Photography: TK Anderson
Styling: Donna Lisa
Hair: Eddie Cook
Makeup: Brooke Hill
You can ask Jennifer and Jessica Clavin anything—just not what it’s like to be a girl in a band. With the sweet, and sometimes raw punk they produce as Bleached, the duo has finally decided to speak up. Their latest release, Can You Deal?, is a four-track feminist manifesto that fuses the grit of GG Allin with the catchiness of Garbage, to answer that question once and for all: it sucks.
Having released two studio albums and a string of EPs, Bleached has finally found their voice—and their sound. Combining the garage rock realness of early punk bands like Redd Kross, with an undeniable pop sensibility, Bleached crafts cutting cool girl anthems as honest as they are fun. But more importantly, the record, and its accompanying zine, are not just a treatise on the realities of being a female musician—they’re a call to arms.
The album is great—”Turn To Rage” is a Ramones-style banger, and title track, “Can You Deal?” will never get out of your head—but it’s also something bigger. With thrashing guitars and submissions from other female artists, from White Lung’s Mish Way to Tegan Quin, the record and zine bring together voices from across the industry to illustrate Bleached’s radical message: “Yeah I’m a girl, and I play in a band—Can you deal?” Biting and unapologetic, the EP does more than just highlight the band’s frustration—it tells you to get the fuck over it.
Why did you decide to write this record?
Jen: In almost every interview we do the person asks, ‘Can you tell me what it’s like to be a girl in a band?’ We’re constantly advertised as an all-girl band, when we actually have a guy drummer. Jessie and I were in a punk band when we were teenagers, and the same thing would always happen—’What’s it like being girls in a band? Are you trying to make a statement by being in an all-girl band?’ It was just something I felt I finally had to talk about.
Jessie: There just became a point where the only question we were being asked was about being girls—there are so many other cool questions you could be asking us. So making this record and putting this zine together—maybe people will start asking them.
So, just because you’re a girl, people make assumptions about your band?
Jen: It’s like, suddenly the fact that I decided to play music and be a girl at the same time, means I’m a riot girl to everyone else. It makes me feel really boxed in and that there’s nothing else anyone sees about me as a musician, and as an artist.
Jessie: And the longer everyone keeps talking about it, the longer it’s going to be an issue. We’re way past it, why can’t everyone else get over it, too?
Tell me about Can You Deal?, musically.
Jen: I find it really difficult to get into current music, just because the way things were recorded and written back then always sounds so much cooler and more epic to me. But we played with Cage the Elephant, and I really saw how they were taking that old sound and working it into something new—that’s what I really wanted to do with this EP, and what I’ve tried to do with all our records. But I was really reflecting on Welcome The Worms, because it was still so new, and I was really trying to channel, ‘What did we not do on that record that I wish we had done?’ One thing was really capturing that raw, punk sound we’ve been doing since we started playing music.
What was the hardest part about making it?
Jessie: This was the first time we were so limited on time. But in some ways, that restriction made us more certain of what we were doing—confidence had to come fast.
Jen: We really had to learn to make a decision and be confident in it. But it worked because we were forced to just do it, and not think twice about anything.
How do you think the EP compares to your previous releases?
Jen: I think Welcome the Worms is the most polished, biggest production we’ve ever done. Sometimes, I miss those early 7” singles we put out—those really raw, punk sounding tracks. So I feel like this is my favorite record we’ve ever done, because it captures both—the early demos and the bigger sounding stuff. For me, that’s the dream situation.
Jessie: On this record, I really feel like Jen and I were able to get the sound we’re always looking for. And also, I think we learned we prefer smaller sessions—having that intimacy in the recording is really important for us.
Why did you get into punk when you were a kid?
Jen: It was just so freeing. I finally felt accepted—I could be weird and different, and it didn’t matter. Also, the whole DIY aspect—learning to play your own instrument, booking your own tours—that automatically appealed to me, and I felt like I had just discovered this secret world that my parents and the cheerleaders at my school knew nothing about.
Jessie: We both had that same feeling where we just didn’t really fit into what was maybe the popular crowd at school. So having this experience of feeling like you finally found something—that was amazing.
What is it about the genre that allows you to express yourself, as a woman, and as a musician?
Jen: Growing up and being so obsessed with Siouxsie Sioux and Debbie Harry and The Slits, and Delta 5—I didn’t even think about the fact that I was a woman. I just felt like, ‘I’m me and I’m learning guitar, and I’m playing music with my friends, and learning more and more about myself everyday.’ I finally felt like I didn’t have to be the typical girl I was being molded into before punk, and I think that’s why I get so annoyed when I get asked ‘What’s it like to be a girl in a band?’—because I’ve spent the last however many years, trying to get away from that. I’m just trying to be who I am as an artist and not think about the fact that yeah, I have a fucking vagina—it doesn’t make me play my guitar any differently.
Jessie: When I first started getting into punk and more glam rock, like T.Rex, I remember thinking, ‘I want to wear what he’s wearing.’ I never once thought I couldn’t—that didn’t even cross my mind. There wasn’t anything gendered about it and there wasn’t anything blocking me from thinking I could do the same. I just thought, ‘He plays a rad guitar and those are cool pants, I want to wear them.’
Tell me about the zine.
Jen: The whole thing really happened through networking. Me and Jessie grew up reading zines and buying them at punk shows, so I just put it out there in an email to everyone I know—it’s 2017, why am I still being asked what it’s like to be a girl in a band? I asked all these people if they had similar experiences and if they wanted to write an essay or something about it, and put it in my zine. I was a little nervous because I didn’t think anyone would respond, or they’d think I was annoying. But so many people wrote me back and just started sharing their experiences and what it’s been like for them, being female musicians today.
How did that collaboration process differ from the way you work together in Bleached?
Jen: Collaborating as sisters is just so easy and we’ve been doing it for so long, that we just—we speak the same language.
Jessie: And even beyond that—we don’t even need to speak to understand each other because we just know each other so well.
Jen: Working with people for the zine was a totally different experience because I really had to put myself out there and allow myself to feel kind of vulnerable. Some people didn’t write back and it was hard not to take it personally. I had to tell myself, ‘Maybe they’re really busy, or maybe they just don’t care,’ but I had to realize it probably didn’t have to do with me. The people who did write back—it was just so cool because it really turned into something way beyond a submission—they became these long dialogues about our experiences and what we think, and we really started rooting each other on.
Did you learn anything from that experience?
Jen: I realized that maybe it’s okay to put myself out there. With Jessie and I, because we’re sisters—it’s safe, it’s easy and it’s become something where I never have to think twice about sharing something with her. This was the opposite—feeling scared and intimidated, and realizing, at the end, that I didn’t need to feel that way because we’re a community of musicians—female musicians. Writing everyone and doing this zine, really reminded me of that. But it’s hard to remember because of the way people think women interact—and with the internet, because it’s constant information coming at you and I start to feel really isolated. It was really nice to remind myself that the world isn’t as scary as it sometimes feels.
What would your advice be for other female musicians?
Jen: Right now really is the time for us to be speaking up. Because of the state of the world, and who our fucking president is, now, more than ever, is the time to be taking advantage of all opportunities and not shutting up. Whether it’s starting a band or making a zine, or even just starting a group where you can talk with your friends—just take that step and go for it. When I wanted to start the zine, I questioned myself, and in the past, probably just wouldn’t have done it. But I did, and I’m so fucking glad I just took that step, because whatever—if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. But if it does, that’s awesome—and maybe you can actually change something.