“I look like a superhero,” says Eva Hendricks, speaking on her touring outfits for NY-based pop rock band Charly Bliss. She talks about of the power of creating a persona for performances with more than a hint of amusement. “In my wildest dreams, I want to be descending from the heavens, wearing a ginormous tutu and like, spreading glitter all over the crowd.”
Frankly, she’s not that far off. As the lead singer for New York-based pop-rock band Charly Bliss, Hendricks is known for her contained explosions of stagewear — on their most recent tour, she took the stage swathed in a gravity-defying tutu, a shell bra top, and eye glitter generous enough to be a drag show Venetian mask.
During their Oakland performance, Hendricks grinned through the glitter like she could barely contain her joy, bouncing her way through old and new songs alike as fellow band members Dan Shure, Spencer Fox, and her brother Sam Hendricks gamely supported her enthusiasm in nondescript white outfits reflective of the ones seen in the band’s video for “Young Enough,” the titular song off their most recent album.
Glitter is a beloved motif for Hendricks, even if she introduced older hit “Glitter” with a curt, “this is a song about someone I hate,” drawing laughs from the tightly packed crowd at The New Parish. The sparkly purplish backdrop behind the stage was a new addition for this tour, another step towards Hendricks’s prophesied Glitter Witch decent from on high.
Beyond stagewear and set pieces, the Oakland show was surprising for many reasons. While Young Enough is synth-y at turns, sparkling at others, and plain sweeping during at its central turning point, the live arrangements were crunchier and more guitar-focused, giving the sense that you were at a very, very polished garage show, albeit one with a shockingly sober and good-natured audience. “Something we cared so much about on this tour was upping our game,” Hendricks says. “We never want it to feel like we’re playing [the song] exactly how it sounds on the album. But kind of like the live show brings something new to what you’re hearing at home, and brings it to life even more. I want our shows to feel like a huge release.”
“I think that the best way to encourage everyone to, you know, participate,” Hendricks emphasizes, “is to make a total fool of yourself.”
Perhaps Hendricks may feel comical at times, but her on-stage emotion seems exceptionally genuine. Despite the glitter and bombast, her face is incredibly expressive, shifting through a parade of emotions from song to song, note to note. And there’s nothing skit-like or rehearsed about it — in fact, the level of intensity Hendricks and the rest of the band summoned to perform “Hurt Me,” a killer slow-burn with a chorus that can be read as an entreaty or a warning (you don’t wanna hurt me/you don’t wanna hurt me baby), gave the impression that we were watching the song be performed live for the first time.
According to Hendricks, the band was looking to create a “tight little world” for their sophomore effort. “All my favorite albums kinda feel that way,” she elaborates, citing Lorde’s Melodrama as a major inspiration, with its strong color palette, moody visuals, and focused lyrical theme. The band also looked to Carly Rae Jepsen and Superorganism for musical inspiration. As for lyrical inspiration, the influences are fairly unexpected: The Roaches, Loudon Wainwright, Bruce Springsteen, Kate Bush. “Usually what’s inspiring to me lyrically is really [the opposite] or sometimes left or right of what is inspiring me sonically,” Hendricks says. Her lyrical process for Young Enough was also a departure from her experience writing Guppy, the band’s first full-length, which they recorded twice.
“I think I didn’t really know how to write a song in any other mood other than being really angry at someone,” Hendricks says of Guppy, most of which was about a tumultuous college relationship. Said relationship makes another appearance on Young Enough, but this time with a notable difference in outlook: “On this record, I think the overwhelming mood was just of perspective and looking back with kindness, or looking back with the ability to put the blame in the right place.”
Yet that rage-filled back catalogue was an essential step in getting Hendricks where she is today as a lyricist. “I think it took me a really long time to be confident as a songwriter,” she explains. “Putting out Guppy was sort of the first glimpse I had of like, oh, I guess I can actually do this. And I guess I’m kind of good at it, if people can listen to these songs — especially lyrically — and relate to them. That’s sort of like having a magic power that I haven’t really allowed myself to feel proud of yet.”
Peeling away the anger surrounding any difficult situation is a Herculean task, but if Hendricks hadn’t been willing to do so for Young Enough, we would be looking at a very different record. Listening to the titular song is comparative to watching an unfurling scroll; Hendricks flings her old relationship to the skies, but what comes tumbling down is a story of, if not unfettered gratitude, than something close to it: You were still just a kid/you’re a beautiful boy/crushing cigarettes just to prove a point, she sings. The whole song is the answer to the questions we’ve all written in our journals, in a letter, in a text to a friend: Why did I do this? Why did I put up with it, and for so long? The pithiest version of the answer arrives during the bridge: We’re young enough/to believe it should hurt this much. “Of all the lyrics I’ve ever written,” Hendricks says, “I’m most proud of that song.”
