Eva Hendricks wants to make things better. The effervescent frontwoman of the four-headed pop monster called Charly Bliss seems to have come closer to mastering the art of self care in a way that seems impossible.
As we talk, one week after storming SXSW and six weeks away from her band releasing their second album, she’s got enough energy to coordinate a full spring clean of her band’s Brooklyn practice space.
“We’re trying to transform it from a grimy prison cell into being somewhere we can spend more than an hour without wanting to jump ship.” she tells me with pride at the start of our conversation. It’s almost perverse, considering they won’t be seeing much of it for a while. Anyone else would savour the downtime before an all-out promotional blitz, including a three-week European tour, but Eva, it seems, just wants to get shit done.
Anyone who heard Guppy – the first Charly Bliss record, and one of the best debuts of the decade – might have thought they had the band figured out. Recorded twice over, it’s the sound of four New York kids mastering the art of frothy guitar pop: hooks for days, self-deprecating lyrics, and littered with guitar solos that should have inspired queues outside instrument shops.
Young Enough is the sound of a band understanding that their energy reserve isn’t limitless. That’s not to say the album sounds tired – it crackles and fizzes just as much as anything else the band has done, just in a different way. When Hendricks sings “I’m fucking joy, and I haemorrhage light” on "Bleach", there’s a layer of introspection to her voice which proves that she knows being so relentless can have its drawbacks.
So when Hendricks tells me that Charly Bliss “try to write what feels exciting and then tackle how we’re going to pull it off later”, there’s an implication that it cuts both ways – sustaining the spark that made Guppy so effervescent, and fitting the new album’s more spacious, delicate moments into their live set. “Sam [Hendricks, Eva’s brother, and the band’s drummer] and I went to go see Lorde, and when she played 'Liability', it felt like it actually made the big songs feel bigger, to have this moment that was really stripped down.”
Eva credits Melodrama as a significant touchstone for the band’s approach to writing and recording the wild and fluorescent songs that make up Young Enough. “I don’t really think there’s many songs that you could point to of ours that sound like that album, but I think about how much space is in those songs. It communicated how “Capacity” ended up sounding – there’s these really cool textures and sounds that are happening, but there’s so much space around everything, and everything kind of gets its moment. It’s like its own little world.”
As a lead single, “Capacity” is something of a curveball – a synth-drenched shimmer which, even within the rest of Young Enough, sounds like an outlier. “There’s so much space in it, which definitely didn’t happen on the songs from Guppy, which had this manic, non-stop in your face full throttle vibe the whole time” she explains. ‘Capacity’ takes its time to unfold, giving every word and every note the maximum impact. “Spencer was just reminding me yesterday that when we were trying to figure out the right tempo for ‘Capacity’, we were trying to map the tempo of someone walking, which is so not the vibe of our last album.”
"When we’re onstage, I feel the most powerful I ever feel, and part of that is that I’m with three of my best friends doing something that we’ve been dreaming about for so long and never thought would ever happen for us”
For all of its disco strut, the origins of its lyrics came from looking inwards. As someone who seems proactive to a fault, Eva understands that sometimes turning things down works as an act of self-preservation. “My therapist specifically tries to set me up with scenarios where I’ll have to say no – like, send something back at a restaurant,” she laughs. “Because you need practice to get better at setting a boundary. I think it’s a really wonderful thing about getting older – figuring out what your boundaries are with people, and what you need to do in order to keep yourself from going crazy and feeling miserable. You hit certain moments and you think ‘Yeah, this is just not serving me anymore.’”
That might sound heavy on paper, but the band execute it deftly on record, as Hendricks turns her anxieties into a playground chant, her voice soaring in the bridge during one of the album’s most satisfying moments: “Triple overtime ambitious, sometimes nothing is delicious.” The lyrics serve as something of a mantra for the band, particularly Hendricks, to cling to.
“It absolutely helps to sing the songs every night, getting these thoughts that I’m upset about out of my brain and turning it into something really helps. When we’re onstage, I feel the most powerful I ever feel, and part of that is that I’m onstage with three of my best friends doing something that we’ve been dreaming about for so long and never thought would ever happen for us.”
Compared with the somewhat tortured birth of their debut, Charly Bliss allowed themselves nothing but time when making their second album. The quartet decided that one thing which wasn’t serving them anymore was having to divide their time between the band and working nine-to-fives. “When we were working on Young Enough, it was the first time that my day job was actually to write songs all day,” Eva says, laughing at the absurdity of the situation. “So I had way more time to spend to go over everything a million times and ask myself over and over again: ‘Is this the best it could possibly be and the right way of saying it?’”
Some of its songs were debuted as early as their first UK shows in late 2017, albeit in far more revved up form – the frenetic “Under You” appeared on setlists from those shows as “Punkie”, but gets a far more elaborate, considered arrangement in its finished form. Most of the record has been in the can since last since last spring, no mean feat for a band who seem to have been perpetually on tour since then. “By the time Guppy came out, we’d just been so relieved that the album was coming out. Not that I felt disconnected from the songs, but it felt like we’d been put through the ringer. With this, I still feel so attached to these songs and it still feels new to us, in a way. It feels very fresh to us, and a lot of them, we were specifically not playing in front of people because of the synth stuff.”
Still, despite having the luxury of time to analyse her work, nothing on Young Enough sounds laboured over, and every element sounds like a natural evolution from Guppy. To call it a more grown-up or more assured record would be doing the band a disservice. It’s more that their second album sounds like four people who simply know themselves and each other – as individuals, bandmates and musicians – far better than they did the first time out.
