla: There are new challenges after playing music for so long and being in a band for a long time. With the second record, there’s already a fan base. So then, what’s the next phase? It’s kind of like being in a long-term relationship where you’re like okay we’ve been in love and now we’re going to make something extra.
Jen: It’s almost like I don’t want to put any expectations on it kind of like how you have a relationship you don’t want to put any expectations on. So, just keep it in the now and keep working hard.
mxdwn: So are you married to music?
Jen: I definitely am married to music.
Micayla: Yeah, it’s hard to explain. It’s like you want to keep it a fluid organism. You don’t want to lock it down and say it has to be like this and it has to be that.
Jessie: Yeah, when you’re married, you don’t want to be like, “Well, what if one day we want to get divorced?” Not going there.
mxdwn: Just for fun… What are some of the things you’re listening to right now?
Jessie: We woke up this morning and put on Led Zeppelin.
Jen: I usually go toward the older bands. When a newer band comes out that I like, I get really excited about it because I usually like a lot of the older bands like The Breeders, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac and then a lot of punk stuff like The Clash, Delta 5, The Slits. I like so music, I could list 1000 bands right now.
Jessie: CCR. I feel like I brought back the random additions to my life. I started listening to a lot of Adam Ant. His first stuff is so amazing, before he kind of went new wave.
Jen: Last night before we went on stage, I pulled up a YouTube Black Flag video because I was like we’re going to get inspired before we go on stage.
Jessie: I meant to tell you that was so helpful!
Micayla: I’ve been obsessed with this one song. Do you guys know Miike Snow? That’s one I would love to see. “Ghengis Khan.” I put on once a day.
Jen: What does it sound like?
mxdwn: I can play that song for you, it’s cool. [*plays “Heart Is Full” by Miike Snow*]
Jen: I like it. It’s crazy that a bunch of producers put that together. I feel like they all have the secret. That sounded really cool.
mxdwn: What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Micayla: I used to love playing miniature golf with my family.
Jen: I remember we would build tents in our backyard.
Jessie: I can only think of childhood memories where I’m getting hurt or something and my parents were taking me to the hospital for stitches.
mxdwn: What’s the most notorious childhood injury?
Jen: She would get stitches a lot. They would call her [Jessie] “Booboo Baby.”
Jessie: That was a good nickname. One of the times, I just remember my dad carrying me like this into the hospital and there was blood coming from an inch below my eye because I hit it. I definitely still have my teddy bear somewhere.