Sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin have played music together for a long time, but only with the formation of their new group Bleached in late 2010 have they taken songwriting seriously.
When they started playing music in high school, Jennifer and Jessica were more interested in getting together with friends and figuring out Slits covers. Those jam sessions eventually turned into the surprisingly successful Mika Miko, a five-piece L.A. post-punk band formed in 2003. The resemblance of Mika Miko’s music and presentation to the Slits’ minimalistic, artsy sound and outrageous live shows generated an early buzz.
Shortly after Mika Miko broke up, in 2009, Jennifer and Jessica regrouped as Bleached, a noticeably different, eclectic indie-rock band with both sunny pop elements and dissonant avant-garde undertones. The band performs at the Blank Club Saturday in support of its debut album, Ride Your Heart, released in April on Indiana-based indie-rock label Dead Oceans.
“With Mika Miko, we were just learning to play our instruments,” Jessica says. “We were having fun, but I feel like with Bleached there’s a lot more musical influences going through us when we write a song.”
The biggest change in musical influences for Bleached came by way of the ’60s. They take the decade’s garage rock, surf-pop and psychedelia and combine them with a tamped-down version of the ’70s art-rock and punk-rock influences that fueled Mika Miko.
“We evolved. It wasn’t just one day we were listening to something else,” Jessica explains. “We were always listening to new music. We’re always looking up bands and watching videos, and it’s just like it gradually happened.”
Bleached has been touring heavily and is getting some noteworthy attention in the process. But most of the press, so far, focuses on the surf-pop side of their songwriting, missing the darker, dissonant elements that align them just as much to dream-pop bands like Vivian Girls and, to some extent, Galaxie 500.
Bleached’s entire songwriting process is different, in that Jessica and Jennifer actually have a songwriting process now, and they spend time envisioning what they want the songs to sound like instead of just letting what comes out, come out.
“With Mika Miko, we weren’t really thinking that much about what we were wanting to sound like,” Jessica says. “It was just that we were playing what we knew how to play. At that time, we were just listening to a lot of punk.”
Mika Miko’s breakup was a natural conclusion to a band that never intended to be anything but a fun outlet. Most of the members wanted to do other things like go to college, get married, have kids and, in Jennifer’s case, move to New York and study fashion.
Despite living at opposite ends of the country, Jessica and Jennifer continued to write music together. This collaboration, which they called Bleached, became something they wanted to make into a serious band, so Jennifer moved back to L.A. to give it a shot.
They shopped their demos around to different labels and settled on Dead Oceans—also home to Akron/Family, John Vanderslice and the Tallest Man on Earth—after a meeting with founder Phil Waldorf.
“He kind of stood out to us as just being really passionate about his label and our music, and it just felt like it was going to work,” Jessica says.
While part of Bleached’s dissonant edge came from the fact that the sisters were consciously mixing different influences, it was also due to their choice of producer, Rob Barbato, a friend of theirs who plays in L.A. psychedelic band Darker My Love. Barbato listened to their demos and worked with them to create an eclectic, edgy sound that complemented their songwriting style.
Now they have a bass player and drummer backing them up for tours. While their shows probably won’t create that same over-the-top infamy that Mika Miko’s frenetic live shows did, they have already achieved something that Mika Miko weren’t able to pull off—an album that does their talent justice.