By Emma Madden
The joy that left somewhere between your fifth birthday party and puberty never escaped Charly Bliss’s Eva Hendricks. A super extrovert or “total hambone,” as she describes herself, Hendricks is exactly the person you picture when you listen to Charly Bliss’s strain of invigorating, hot-blooded power pop. Born into an encouraging family in a small arts town, she spent most of her out-of-school hours performing musical theater before she ever picked up a guitar. “I would watch the movie Josie and the Pussycats and imagine myself being in that band,” she says. Her face is mostly mouth when she speaks, spread in a constant grin like she’s delivering life-altering news. “I was obsessed with Michelle Branch and the Dixie Chicks, and I was always trying to convince everyone that we had to start a band, even though none of us knew how to play instruments.”
While Hendricks had seen women represented in pop music, she never quite saw herself in them. “Pop stars are almost like aliens,” she says. “They’re not us. In the best way ever.” It wasn’t until she saw Jenny Lewis fronting Rilo Kiley that it occurred to her that she could make her pussycat pipe dream a reality. Meeting Spencer Fox, a former child actor who voiced The Incredibles’ Dash Parr, was the final push. With Fox’s encouragement, Hendricks began writing songs, and finally picked up the guitar.
Charly Bliss formed soon after, with Fox on lead guitar, Hendricks’s brother Sam on drums, and childhood friend Dan Shure on bass. Their debut album, Guppy, landed in 2017, following several painstaking years trying to find their sound. They went through numerous costume changes — garage-rock band, acoustic Starbucks-core outfit — before landing on the resilient pop, and achingly nostalgic rock that, heading into the upcoming release of their second album, Young Enough, now defines Charly Bliss.
Hendricks was still working in a coffee shop — her “favorite job ever, except for this one” — when her band’s first album came out. “Once that tour for Guppy started, I just felt so bad for my coworkers. I kept calling out for months at a time. I was gonna start to lose friends over how often I was having to leave.” The band was in Las Vegas when Hendricks received the text message from her mother telling her: “You cannot keep doing this. You need to be all in.”
The band quit their jobs and began pursuing Charly Bliss full time two weeks into that tour. Now, as they’re preparing for Young Enough, with no day jobs to fall back on, the stakes have never been higher. While Guppy gave the band the opportunity to pursue music full time, Young Enough is the kind of album that could give the band its big break — more fans, bigger venues, an answer on a gameshow. Hendricks is feeling ambitious. “I think all four of us are.” Not ashamed to have high hopes, the band are wanting to push Charly Bliss as far as it will go. “Michelle [Zauner] from Japanese Breakfast always jokes that we’re both super try-hard bands,” Hendricks laughs.
Like Guppy, Young Enough is sorely sentimental but never mawkish. Its highs are earned — “Do you remember walking barefoot against the dark?” Hendricks screams in one such instance. It’s the kind of rush that makes your stomach lurch — like you’re cycling down a tall hill, or about to fall in love.
Hendricks is made of these moments. “Part of it is I have no chill, I’m a super intense person,” she says. “I remember back in high school, I’d become obsessed with one person, and felt like I was madly in love with them. I’d drive around in my car and cry about them, and I remember thinking: No one has ever felt this much, no one knows what this feels like.” That teenage feeling — the one which isolates you in your intensity, as though the whole world’s going down on a sinking ship — has extended into Hendricks’s adult life and Charly Bliss’s latest album.
“If I had to think of one word that totally encompasses all of the lyrical themes of this album, and the process of making it, it would be ‘growth,’” she says.
She call the album’s title track its “lyrical centerpiece,” for that reason. On “Young Enough,” Hendricks refers back to the palmy days of her first love in cinematic detail. “Do you remember walking barefoot against me?” she screams once more, while coming to the grown-up conclusion that despite all of it, it’s better to love well than it is to love hard.
“I think of it as a song that’s about growing up and growing out of buying into the idea that the hardest relationships are the most meaningful,” she says. “Obviously, it was a relationship that would never work for so many reasons, but in comparison to these other experiences that came after, of being with someone who was actually really sinister, and being with someone who was abusive, I’m grateful that that relationship was my blueprint and not something so much darker.”
In conversation, Hendricks still pauses before she shares that she’s been abused and sexually assaulted. She describes the months leading up to the release of “Chatroom,” a song in which she discusses both, as “brutal.”
“It’s something that I’ve been wrestling with for a long time,” she says. “I don’t think that I could have gotten to a place where I could have admitted it to myself, or admitted it to the world and the internet, if it hadn’t have been for other women.”
Hendricks believes that visibility can change the world, just as it’s changed her, whether it was seeing Jenny Lewis in a band, or seeing women tell their stories as part of the #MeToo movement.
“If I felt like I really couldn’t make it out the other end of this, then I hope that I would’ve made that decision to wait until the time felt right,” she says. “I feel really lucky that I have a therapist that I really love.”
As Guppy’s standout song “Ruby” proved, Hendricks’s greatest love songs are to her therapist. Still working with Ruby today, the language of therapy occasionally leaks into Hendricks’s songwriting. “I’m someone who’s very open and I feel like I connect easily with people, and sometimes that means I give a ton of myself, and that’s landed me in some sad situations,” she says. Young Enough is full of lessons learned in hindsight — the importance of setting boundaries; knowing that it’s impossible to truly save someone else; growing old enough to favor stability over intensity.
“It felt to me like the most honest expression of what going through [a breakup] feels like, and that’s like therapy,” she says. “When you can articulate those feelings, you immediately feel like someone gets you, and if other people get this music, then they get you, and if this person who wrote this music can get through, then something as lonely as a breakup doesn’t feel as lonely anymore. In a way, it makes the world bigger for you. That’s my favorite thing about how art works.”
Young Enough is out 5/10 via Barsuk/Lucky Number.