Desert pop rockers Bleached have recorded a new EP ‘Can You Deal?’, following the reductive, gender-centric comments the band received after the 2016 release of second album ‘Welcome the Worms’. They were constantly asked from vacant news outlets what it is like to be a girl in a band, and in true Bleached fashion, they’ve responded with a fuzzed-and-punked-up EP, and a zine of the same name.
“We went into recording the EP really fast,” says vocalist/guitarist Jennifer Clavin. “We had been touring a lot on ‘Welcome the Worms’, and then when we came home, we were like, let’s put this EP together really fast. We wrote ‘Can You Deal?’ in September and it was the first song that we all wrote together as a band, and I just had to come up with lyrics. I think it was so fresh in my mind that it just came out. Our manager was like, ‘This song is really good, you should take this further, you have something to say here’.”
The ‘Can You Deal?’ zine features a mighty list of contributors ranging from Paramore’s Hayley Williams to former Crystal Castles wizard Alice Glass. “The zine was something we were talking about in October, but we didn’t start it until January, and at first I had no idea what to expect. I was just like, I’m gonna write down a group of people I know in bands, like female musicians, and email them saying why I feel the need for the zine, and would they want to participate and submit something of their own like an essay, a poem or lyrics. I was so surprised by all the people that came back to me and were excited about it. Even now when we thought we would be done with the zine, these different artists started reaching out to us being like, ‘Can we be in your zine?’
“When we did the press release, that’s when we had a few people come to us saying ‘Yeah, we wanna be in this zine too’,” Jen continues. “There were even people we reached out to that we did not think we would hear back from, like Jane [Wiedlin, guitarist] from The Go-Gos, and she wrote back with some lyrics. I was so happy about that.
“There are so many; each one comes in I’m like, ‘Oh my god, wow’.” Jen’s sister Jessica, the band’s guitarist, adds: “The first one we got was from Tegan [Quin] from Tegan and Sara, and I feel like I almost cried when I was reading it. I don’t want to give anything away, but definitely read that one. They’re all amazing. A lot of people are getting personal and carrying stories, and it’s awesome. Hayley Williams’ [piece] is really good, Ali Koehler [guitar/vocals] who plays in Upset – hers made me cry too.”
The Clavins’ relationship with zines is something that’s been part of their history with music for years. “Jessie and I used to go to punk shows all the time when we were younger; there were always zines,” Jen reflects. “We used to go to this venue in San Diego called Che Café, and there would be a wheel of zines, and I remember just getting excited about always collecting zines, and I still have them all from when I was a teenager. So I went into my pile of old zines and found this one called Wives Tales, and it’s not like we modelled it after this one because this one is super DIY… [but] it talks about buying your own speculum in Spain and giving yourself your own gynaecological exam, and I remember reading that when I was really young, I remember them saying that if you need a natural morning after pill, you can just use a vitamin c tablet… like, I don’t know if that’s real, but it opened my mind up to a whole new world that I didn’t know anything about,” she laughs.
“In zines, you can just read or write about anything,” Jessie continues. “I just love the idea that Jen got the zine together, and just growing up with her and knowing how much we collected zines and to see it still being a part of us… to put one out is really cool.” Her sister adds: “Yeah there’s no filter, it’s your time to express whatever it is that you want to express, what the mass media won’t let you express, what has to be kept hidden.”
Importantly, the EP and its zine could not have come at a more appropriate time, given the current political turmoil America is facing at the moment. “I feel right now, with the current political state, if you were afraid to express yourself before, or didn’t feel the need, now is the time,” Jen confesses. “We’ve seen how important it is to say what you think, and what you believe in. I feel a lot of us have a lot of anger with what’s happening, and being able to express it through music is really cool, and we’re making music now even harder than we were doing. For the zine, right now is the time to give a space for women to share their stories, and bring attention to this topic. It’s better to do something than not do it at all.
“I feel like this is just the beginning of this zine, I feel like a lot of people are going to read it and be like, ‘Oh man I wish I wrote that!’,” she says.
The ‘Can You Deal?’ EP also acts as almost an ode to the band’s earlier sound, with a handful of tracks from the record being recycled demos that never made the cut.
“I feel like with ‘Welcome the Worms’, I loved the way it sounded, but sometimes it felt a little polished,” Jen admits. “With the EP, there’s something I really miss with our old demos, like the way they sound so raw, and obviously we can’t go back to that sound. So I feel like Alex Newport [the EP’s producer], was really good at bringing out those sounds of ‘Welcome the Worms’, and making it a little more raw, like it had a little bit of the demos in it.”
“I feel like it’s cool to be rawer, because when you think about women living in this society, there’s pressure for them to be polished. It’s cool to come out with this rawer sounding thing,” Jess concludes.