Charly Bliss put the 'power' in power-pop. Hailing from the bustling belly of Brooklyn, New York, the quartet reign with luminescent synths, scratchy guitars and towering vocal melodies, their genre-bending scorchers tapping into the band members' stormy inner-turmoils, and wringing them out into otherwise crushingly catchy feelgood anthems.
With the recently released Young Enough, they've mastered that balance of polarising lyricisms and punchy tunes. The album – their second, following 2017's bubblegrunge masterpiece Guppy – is sonically dense and strikingly dynamic; refined with glittering electronics and ultra crisp production, but not lacking in the fierce, angular energy that made their earlier work stand out. On the cusp of their breakout into the mainstream, it's the album they needed to make.
Later this month, Charly Bliss will take Young Enough to Australia, where in addition to a couple of intimate headline shows in Sydney and Melbourne, they'll tear the stage up at a sold-out Splendour In The Grass – a set that frontwoman Eva Hendricks promises will showcase only the best of the best of Charly Bliss' goosebump-inducing poignancy. Before they hop on the plane over, we gave Hendricks a call to riff on all things Young Enough, festivals, and the power of self-amplified confidence.
What’s the vibe like in the band as you all gear up for your first trip over to Australia?
I think we’re all just so excited. It's always been our dream to tour in Australia, and just see Australia. It feels totally surreal – I don’t think we really know how to wrap our heads around it. And especially the fact that we’re playing Splendour In The Grass; it’s just such an awesome festival, and we feel so lucky to be a part of it.
Are you planning to do much of the tourist-y stuff?
Oh my God, yes! The way I feel about touring is that – and especially when you're somewhere exciting and you’re somewhere you’ve never been before – you’ve gotta experience as much of it as you possibly can. You've gotta eat whatever the locals eat. You've gotta organise to hold a koala. You've gotta go to Bondi Beach and check out that weird pool that's kind of, like, in the ocean. Yeah, I want to do it all!
As far as the whole festival atmosphere goes, are you the type to really hit the pits and get amongst it, or do you like to just kind of chill out backstage until you gotta play?
I think we usually get a little nervous right before he have to play, so we kind of hide out backstage for a while before our set time. But then as soon as we’re done, we want to see everything and experience it as people at the festival.
Have you figured out who you’re keen to see at Splendour?
I’m so excited for everyone playing! It's such a good lineup. I know we’re excited to reunite with our friends in The Beths, who we haven’t gotten to see since South By Southwest.
Hell yes! Future Me Hates Me was one of the best albums from last year.
They’re incredible! They’re so good. My brother and I were at this ice cream place today and they were playing that album, and we were just like, “Yes!” It was a good sign for the day.
You’ve also got a couple of sideshows going down in Sydney and Melbourne. How would you say the set differs between a festival show and your own headliner?
I think at a festival, you're playing for a lot of people who have never heard of you before. I think that's always the greatest thing that happens at festivals – we're being exposed to people who, like, may have heard our name mentioned before, but don't really know what we're about. So we're trying to deliver the best of the best in the shortest period of time, so that as people as people are wandering around and moving from stage to stage, they're always seeing the best possible moment of our performance. You want it to be so that no matter when they come in, they get a full picture of who you are, and you make a really strong impression. So I think it's just about designing a really high-octane, best-of-the-best kind of set.
And then I think what's cool about playing these sideshows as well is that, y'know, it's the opposite of that – it's people who know about and are fans of your music, who are excited to see you specifically. It's especially exciting somewhere like Australia, where we’ve never been before, having people be listening to our music for years and have never having been able to come to our shows. So those shows are more about building a connection between ourselves and the audience, and that feels really special. But both are very cool – I feel really lucky that we get to do a little bit of both on this tour.
As far as the guitars go, what are you shredding out on at the moment?
I have the St. Vincent signature guitar. It's just a very beautiful guitar, and it's super comfortable to play and really light. I really, really love that guitar! And I always play my favourite distortion pedal – and really, the only pedal that I can get excited about and want to talk about – which is a pedal called the Chord Blaster. It’s made by this guy who runs a small pedal company out of Minnesota, Henretta, and I just love that pedal. It’s the perfect distortion – it’s nice and beefy and thick, but still has a lot of clarity to it.
I’m really excited to see how the songs on Young Enough come to life onstage, with that powerful balance of really bright guitars and bubbly synths. How have the shows been so far?
It’s been so exciting, figuring out how to play these songs. There was definitely a minute there, when we started to figure out what the live set would look like, where we were considering hiring a fifth person to come in and play synths. We were like, “Oh my God, how are we gonna do this live!?” But it’s actually been a really awesome challenge, and we've been able to figure out how to do it with just the four of us, with each of us rotating to play synths at different moments in the set. I grew up taking piano lessons, but I never thought it was something I would put to use again – so it’s been really awesome, and also nerve-racking, playing synths in front of everyone. I’ve spent a long time thinking of myself as a guitar player, and now I’m playing synths and some auxiliary percussion stuff, so I’m always looking down at whatever I’m doing onstage and being like, “Woah, I guess I can do this! Cool!”
