How Charly Bliss Learned to Love Pop - Rolling Stone
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How Charly Bliss Learned to Love Pop

Inside the Brooklyn band’s creative leap forward on ‘Young Enough’

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Ebru Yildiz*

Sam Hendricks was at an LCD Soundsystem show in 2017 when the idea hit him. Moved by that band’s dancefloor grandeur, Sam wanted to write something for his group, Charly Bliss, “in the same vein as one of [LCD’s] songs, where they take a basic idea and stretch it out over eight minutes,” the drummer recalls.

Hendricks and his younger sister Eva, Charly Bliss’ lead singer, have a set working process in their band, with Sam often writing the music and Eva writing lyrics. But the new song they began writing after the LCD concert felt different from anything the two had worked on before — a piece of music that “sounded like it would come at the end of a movie,” says Eva. And for the first time ever, Sam gave Eva a single note for her lyrics: As she recalls, he told her “that the lyrics should feel really clear, that it should be really clear what I was singing about.”

The resulting song, “Young Enough,” ended up serving as the centerpiece and title track of the Brooklyn band’s sparkling second album, released last week. With its newfound emotional directness and high-stakes drama, the track marks a promising progression for the quartet, whose other members are guitarist Spencer Fox and bassist Dan Shure. “Young Enough” shows that they are capable of much more than the catchy bubblegum grunge of their buzzy 2017 debut, Guppy, arriving instead at a halfway point between LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” and Lorde’s “Supercut,” with Eva Hendricks meditating on broken-heart wisdoms and youthful misadventure as she narrates her own first-love highlight reel over five minutes of arena-scaled pop-rock.

Much of the material on Young Enough is defined by a fresh sense of emotional distance. Hendricks says that the title track “is about a relationship, the first time that I fell in love. On Guppy, I wrote a lot about that relationship feeling very frustrated and angry or sarcastic. This album brought a heavy dose of perspective…It’s a song about growing up and looking back and [thinking], I can’t believe I bought into that Twilight-era trope of ‘relationships that are the most painful are the most worth it’ — but also, at the same time, feeling gratitude and feeling like I’ve moved on from it.”

That sense of zen acceptance freed her up to widen her lens as a songwriter, diving into heavy subject matter like abuse (“Chat Room”) and generational anxiety (“Capacity”) over the course of the record’s 11 originals. In addition to a switch to a larger-scaled sense of synth-driven pop-rock, Young Enough marks a blossoming and maturation for Hendricks as a songwriter. “Going into our first album, I had very little confidence as a songwriter,” she says. “I had imposter syndrome, and I thought of songwriting as something that would fall from the sky. I thought I would maybe never write another song and it would be a fluke.”

But after a drawn-out process of finding the correct sound for their debut album, Charly Bliss went into their second LP with an intentional plan. They cite two albums in particular — Lorde’s 2017 opus Melodrama and the English indie-pop collective Superorganism’s 2018 self-titled debut — as direct inspirations. “We felt very confident about where we wanted to go, what direction we wanted to move in,” says Eva. “We talked about how we wanted to include different instrumentation than just two guitars, bass and drums.”

As a way of further teasing out the band’s gradual shift away from rock and towards pure pop, Eva Hendricks put down her guitar and began writing new material by toying around with GarageBand keyboards on her iPad. “It just felt like this very entry-level way for me to try out a different palette,” she explains.

Today, Charly Bliss have made a conscious decision to position themselves as pop evangelists, lavishing praise on a range of prototypical millennial influences that range from Kesha and Fountains of Wayne to Rilo Kiley and Weezer. The key breakthrough the group has had creatively over the past few years was a simple one: “just realizing that we loved pop music,” says Eva.

It took Charly Bliss the better part of a decade to arrive on its current self-definition. In its early days, the band cycled through various guises — garage rock, punk, even what they jokingly recall as “Starbucks-core” singer-songwriter folk — before settling on their current blend of glittery, synth-driven pop-rock.

“We tried on a lot of different genres before we settled on the one that, in hindsight, should have been the most obvious,” says Eva. “But it wasn’t obvious to us at the time. Part of being in a band, especially when you’re in a city like New York where there are so many great bands, it makes you feel like you want to fit in to what’s happening in music around you. You can feel really freaked out about where your band is headed if you feel like you don’t fit into that.”

By the time the band first entered the studio to record their debut LP, they were still searching for their proper sound. The band ended up recording that album, Guppy, twice, first as a straightforward garage-rock guitar LP. “The first time we made it, we hadn’t realized who we were as a band,” says Eva. “We hadn’t realized that we are a pop band, that what’s central to our music is this massive feeling of fun.”

“At some point,” adds Fox, “we were just like, ‘We wouldn’t listen to the music we’re currently making. So why don’t we change that?’”

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