VICE U.K. originally published this article.
At The Garage, a live music venue in north London, everything seems in order. The crowd is made up of the usual denim jackets and rolled up t-shirt sleeves, and people standing around drinking pints while a bored-looking dude mans a quiet bar. So far, so Monday night.
But then, the lights go down and the dramatic, despairing 80s pop track “Toy Soldiers” starts thundering over the speaker like a premonition. Three musicians in jeans, white t-shirts, and face glitter take the stage and play an intro. A woman follows them a few seconds later. She is wearing a dress which looks not unlike the head of a sparkly mop. It is extremely silly, totally over-the-top, and quite, quite perfect.
The mop, of course, is Eva Hendricks, the band is the effervescent alt-rock outfit Charly Bliss (rounded out by drummer Sam Hendricks, guitarist Spencer Fox, and bassist Dan Shure), and this show is their album launch party. On Friday 10 May, the New York group released their second album Young Enough, after stealing hearts with their first, 2017’s Guppy. The new record retains much of what made the first so delectable—Hendricks’ voice like sucking on a sour candy, and spiky, gnashing guitars and percussion like the teeth chewing it—but adds dimension with poppy synths and big drums. While Young Enough is darker and more ambitious than Guppy, the songs from the two records go together live like ketchup and mustard, as Hendricks cavorts through the set like a Disney princess, if a Disney princess could shred extremely fucking hard. For their encore, the band plays “Mr. Brightside.” The entire night feels like the dictionary definition of “triumphant.”
The next day, I head to central London to meet Eva for afternoon tea (what else?). Though she comes dressed slightly less shinily, she’s as fizzy in person as she is on stage and in her music, seeming to approach experiences with the same curiosity, attention, and humor that you’d expect from her songwriting. We talked about bad dates, learning to take yourself seriously, and, uh, the plant from Little Shop of Horrors—while also eating an undisclosed number of tiny cakes. You can read our conversation below.
VICE: Welcome to our first date Eva!
Eva Hendricks: I love this! We’re falling in love.
If this is our first date, where do we go from here?
How could we top this? We’d either have to lean in further and do something also very fancy, or we would have to do something that’s totally the opposite to get to know each other better. Probably after this date, if it was really going well, we’d go to a dive bar.
Or get really bad takeout.
Exactly. In fact, I would probably be worried if our second date was somewhere fancy.
I’m an order-a-pizza type of person.
What’s your pizza of choice?
My favorite pizza in New York is this place called Speedy Romeo. It’s so good! I used to work at Roberta’s—they’re great but I think Speedy Romeo is one level up. They have this cheese that is native to St. Louis and it’s called Provel, and it’s this very fake cheese, very processed. It shouldn’t be as good as it is but it’s divine.
Did you grow up in New York?
No! All of us in the band grew up about an hour outside of New York. Sam, the drummer, is my older brother, Dan and I started doing musical theater together when we were like, 11, and we dated for a few years. On one of our dates he introduced me to Spencer, who is his friend from camp. And that’s how the band started!
I think you can really see your interest in musical theater in Charly Bliss’ music though—not just the sound but the storytelling element of the songs seems a little indebted to that.
Absolutely. You know, so many things play into your tastes and sensibilities. I definitely feel with musical theater, the number one thing I came away from that world with is an appreciation for working really hard, and rehearsing, and being open to critique and running it again and again until it’s exactly right. Dan and I came from that world; Spencer is also an actor, and my brother Sam was into classical percussion and really worked hard at that through school. It’s really important to have that kind of work ethic.
What was your favorite musical to be in? Who did you play?
I played Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, loved that. I was Sandy in Grease, I was Maureen in Rent, and Dan was Mark! Oh, and I was in Little Shop of Horrors! I love that musical so much. That was really, really fun.
How did the plant work?
There was someone in there operating it. My grandma came to see that and she was so upset because I played Audrey, and at the end Audrey gets eaten by the plant, and she was really freaked out by it. It’s so funny because it’s this giant thing made out of foam; it’s so clearly not real but something about it really disturbed my grandma.
Back to dates: What was your first ever date?
My first date was with Danny Fishman, in seventh grade. My mom dropped me off and I went ice skating with him. It was so romantic. We dated for two months, it was a total whirlwind romance. To me, he seemed very exotic because there were two middle schools in our town and he went to the other one. Big deal.
It’s like that classic thing: “I have a boyfriend… he goes to another school,” but you really did!
Yes! He broke up with me right before leaving for summer camp. I was devastated. I didn’t even get to go to camp—I stayed at home and did the musical. It was also right around the time that I started watching The O.C. and I was really getting into my feelings. I’m still a very emotional person, but I love thinking about how emotional I was at that point in my life. When I got a car for the first time, there was this boy I had a huge crush on, and I would just drive around in circles just hoping to see his car on the street. I would cry and listen to songs that he liked, and I would drive past his house. I was a maniac!