The fact you're doing all the synths live is super exciting in its own right!
Yeah! We played a couple of shows with Bleachers around a year or so ago, and we were so inspired by their setup. I think it’s a really important thing that everyone in our band can kind of rise to the occasion and play some instruments that aren’t their primary ones. And that’s exactly what they did in the Bleachers set – they had all these different stations set up, and all of the band members just rotated between them. One station would have, like, a synth and a saxophone and a glockenspiel or something, and then they would move over to the station with the bass and the tambourine… And that was just super cool to see. It was like, “Oh, no one has to stay in the same spot for the whole time!” From an audience perspective, watching the Bleachers shows, I thought that was so cool. It kind of lets everyone connect more with the audience, in a way. So we totally copied them!
Was the live show something you had in mind when you were working on the record, or was it more of a process where you were shaping them for the stage after the studio versions were finished?
Definitely more that way. I’m finding it so important, when we’re writing, to have as few parameters and boundaries as possible. I think it’s really good to never feel boxed in by things like, “How are we gonna do this live?” And with the lyrics, being like, “How am I going to talk to people about this? Should I write about this?” I think all of that is really inhibiting – it stifles you more than it encourages you. It's so important to just feel open to whatever is exciting you in the studio, and when you’re writing. And just follow yourself down that path, and trust that when it comes time to play the live shows, your nerves about it will just kind of work themselves out.
With Guppy, we'd been playing the songs off that record for years and years by the time it finally came out – which in a way was great, because there wasn’t really a catch-up period. There wasn’t any moment where we were like, “Oh, well now that song’s out, so we have to learn how to play it!” It was just kind of like, “Okay, well, we’ll just continue with the way we’ve been living for the past five years!” But I think we’re in a different position now, because there were actually people who were waiting for a second record from us. Y’know, we had to be more thoughtful about when we could play certain new songs, especially with the singles – we didn’t want to play them until they were out, because you just never know what’s going to end up on YouTube or Instagram.
So the record was completed as its own thing, and then we had to step back and go, “Okay, now we have to figure this whole other thing out!” But it's surprising how seamless it’s all felt, considering that we waited until the album was out to play some of these songs. It’s felt really natural to add them into the set, and I think part of that is because we’re just so excited to be playing these songs.
It's interesting, because I think Young Enough has this sort of dynamism to it where it’s so big and bombastic, but also really tight and focussed in the sense that you can hear how much confidence you all had in the studio this time. How did you want the sound of this record to really build upon what you’d established creatively with Guppy?
I think from the very beginning, it was so important for us not to make the same record twice. We had no intentions to just continue with what we started on Guppy. That said, I don’t think Young Enough is such a departure from Guppy at all – I think both records follow the same thread – but we just wanted to challenge ourselves, and experiment with new sounds and new arrangement styles. Even just the fact that we had a producer [Joe Chiccarelli] who was so hands-on in the songwriting, helping us write and build the songs together – that was something we’ve never done before; we're all major control freaks, so that was something really new for us to try.
We just felt really determined to one-up ourselves. It was important to us that we felt like we'd really grown since Guppy came out, and put something out that made us feel like we had pushed ourselves as much as we possibly could in the timeframe that we had. And I feel like we really did. Y’know, as I mentioned before, it took us a really long time to put Guppy out – some of those songs had been ready for five years by the time the album was done. And I was born leaning towards towards self-doubt instead of confidence, so before Guppy came out, I really didn’t take myself very seriously as a songwriter – I always kind of felt like it was something that I just stumbled into, y'know?
"Who knows how long I’ll be able to keep this up?"
And then when Guppy came out, it was received in such a way that we never could have imagined. It really forced me – and all of us, really – to do away with that mentaility, and to realise, like, “Oh, I guess I am good at this! I should probably start taking myself a little more seriously and develop more confidence.” Because I did it! And clearly people connected with it, y'know? We made this thing, and people were responding to it and understanding where we were coming from, so there was no point drowning ourselves in self-loating.
I feel like the success of Guppy was so helpful, because we entered the creative process for this record with so much more confidence. There were obviously still moments where I was like, “Oh, is this really working?” But now that Young Enough is out, it’s so easy for me to look back and forget all the rehearsals that we had where we’d try something and it wouldn’t work, or when we'd write and re-write a song a million times and it felt like it was never going to click. And there was a level of confidence there from the very beginning – that even when it felt difficult and nerve-wracking, we were gonna figure it out.
Friday July 19th - The Curtin, Melbourne VIC
Sunday July 21st - Splendour In The Grass, Byron Bay NSW
Tuesday July 23rd - The Lansdowne, Sydney NSW
Tickets on sale via secretsounds.com