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Pop-Punk Band Bleached Welcomes The Darkness With Its New Album 

Wednesday, Apr 27 2016
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Sometime toward the end of last year, Bleached's singer-songwriter Jennifer Clavin and her friends wandered around Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles — after eating psychedelic mushrooms. It was around 9 a.m., and the park in northeast L.A. was already bustling with activity.

Geese patrolled the sloping hills for crumbs and leftovers, as vendors hawking corn-on-the-cob and bacon-wrapped hot dogs started setting up shop for the day. Hipsters seeking cold-brew iced coffee and $3 dog treats waited in line in front of the cafe at the boathouse, and mothers in floppy hats pushed strollers around the lotus-filled lake.

Their senses heightened from the psilocybin, Clavin and her friends wandered the one-mile perimeter of the man-made lake, fascinated by the commotion and bizarre cast of characters.

"It's really insane being on mushrooms at that time of day at that location," Clavin said in a drawling, extended vocal fry.

The morning peaked when they stumbled upon a couple handing out free zines with cut-and-paste text and imagery about Jesus. As Clavin flipped through one, she noticed a page emblazoned with the phrase "Welcome The Worms." And she laughed. Through her magic mushroom–fogged brain, she knew she had just found the title for her band's upcoming album.

"I was like, 'Holy fuck. That totally explains this album to me,' " she says. "It was so ridiculous, but I knew I had to use it."

Welcome The Worms, Bleached's upbeat second album of pop-rock, was released on April 1. Though it is sprinkled with hints of punk and heaps of guitar, its instrumentals — created by bassist Micayla Grace and guitarist Jessica Clavin, Jennifer's younger sister — belie the album's dark origins.

Throughout the entirety of the writing and recording process, the Clavin sisters struggled with their own personal dramas. Evicted from her Los Angeles apartment, Jessica started living in her windowless practice space. Meanwhile, Jennifer, who had been in a long-term, emotionally abusive relationship, was struggling with depression and a crippling addiction to drugs and alcohol. She would stay up all night partying and taking drugs and then roll into the studio the next day high and exhausted. Said Jennifer: "Life got real."

By the time the album was finished in mid-2015, both sisters had miraculously sorted their lives out. Jessica was no longer homeless, and Jennifer, realizing how far she'd plummeted, got clean with help from her friends and family.

Welcome The Worms is a reflection of this tumultuous period and is self-described as the band's most personal and introspective work to date.

"It's about embracing the dark side of life and realizing that without the bad, we wouldn't know when things were good," Jennifer said. "It's about accepting that people you love will pass away, your pet will die, you'll get a parking ticket, and you'll have a pimple on the day of your first date. That's just part of life and it's all beautiful."

Jennifer and Jessica grew up in Northridge, an L.A. neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley about 20 miles north of downtown. The sisters started playing bass and guitar at a young age and credit living in the suburbs with their early dedication to music.

"I feel like the isolation made Jen and I play music all day because we didn't have cars and we didn't have anywhere to go," Jessica said. "So we'd just sit in our garage and play."

In 2003, when they were 13 and 15 years old, they started a garage-punk band called Mika Miko that became so successful — landing them copious mentions in music publications, a cameo in a documentary, and tours in Europe and Japan — that Jessica dropped out of high school. (Jennifer had already graduated.) For seven years Mika Miko operated as a quintet until the other members of the band decided they wanted to do other things with their lives, like attend college.

It was then that the sisters realized they wanted to dedicate their lives to music.

"When I was younger, I was never like, 'One day, I'm going to be in a rock 'n' roll band,' " Jennifer said. "But after Mika Miko broke up, I was like, 'Wait, this is what I want to do: play music.' "

Looking back on Mika Miko, the Clavins are grateful that they had the chance to figure out their sound and try new things before starting Bleached.

Jennifer: "We always say, 'Everyone needs their first band.' "

Jessica: "Yeah, if we never broke up, I would feel like I was still dating my first boyfriend."

In addition to Welcome The Worms and the band's upcoming tour (their first in two years), 2016 has marked another milestone for Bleached: They now have their own set of emojis. For $1.99, fans have their choice of 30 different Bleached-themed emoticons that include the faces of both sisters, as well as Grace's, a heart-shaped pepperoni pizza, heart-shaped sunglasses, electric guitars, black hearts, and five black poodles.

Though it wasn't their idea — the band was approached by the company Emoji Fame — it came at just the right time. Not only was their album about to drop, but Jessica, who had previously only owned a flip phone, had just purchased her first smartphone.

"I remember when I didn't have an iPhone, the one thing I really wanted was to be able to type emojis," said Jessica, who went from being the bandmate with the most rudimentary phone to the one with the newest, most up-to-date phone. "So when they came to us with the idea, I was like, 'OMG, yes.' "

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Jessie Schiewe

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