Eva Hendricks on Charly Bliss' new album Young Enough
Ahead of the release of her band’s second album Young Enough, Eva Hendricks of Charly Bliss talks about purging toxicity from your life and finding strength in pop music
Two years ago, Eva Hendricks, the unstoppable rolling Crash Bandicoot boulder dash of joy and energy at the centre of Brooklyn’s Charly Bliss, nursery rhymed: 'I’m four years above sixteen / I bounced so high, I peed the trampoline / I’m too sad to be mean / I’m gonna end up working at Dairy Queen'. She captured something of the existential dread of the future, an unknown that youth was hurtling towards at speed.
On the opening track to the band’s second full album, it’s not immediately clear how much has changed: 'I don’t know what’s coming for me after 24'. But then, in the same breath, Hendricks almost mockingly opines, 'It’s gonna break my heart to see it blown to bits'. This is not a person tragically mourning a past, fearful of what’s next; it’s someone stepping into what’s to come while leaving behind a trail of rubber severed limbs and fake blood. A life blown to bits.
That phrase, which lends itself to the title of the first song on Young Enough, is a simultaneously hilarious and gory image that perfectly sums up Hendricks’ wonderfully tactile way with words. If it was already obvious that she is gifted with searing wit, what’s new here, or simply realised, is a confidence and sense of purpose.
"I kind of always doubted myself as a songwriter. I didn’t take myself seriously and I thought, at any moment, I might never write a song again. Every time I did, it felt like a fluke, something that fell from the sky," Hendricks admits on a call from Manhattan. "I’m someone who puts a ton of pressure on myself to be the best, and often that can make a person feel like actually they are the worst at everything. When Guppy came out I had to accept that on one hand I am actually good at this and also, on some level, I’m kind of meant to be doing this."
Charly Bliss came together naturally at a young age – the band’s drummer Sam is Hendricks’ brother, guitarist Spencer Fox met bassist Dan Shure at a summer camp and the latter had already bonded with Hendricks over their mutual love of musical theatre – but their tight-knit relationship and long-established interconnectedness is essential to the characteristics that mean Young Enough is both a stylistically, and emotionally-resonant, step forward for the band.
Their closeness provided the basis, and one of the biggest stumbling blocks, to Hendricks’ decision to create an album inspired by some of her darkest and most traumatic personal experiences. "When I’m writing, it feels like a very private moment," she explains. "It didn’t hit me at the time that I would have to talk about this stuff, or that I would have to figure out whether I wanted to be honest or open about the subject matter. Then I realised like, 'Oh, we’re going to start releasing these songs' and I guess I had to make a decision about whether I wanted to be vague or directly speak to it."
On Chatroom, a gleaming pop sucker punch that socks you in the heart well into the album’s second half, Hendricks does that talking directly, frankly describing the aftermath of an abusive relationship and being sexually assaulted. In fact, the whole record is about purging toxic relationships and putting yourself first (as on standouts Hard to Believe and Capacity). But rather than dwelling on the rage and anguish that such an experience might cause to fester, Hendricks deftly captures the cathartic feeling of not only physically walking away from that toxicity, but mentally banishing it, channelling those emotions into something ecstatic and making her specific rendering of that feel universal.
"I think it brought me to a new place of, for want of a better word, closure, or acceptance of this really brutal experience that I was still coming out the other end of. It forced me to talk about it in more detail with my loved ones and the band, to prepare them for this being all over the internet," she says. "I really didn’t want this song to be like," she puts on a grave voice, "'and this is the song about sexual assault'.
"If you haven’t been through that, you can’t relate. It’s so important for people to have their own experience with the song and insert their own narrative. I know that’s what I do. When I listen to music I’m always like 'I know this song is written about me. Like I know that Taylor Swift wrote it, but she must’ve written it about me because it’s exactly what I’m going through'. And I love that. With Chatroom, it’s more so a celebration of your own personal autonomy and breaking free from things that are totally dragging you down."
The content and manner of Hendricks’ answers over the phone are revealing: to talk about events so deeply personal, that she concedes she's "still kind of working through", to a stranger, while out shopping with her mum, marks her immense generosity. And that extends to her connection with the listener, which seems integral to her decision to splay her feelings out in song. "I always try to be personal in my writing. As a listener, that’s the kind of music I respond to: someone saying the thing they probably couldn’t say any other way, that they couldn’t just say in a conversation, and couldn’t really articulate it at all, unless they were putting it into this world of a song.
"On Guppy I was really angry and I felt like a lot of the time I would get close to saying something that was very revealing but then I would avoid it, or do a fake out, by instead saying something that was a funny or sarcastic version of what I meant. And I think I was making fun of myself a lot and singing as a caricature of myself. This time it was intensely important to me to be very honest, even if it felt embarrassing or difficult. When I felt like I had said what I was getting at, I made myself go one step further."
Charly Bliss have never not been a pop band in some way. But Young Enough sees them embrace it. For Hendricks and her bandmates, that progression is deeply honest – pop music is what they love and gravitate towards in their own listening – and vitally important in aiding her to frame the most intensely dark aspects of her life so far. "Pop music makes me feel strong, and my memories of it from growing up are of being with my friends, driving around in my car, feeling invincible, that everything was fine and nothing else mattered other than that moment. And I think I really needed that context to talk about some of the more personal subject matter on this album."
Charly Bliss have an uncannily natural tendency to tap into the grey areas between conflicting emotions: the similarities between crying and dancing, laughing and being scared, finding strength in feeling ripped apart. And it’s what makes them an act to treasure in your own moments of upheaval. As Hendricks puts it: "It really helped to write from a perspective of strength rather than of feeling defeated. And the truth was that I didn’t ever feel defeated by what happened. I think that’s so important – even though we touch on these topics, ultimately it’s a triumphant feeling album, and I’m really proud of that. Pop music makes you feel larger than life and I wanted to use it to make people feel strong in the same way I made myself."
Young Enough is released on 10 May via Lucky Number