Full disclosure: Charly Bliss is one my favorite bands on the fucking planet, and once you hear the Brooklyn-based quartet’s debut full-length, Guppy, (out today), they’ll be one of yours too.
The band’s blend of fuzzed-out garage rock, manic punk energy and pure pop joy results in the most exuberant feel-good music for people feeling bad. The aggressively catchy collection of tunes chronicle break-ups, hang-ups and feeling insecure without ever becoming a downer. (Just try not tapping your toe to the beat as lead singer Eva Hendricks sings “I laughed when your dog died. It is cruel, but it’s true” on standout track “DQ.” ) Their lyrics are packed with humor, and the pace is unrelenting from the first guitar strum on album-opener “Percolator.”
If Phil Spector made a wall of sound, Charly Bliss perfected the pillow fort.
Of course, anyone who’s seen a Charly Bliss show knows the real magic of Guppy is how well it captures the band’s blistering live performances. This is a band that once played an entire show of covers from the Josie & the Pussycats movie – fun doesn’t even begin to describe them. They’re not just a hyper-capable party band, though. They’re like an idealized version of a party band from a ‘90s teen movie, like a more evolved version of Renee Zellweger and Coyote Shivers at the end of Empire Records.
After opening for bands like Veruca Salt and Sleater-Kinney, the long-awaited release of Guppy has got the band positioned to be one of the biggest acts of 2017. They’ll return to Brooklyn to celebrate the record’s release May 18 at Baby’s All Right.
We chatted with lead singer Eva Hendricks about the album, fangirling out with favorite artists and what it’s like to be on the cusp of making it big while still holding down a day job. We only had to edit out about two-thirds of all the exclamation points, because, surprise, she’s every bit as energetic and joyous in conversation.
Cue up Guppy and see what she had to say below.
What would you say makes the perfect Charly Bliss song?
The perfect Charly Bliss song would be really catchy, something you could hear one time and walk away and have it be stuck in your head. Also something that would make people want to jump around and dance at our shows. Touring has had such a big influence, because while we’ve been waiting for this record to come out for so long, which is kind of like painful for us, we’ve been touring a bunch and that’s gotten us through without pulling our hair out. You just learn so much from playing your songs in front of people and seeing things you think people are going to react to and they don’t, or things you didn’t expect people to react to and they do. That definitely contributes to the perfect Charly Bliss song — crowd interaction.
The live shows are amazing, and every one I’ve seen has been a total blast. How do you guys get hyped up before you hit the stage?
We have so many goofy rituals. We all do vocal warmups and stuff, but that’s boring. We also have a bunch of chants and goofy stuff that we do. We all jump around and hype each other up. We have a bunch of goofy chants that are probably too embarrassing to bring up.
Come on, just tell us one.
OK, OK! We have one chant that goes “Y’all want to hang with Charly Bliss? Most motherfuckers cannot handle this!” and we jump around in a circle … I imagine we are the most obnoxious band to share a greenroom with, because we definitely need to hype ourselves up before we play.
Every time I see you guys at shows, you are always so friendly. You’re in the crowd, you’re talking to people. How important is it to stay connected to your fans, and how do you plan to stay connected as you guys play bigger and bigger spaces and move on to bigger and bigger things? Unfortunately, you’re not always going to be at Shea Stadium.
I wish, though! It is so important to us. We’re all huge music fans. All you have to do is have one experience where someone you’re a huge fan of takes the time after a show to say hi to you or say thank you or whatever to know how important it is. It’s an incredible feeling, and you take it so personal. Just listening to someone’s music, you feel like you know them. I think it’s so cool, and it’s really important to us to talk to people at shows and to have chemistry with our fans.
As we start playing bigger shows and things like that, and things are hopefully gearing up with the record coming out, I feel like so much of what we’ve been talking about as a band are things we want to do with our merch and with our fanclub and our newsletter is all stuff that feels really and is really personal, like sending out postcards. We send notes to everyone who buys merch, like handwritten notes. Also sending postcards from the road to people who want them. We have a lot of really cool merch ideas that kind of coincide with that. It feels great. Like I said before, it took so long for this record to come out, and I think there has been so many moments filled with kind of self-doubt for us. It feels incredible to feel like there are people who have been enthusiastic about our band and who care and who are excited for this record. It’s a two-way thing, it feels amazing.
Do you recall a moment you’ve had with an artist you really loved that’s stuck with you?
Do you remember the band Tally Hall by any chance? It was the band, they had a couple of songs on The OC. They’re a great band. They played a show at the venue in my hometown in Westport, CT, all of our hometown more or less. One of the members of Tally Hall was my oldest brother’s roommate in college, and I remember them making such a big deal when I was there and like talking to me after the show. They called me out from stage, like “Andrew Hendricks’ little sister is here!” And it just blew my mind! And I still feel that way! What’s more fun than geeking out over music? I still feel nervous talking, of course I do. I feel so nervous talking to any of my musical heroes.
When we were at South By Southwest, we met the guitar player from Weezer, Brian Bell. We were just like catatonically excited. It’s like how are these people real? How is this a real person standing in front of me? I met Jenny Lewis really briefly at a record signing a couple of summers ago, and I really went in hoping I could keep my cool and say something thoughtful to her. And it came to be my turn to have her sign my record, and I was just like I can’t believe your voice is coming out of a real human body. I’ve watched so many interviews with her, and obviously I’m obsessed with their music. It just blew my mind. When someone’s nice to you, and not only meeting someone but like they’re kind to you and they take a second, it’s like, oh my god, I feel like you’ll support that person forever and stand by that person no matter what they put out forever!
Not to blow up your spot, but we’ve caught you picking up a few shifts as a barista at The West. What’s it like balancing a day job while being on the verge of really breaking out like this?
It’s really tough. We all work at coffeeshops and have side jobs. It’s really, really tough, and it’s really exhausting. I am so lucky, and everyone else in the band would say, we are so lucky to have jobs that are so understanding of our touring and our crazy schedules. There’s no way I could be doing this if it wasn’t for them. That’s the most important takeaway. Being in a band, especially at this level, none of us have ever paid ourselves from any of the money we’ve earned from touring. You get back from touring, and you’re gone for a month, you’re like, ‘Oh shit, how am I going to pay my rent?
We’re just so lucky we have jobs that are down to help us out. Speaking from personal experience at The West, not only are they keeping me afloat, it’s so wonderful. It’s the most supportive group of people ever. It’s really cool to feel like all of our customers come in, and if I just got back, they’re like How was tour? How is everything? And they really remember. People come in like “I pre-ordered the record!” and things like that. In some ways, yes, it’s exhausting to do both, but it’s also really gratifying. It feels like it’s nice to have a family behind you who know you in this other way. They know the truth: I’m totally broke.
What’s your favorite way to save money living in Brooklyn?
My broke in Brooklyn hack is at Trophy Bar in Williamsburg $5 burgers and fries every day of the week, I think it’s until eight o’clock. Truly, Trophy Bar has kept me fed for a better part of this year. That would be one of my greatest hacks. We all take advantage of that.
What will surprise people most when they hear the album?
People will be surprised how much fun a person can have in 30 minutes of listening to music. I hope! I don’t know.
Don’t walk it back!
I’m not walking it back! I’m not walking it back! They’re going to have so much fun! Best record ever!
Guppy is out now, and you can catch Charly Bliss at Baby’s All Right May 18.
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