Hendricks’ recent experience with a sexually and emotionally abusive partner makes Young Enough the story of another kind of relationship, too. “Chatroom” and “Hurt Me” are the easiest to point to when looking for direct references, but inspiration is never a simple A to B equation. Trauma is intangible, healing endlessly complex, but fortunately Hendricks was able to find strength in both the creation of this album and its release to the world. “When you keep something inside, and you try to push it down, it has so much more control over you than when you are open and willing to talk through it and connect with other people through it and kind of turn pain into something sparkly,” Hendricks explains. But while she may have learned this now, it doesn’t mean she always knew there was anything good waiting on the other side.
“Before the record came out, I definitely felt so unsure and spent a lot of sleepless night night wondering if I was losing my mind for — and my family sometimes wondering if I was losing my mind for — wanting to be so open about the subject matter. But you know, I don’t regret anything,” she says. “I think that when I’m writing records, it’s so important to me that I’m just in conversation with myself. And reflecting on my own growth and on things that I hate about myself, things that I am learning to like about myself, things I’m proud of, things I’m ashamed of. Because I think if I start to think too hard about other people, and how they’ll perceive what I’m writing about, that it will cause me to limit myself.” It was only by working under this philosophy that Hendricks was able to complete the album in the first place: “I didn’t really think much about what it would feel like to do press about some of the most personal and private experiences of my life. And I’m really grateful that I didn’t, because I probably wouldn’t have written the songs if I had.”
For Hendricks, one of her main takeaways after the album was released was what happens to shame when you finally unhook it from its resting place inside your chest. “It becomes bigger than you. And that’s a really wonderful experience when something feels so all consuming, something like shame and guilt. When you make something that’s bigger than you and helpful to other people… shame and guilt are kind of powerless in the face of that joy and that positivity.”
Joy is certainly a palpable feeling on this album, even when the lyrics go dark. Album opener “Blown to Bits” sets this tone with confidence; the song is at turns a catalog of small moments of joy (you’re light as a feather, astronomically huge/laughing out loud in your bathing suit) and the creeping sense that those moments can’t possibly last. The chorus is one that you will find yourself chanting in your car, yelling at your friend across the hall, pounding through your head as you furiously stomp your way up a hill, thinking back on all the times you knew destruction was imminent, but you plunged forward anyway.
Sell it for parts, I’m asking for more/I don’t know what’s coming for me after 24, Hendricks sings. She may not be a fortune teller, but with each album, she is building another tome of personal narrative, one that can be spread far and wide and then spooled back in for her to peruse at her own leisure. “It’s kind of really crazy [to be] putting out albums, especially throughout your 20s, where I feel like every year you change so much,” Hendricks says. “It feels like this weird decade of extreme and expedited growth. It’s kind of cool to have this marker of all of that, and to be able to look back and be like, oh, I thought I had it all figured out then.”
“I hope my life continues to feel that way,” she elaborates. “Obviously, I hope for peace and to be at peace with myself. But I love looking back like, ‘oh no, I would never let someone treat me like that again, I would never fall into that trap again.’ And then having that blown up in your face, too. And be like, ‘oops, well, I did.’ It’s just kind of really interesting to look back on personal growth and to have such a defined marker and microcosm of that that’s also very public.”
Hendricks’s care for her fans and their experience with Charly Bliss’s music is apparent, but, when it comes down to it, it’s the thought of young Eva’s opinion that keep Hendricks on her toes. “I think everyone is kind of fated to write for their younger self,” she says. “I had the same three best friends my whole life – still really, my best friends. What would make us freak out to listen to in the car when we would drive around when we were sixteen? Like, would we like the Charly Bliss record?”
I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that they would.
Charly Bliss is on tour through mid-November; see dates below and follow the band on Facebook for more updates.
CHARLY BLISS TOUR DATES:
9/18-22 – Lincoln, NE @ Lincoln Calling
10/7 – Victoria, BC @ Capitol Ballroom ~
10/8 – Vancouver, BC @ Vogue Theatre ~
10/9 – Vancouver, BC @ Vogue Theatre ~
10/11 – Calgary, AB @ MacEwan Hall ~
10/13 – Saskatoon, SK @ Coors Event Centre ~
10/14 – Winnipeg, MB @ The Garrick Centre ~
10/17 – Kingston, ON @ The Ale House ~
11/4 – Brighton, UK @ Patterns
11/5 – Cardiff, UK @ 10 Feet Tall
11/6 – London, UK @ Scala
11/7 – Manchester, UK @ The Deaf Institute
11/8-10 – Benidorm, ES @ Primavera Weekender
11/14 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry *
* w/ Emily Reo
^ w/ CHVRCHES
~ w/ PUP