Jennifer Clavin and her younger sister Jessica grew up in Los Angeles and started making music together as Bleached last year after Jennifer disbanded her post-punk group Mika Miko and finished a year-long stint performing with Cold Cave. The duo writes sunny pop-punk songs with irresistible, shout-y ’60s harmonies. So far, Bleached has released a few 7-inches and are currently mapping out a full-length album. Having finished touring with Smith Westerns, Black Belles, and then Veronica Falls, the Clavins now have South by Southwest ahead of them, and more specifically, our big CoSigns event.
When Consequence of Sound called, the Clavin sisters were at a Del Taco in Las Vegas mixing soda pop cocktails. (Sample recipe: Diet Coke, Coke, and Sprite.) They talked about imagery, their dad’s musical influence, Spice Girls, and why you get what you give when you go see them perform.
What’s the recording been like for the 7-inches you’ve released so far, and how do you achieve that old-fashioned sound?
Jessica: We usually record live. Jen on guitar, I’m on bass, and then we have a drummer, and we all play together. The first 7-inch was actually done on tape, and the next two 7-inches were on Logic. They’re mixed down on an old keyboard, so it kind of gave it that sound.
Have you been paying attention to the SOPA/PIPA debate? How do you feel about internet piracy, selling vs. giving away music?
Jennifer: Well, OK, I was never bothered by it, and maybe that’s because our band is so new, but then I was talking to one of my friends who’s in a band that’s way bigger than us, and he had a different view on it. It took me by surprise, ’cause, in my mind, right now I don’t care about that at all. If people can’t afford it, I’d still want them to be able to have the music. But then my friend was like, “Well, I could have made thousands of more dollars on my last album.” I never really thought of it like that. It kind of sucks because we do this to make a living, but at the same time, I feel like music is art, and everyone should be able to access it.
And then you make your money with shows and touring?
Jennifer: Yeah. But I do see the other side of it, that you don’t just want to give it away for free. I guess I’m just kind of torn.
Jen, you studied design?
Jennifer: Yeah. I just went to Pasadena City College to do a semester in fashion.
So, who are your style icons?
Jennifer: My top, ultimate two are Deborah Harry and Siouxsie. And Stevie Nicks.
When you’re designing clothes or sewing, do you feel like you’re using the same creative portion of your brain as when you’re writing music?
Jennifer: They’re similar, but they’re also different. Fashion involves so much math, like making the patterns, sizing them and everything, and scaling them. And, music is just more like something that almost comes to me naturally. It almost feels like it’s just really organic, I guess? I can just sit down with a guitar, and a song will come to me. But when I’m doing design work, it’s different. I have to take measurements and I kinda freak out and get stressed out.
What’s the story behind the photo of the man and woman hugging naked on the cover of the “Carter” 7-inch?
Jennifer: It’s, like, a still from this movie, called, oh my god, what is the name of that movie? This Swedish movie. I’m just really obsessed with that image. I really like The Smiths covers, like how all of them use really good pictures and always have the same font. It stands out. When we first started doing our 7-inches, I said, “I want to make the first one how we make all of them, so they all relate.” So, that’s when we started picking out images we liked.
Images of bodies?
Jennifer: Yeah, like, kind of risque, but also beautiful and also [about] love. And also dark.
Those are the words you’re thinking of when you’re looking at photos?
What about the photo of knees on “Searching Through the Past” 7-inch? There’s something about knees that’s kind of grotesque but also beautiful.
Jennifer: Totally. When I first saw that picture, I was like, “Oh my god, this is amazing.”
So, you just found it randomly?
Jennifer: That one, well, my friend who was laying out the second 7-inch, she has this collection of all these old art magazines from the ’80s. I saw this one photo, and it’s so cool.
And, actually, when I found that photo, I thought “Electric Chair” was gonna be the A-side, so I thought this was a perfect image for the song, but then we ended up going with “Searching Through the Past” for the A-side. Which still works, because I like the way she put it in a circle. I feel like you’re looking through a viewfinder.
Can you tell me about the first time you guys played together?
Jennifer: We were in high school, living in the Valley. [It was] in our garage. Jessie had played bass for a year or more on her own. Our dad had a lot of guitars laying around, and we used to go to shows, so we were just one day, like, “Why don’t we try to play?” I picked up my dad’s guitar, and she taught me some notes. We tried covering the Slits.
Your dad plays guitar, too?
Jennifer: Yeah, he’s a guitar player. He always has played music on the side. He was in a band in college in the ’60s. Actually, he says it was a noise band.
That’s pretty avant-garde for the ’60s.
Jennifer: I know, right? I mean, he didn’t know it was noise then, but now he’s like, “Oh, my band was noise.” (Laughs.)
What advice does he give you guys for music?
Jennifer: Actually, his main advice every time we play a show is “Kick out the jams.” Uh huh.
I read you guys used to do dance routines to Spice Girls. Can you elaborate?
Jennifer: My sister was really into Baby Spice. So, I used to try to dress her up like Baby Spice and make her do dance routines. We had this big staircase, and she would have on the big platforms they wear, like the big sneaker platforms, and she’d come down the stairs doing the dance routine. One day, I remember I was filming her, and she fell down the stairs. So funny. I never connected with one of them, so I could never pick one, but she was obviously Baby Spice.
How would you describe what you both bring to the band, musically and personally?
Jennifer: Well, musically, I feel like we both split the writing so perfectly. I do parts that she can’t do, and she does parts that I can’t do. She does the harmonizing to my singing part. It works really well like that. But, personality? I guess my sister’s a little more tomboy, right? And I’m a little more into fashion. She says she looks up to me for fashion.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
Jennifer: I feel it’d be fun to write a song with Black Lips. Wouldn’t that be fun? Yeah, I think that’d be a fun band to do something with.
Any recommendations of some more obscure old bands you’ve discovered on vinyl?
(The sisters confer.) Jennifer: There’s this band Eroch; they’re this krautrock German band from the ’70s.
Why should people come see your show?
Jessica: I feel like our performance has, like, so much to do with, like, people that come and see us. When they get really excited, we get really excited. The other day we had a show and, like, our friends were, like, crowd surfing. It makes us really excited and we get really into it.
Basically, the more the audience gives you, the more you give back, and vice versa?
Jessica: Exactly, exactly.
This Wednesday, March 14th, Bleached will perform at our inaugural CoSigns event, which takes place at Austin’s The Beauty Bar from 12-6 p.m. – RSVP now!