What about bad dates?
When I was a senior in high school, I was single for most of the year. I had it in my head that I wanted to make out with someone randomly, and not have it mean anything. So it was the closing night of my senior year musical, and I was friends with this guy. And I thought, You know what? I’m going to make out with him because why not? He was the worst kisser I’ve ever experienced. But I was like, This is the point of it! I’ve got to give it a chance. So we were making out, and I started to notice that my face was really wet? And I knew he was drooling a lot but it felt really strange. My face was like, soaking. And he pulled away like, “Oh my God.” I said, “What?” And he goes, “I think I just got a nosebleed.” There was blood all over my face, and I ran back down to the party looking like Carrie.
Have you ever done dating apps, like Tinder?
No! I’ve been in two very long-term relationships, and my first one was very on-again-off-again. There was a lot of breaking up and getting back together, and one of the times that we broke up I was like, “You know what? Everyone’s on Tinder; I’ve never been on. I just want to see what this is all about.” So my roommate Rebecca and I both made profiles to look at it, and we were swiping through guys, and—I realize this is going to sound like I’m presenting myself in a very like “higher being” type of way—but I just realized that I’m not someone who is attracted to people so much based off of looks, especially guys. Even if you’re really hot, if I meet you and you have a crappy personality with no sparkle and magic then…
I think that’s true for most people though
Absolutely. But I found it really hard to look at a photo of someone and be like “I’m attracted to you.” So I shut down the account, didn’t even swipe right on anyone. The next day, my brother comes up to me at a show and he’s like, “Are you on Tinder?” and I was like “I just downloaded it for like an hour just to see.” And he said, “Three of my coworkers have come up to me asking if they can take my little sister on a date because they saw you on Tinder!” I was on it for one hour and it got back to my big brother that I was on fucking Tinder.
So, your new album Young Enough. It has a new sound, as you referenced at your London show. Though I would argue that I don’t think it’s *that* different. How have people responded to it?
It’s definitely a talking point for the record. To us, it felt like a very natural progression—we knew going into making this album that we didn’t want to make the same record twice. We wanted to feel like we had grown and we felt like we had grown, so it felt like we were following along with what felt natural to us. This just felt like we were going further down a path we had already started in on. And also we’re huge pop music fans. The albums we were listening to while we were making this record were like, Melodrama by Lorde, Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Bleachers.
I can hear that you’ve been listening to Bleachers. It’s very bombastic—big drums, massive sounds.
We played a couple of shows with them last year, or two years ago. That was so inspiring to us, and has inspired the live set a lot, in the sense that at a Bleachers show they all trade places, they have their different stations for instruments and then they all switch around. And now we have this album that filled with synths, and when we were trying to figure out how we were going to play it live, that was our guiding light.
Have people been on board with the new sound?
Almost across the board. I think at the beginning, there were some people who are really into our first record. But I think that’s the case with any band, right? And you know what else? It also felt to me on this album that we’ve started reaching a wider demographic of people, and specifically we’ve started reaching more women, and that’s felt really gratifying for me. And it’s really wonderful to look out and see so many supportive and cool young women in the audience.
In guitar music, the audiences are necessarily really male-dominated. So imagine that can feel a bit sad—obviously your music is for everyone, but perhaps women would understand its perspective best?
I really hope that anyone can connect with our music, but it’s wonderful to see more diversity in the crowd.
What was the process of making this record like?
I’d just never had an opportunity in my life to concentrate full-time on music, for the first time we didn’t have day jobs—we were just able to have writing be our full-time jobs. That’s a wonderful thing but it’s also a really crazy thing. I’d literally write from when my boyfriend left for work at seven in the morning until he got home at six. But even that felt really cool—we were totally immersed in the process of making it.
Also, I’ve always had an issue taking myself seriously as a songwriter, and believing in myself in that way. I’ve always thought of it as something I stumbled into. So there was something really gratifying where I really felt like a professional songwriter, a professional musician.
I think women in creative work worlds can have a problem asserting that they deserve to be there, right?
Absolutely, and also we were coming off of releasing Guppy which was difficult for us to release. And by the time it finally came out, having people respond to it and connect with it forced me to be like, “Eva, shut up. Clearly this is real and you’re good at it, so you should just accept it and stop putting yourself down all the time.” And coming off of that and coming straight into writing Young Enough made me feel really confident writing this record, and allowed us to try new things, to make changes in the sound, and feel OK with the fact that maybe we’d be losing some people doing that. And we knew that the most important thing was making a record that we were proud of. There’s always going to be someone on the internet who doesn’t like it, and that’s OK—that’s totally fine as long I know we made the exact record we wanted to make.
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