Eva thinks of it this way. “I had a very different mindset when we were working on this album. Lyrically, on Guppy, I was very frustrated and sarcastic and angry, and making fun of myself. On Young Enough, it was so important to me to just be as honest as possible and try to present things as they actually felt and happened.”
I ask whether this extends to “Camera”, one of the earliest songs written for the record, and which Eva notes “bridges the gap” between the two albums. It opens with a seemingly mundane line about having your bank details stolen (“Someone used my card to buy a camera in California”), and she cuts me off before I can even finish, giggling as she anticipates how many more times she might have to field this question. “Yes, even the exact dollar amount. I was on hold with TD Bank, my credit card company, while I wrote it. I have a recording of it with my phone on speaker, and I’m trying to record the melody into my iPad, while you can hear the hold music in the background.”
It's astonishing enough that she came up with such a gorgeous melody line while on the phone to her bank, but once Eva got off hold, she quickly spun that initial lyric away from its roots as an ode to financial fraud into some pretty unexpected territory “I’m sure will come as a shock, but I have very little money! But for whatever reason, finding out that someone had taken that much out of my account, and specifically that they bought this one camera, and not just like, clothing or a bunch of alcohol – it felt like they must have really wanted this camera for whatever reason.”
“I let my imagination overthink what had happened – like, wow, the world is so random, and what if there’s this whole movie-length plot that I have no idea about where this person is doing anything they can to make this masterpiece film they otherwise won’t be able to make, because I’m making this phonecall and cancelling the charge. And that train of thought got me thinking about how big the world is, and how random the world feels, and how disconnected from people you can be, and how there are so many different things going on at once that you can never know all about.”
There are two tracks on the album where this Eva’s lyrical honesty is even more plainly felt. You’ve already heard “Chatroom”. Written as a way of processing her experience of being sexually assaulted during a relationship, Eva told Jezebel that it was a “survival mechanism” which allowed her to articulate her anger at her abuser, while “reaching ecstatic joy through [that] consuming rage”.
To me, she simply puts the harrowing story behind the song as “the catalyst” behind many of the record’s lyrics – at once very specific and extremely personal. “I went back and forth so many times about whether or not I wanted to be specific about what the song was about, and how much I wanted to reveal. I wrote the song and I have to be honest about what this is about, and do what’s right for me in the situation.”
It says a lot about her attitude that Eva not only felt comfortable enough to put her experience across in a song – a single, no less – but to turn it into one of the most immediate, accessible pop songs Charly Bliss has ever written. If anything, it’s fitting that a song with such a fragile lyric sounds like a 21st century “Heart Of Glass”.
If "Chatroom" is their "Heart of Glass" then "Young Enough" is their "Born To Run". The whole album is going to mean a lot to some people, but its title track is the one which forms the emotional vortex around which its other ten songs swirl. It’s a song destined to find its way on a tonne of teenage playlists, close dozens of imaginary movies and break a thousand hearts. An intoxicating five-minute epic, you can hear every emotion coursing through every note – a dizzying headrush of intensity, longing and regret. It’s Carly Rae Jepsen on a Springsteen kick, and one of those songs that will have the power to make you cry on public transport.
I hint at how devastating I find the song, which makes Eva laugh and scream “Yes!” with such mock enthusiasm that I can almost hear her punching the air with her free hand. “And you’re English! You’re supposed to be reserved!”
Still, she agrees that it’s a genuinely important song, and admits that she struggles to get through hearing it without welling up herself. “The lyrics are complicated – it’s not about one emotion. It’s revisiting many different emotions and feeling hurt and feeling nostalgic and feeling so many things at once. If ‘Chatroom’ is about the catalyst of what I experienced, “Young Enough” is what it looks like to come out the other end.”
As much as it’s an emotional step forward for Eva as a lyricist, that song in particular is also a quantum leap for Charly Bliss as a band. As with much of the album, "Young Enough" was a co-write with Eva’s brother Sam, the band’s drummer. Still, Eva says that the initial demo for the song took some explaining.
“Sam basically came to me one day and was like ‘I have this idea for a song that has one chord that does not change for the entire song. Other things move around it and other things change, but there will be like, one guitar part just playing the same note all the way through.’ And he said ‘I have a feeling that it’s going to be the best song on the album’ And at the time, I was like “You’re giving me nothing to go off! You’re giving me one chord?’”
The song may be about the same relationship which inspired most of Guppy (though not, it should be pointed out, the same one which inspired “Chatroom”), but comes filtered through the lens of perspective. “I’m someone who journals a lot and keeps diaries,” Eva tells me. “And I was looking back and reading what I was writing through that relationship, and I felt a lot of empathy for both of us. It’s confirming that that relationship was bad and not healthy probably, but also looking back with kindness.”
“I’m totally obsessed with teen dramas like The OC and Riverdale, or like Twilight,” she explains, adopting a melodramatic tone of voice. “On those shows, you’re constantly being presented with these impossible relationships that are, like, so difficult and they shouldn’t work and they kind of don’t but they keep going back because it’s so passionate and even the fact it shouldn’t work makes it more interesting. Like, if you’re fighting for it, that means it’s right, y’know?”
As we’re all guilty of doing at a certain age, Eva bought into the lie hook, line and sinker. “That song is looking back, and being so happy that I don’t think that’s what love is anymore. The line ‘We’re young enough to believe it should hurt this much’ – I could never have a love like that now. It was this feeling of ‘I’m so glad that I’m not there anymore, but we really were two people who really loved each other, and could not get it together’.”
Hendricks pauses, armed with a perspective on her early twenties that she didn’t have at the time, one which is perfectly expressed on her band’s new record. When a laugh breaks the silence, you can hear a weight lift from her. “Growing up is so bizarre.”