When women and girls listen to love songs written by and/or performed by men, we have to filter stuff out, switch pronouns and, often, navigate a sexist point of view. After a lifetime of listening to male-dominated pop music I’m used to making these kinds of adjustments in my head, but I still feel starved for love songs that I can actually identify with and dance to without a power struggle. This drives me to write my own songs and actively seek out pop groups that give voice to a female perspective on desire. I want to know what girls want, not just what guys tell us we want.
Bleached’s Ride Your Heart is quickly becoming my favorite American guitar-pop album since The Breeders’ Last Splash. Upbeat, infectious melodies are enhanced by minimalist arrangements reminiscent of power pop by Nick Lowe or mid-period Ramones. The songs explore the tension between narcissism and objectification, desire and attraction, longing and sweet sadness, real feelings and true crushes. It’s the sound of a girl’s fast-beating heart. You don’t have to be a teenager to feel like one; just put this album on repeat.
It was my pleasure to chat on the phone with Jennifer and Jessie Clavin about their evolution from Mika Miko, their visual aesthetic, and the L.A. music scene.
On playing in the all-teenage-girl punk band Mika Miko:
Jennifer: We would tour so much, but we were all like best friends. We learned how to play our instruments playing in that band; I learned how to book our tours. Also the hard parts of touring: how to deal with being so close to people all the time and work through situations. Just a lot of crazy things would happen, and we’d have to deal with it on tour and being really young. One night in Texas — it was our first tour around the U.S., and we stopped at SXSW and met this guy who invited us back to his house to party. So we went, and like — we know, you know, “don’t eat like shit, drink water” — but we were smoking weed from this huge bong and all of a sudden the cat started throwing up all over the house and the guy who lived there came out of this dark hallway and he was totally green and someone in Mika Miko started freaking out. I think there was something else in the weed, and we had to take her to the emergency room.
Another time this guy was like, “Oh come play our festival” and we had a day off so we were like, “Why not, we’ll just go play our set.” So we finally get there — and it was so out of the way — and he’s like, “You’re playing in the living room.” So we play in the living room and he was literally the only person in the living room watching us, the only other people in there were just walking by to go to the bathroom. Finally, he was like, “Sorry I can’t pay you guys any money because I had to buy the keg just to get people to come here.” We were like “whatever” and ended up stealing one of his pedals.
That made me realize that maybe doing everything yourself doesn’t always work out. At that point I was still booking the tours myself. I realized that if we wanna keep doing this, we have to get a booker.
On the musical aesthetic of Bleached:
Jennifer: In Mika Miko we were just playing straight punk. My favorite bands were Black Flag, Redd Kross, Circle Jerks, TSOL, and that’s what Mika Miko was trying to do. Jesse and I started getting into different kinds of music, like Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones, Gun Club. We’re writing songs that are punk, but also rock ‘n’ roll with a little bit of pop. We’ll pretty much write the whole song and I get to sing whatever I wanna sing. With Mika Miko, I was kinda scared to sing about what I wanted because there were so many people’s opinions. In Bleached I feel comfortable and we can experiment and we get to have a lot more control over everything.
On making stuff look cool:
Jennifer: When we first started, we didn’t know if we were gonna take Bleached seriously or not. We didn’t know where we wanted to go with it. We were really excited to have a visual side that wasn’t just live. The record art I really wanted to have a similar look and feel. I think when you look at all our record art, you kind of get the same feeling from each picture. They’re beautiful, but also dark in a way and they say something about love. I got that from the bands I grew up liking. They all have a visual side. It’s also just like taking what you have and expressing it. Like the Smiths records, you know [by looking at it] that it’s a Smiths record or like Black Sabbath art or Rolling Stones. Those are all my favorite bands, so I was inspired by that. If you have a band, why not take the art side of it seriously too, and make it look just as cool as you want it to look?
Jessie: Growing up, our dad was working in the industry as a sound engineer at Universal, so he was around movie sets a lot and we were always visiting him. Someone always had a video camera. I remember even just being in a car and playing some punk song, and someone would just push record on the camera. Sometimes we’d go film our friends skateboarding. Most of it was just fun, but then we started doing little shorts and did some videos for Mika Miko. I have a box of so much footage of us, but I have to find the equipment to set it up to watch it again. There’s so much Super 8 footage from tour that I keep because I’m gonna use it for something.
On making the record:
Jennifer: When we record we have a drummer, but me and Jesse do everything else. I play rhythm guitar and sing and Jessie does lead guitar and bass. When we first started, we just wanted it to be Jessie and I, because we had already been in a band where it was so hectic trying to get everyone together all the time. We were like, “We’ll just do it ourselves.”
On hanging out in the L.A. music scene:
Jennifer: It’s actually been really fun lately. There was a period where there weren’t that many fun bands, then it just started up again. FIDLAR are really good live, and Tangea are really fun live, too. And our friends Chad and the Meatbodies. There was just a festival in Santa Ana called Burgerfest because Burger Records is a label from Santa Ana and it was all these bands that are on Burger, like Gap Dream and they’re so good. That festival was soooooo fuuunnn, just so many kids going crazy. It was insane. I don’t know how many people that place holds, but it must be at least 1000. It was so crazy.
On where they will be 10 years from now:
Jessie: Jen will have her own clothing line. Possibly lingerie. She also wants a flower shop. Next to Jen’s flower shop, I’ll have a restaurant and it will be, like, all the food we ate on tour. Our band will still play shows. Maybe not tour as much — festivals would be cool. In 10 years we’ll be ready to do things at home.
But right now, we’re in this moment with Bleached. This is what we are doing right now. This is what’s in front of us to do. If you wanna go back to school, you can always do that later. This is the right time to be doing Bleached. It’s what we’re supposed to be doing.