chelsea bleach’s new ep is about friendship, community and dealing with gross dudes on the street

Here’s to celebrating mates, and helping them deal with creeps.

by i-D Staff
22 December 2016, 10:35pm

Melbourne garage five-piece Chelsea Bleach are one solid unit. When together, their infectious musical camaraderie breeds a friendship that makes them seem invincible. Watching them play, the good vibes spill off stage, bathing punters in a sense that maybe we really are all in this together.

Sticking to what they know, their new EP Decent Connections is about community and friendship, tangled with themes of vulnerability and defiance. With all this talk of BFFs we thought we'd try get in on the action, and caught up with Em Gayfer and Bridget Gilmartin to talk about having each other's backs.

Daydreams has this cruisy style with a coastal indie optimism to it. It feels like a Friday night pre drinks soundtrack before you'd hit The Tote. But what does the EP mean for you?
Em: I feel like our band started like that — it wasn't one person wanting to express their own work and getting others to facilitate that — we did it solely to spend with with each other and play together.

So it's about friendship?
Em: Without each other we wouldn't have got into music, it was a way to hang out with each other. We were all learning our instruments when we started the band, and at this time in our lives thinking about how we are connected to each other and how we connect with people outside.

The tracks Shedding Skin and Eat Your Heart Out reveal a more cathartic space in your music. The shared backing vocals suggest a kind of shared experience, is that a fair observation?
Em: From an energy perspective, when we're on stage we all go to a really vulnerable place — I definitely feel like that singing. I wouldn't feel comfortable divulging those feelings in front of other people, but it's because of us being together on that stage that I know if I fell backwards everyone would be there. I feel safe that we're in that together. It feels special, you know?

On the other side of things, Public Safety alludes to more hostile experiences outside of your safe, community bubble.
Em: It came from experiences in the street where I felt like I'd got to this breaking point of feeling harassed and uncomfortable — sick of feeling as if I had no autonomy over my body and myself. People, men, make these comments to you in a way that you just don't exist, you're just up for grabs.

Does the band or the music give you the confidence to navigate that?
Bridget: As a band we've all had that experience. So when we put on shows we are quite active to make sure we don't feel those things and shows are comfortable for our friends or people who want to come. It's giving another space that is separate from those experiences. I feel like on stage we can come into our identity — and know in that space that we've got it.

Em: It does feel like we have each other backs; one guy wanted to give Emma, our bass player, songwriting advice. He was like, "It was great, but…" Then a business card was given out. He was like, "I can give you lessons." Were just like, no way.

Another strength in our band is that we all have similar ideologies so we can stand up for our values pretty well. If I was solo performer I wouldn't feel so comfortable or safe to be like, "Hey, your band name's fucked" or "I don't wanna be on that lineup 'cause it's all white cis men and we're just token."

What's on the bucket list for 2017?
Bridget: We have a video for Shedding Skin by Prani coming out. It's a house party video where we have a lot of projections shining in our eyes. We love playing shows with our friends and community. Global domination and hope to play supports to internationals. We're playing Wetfest 4 and also at Gaytimes Festival, which is exciting — we've never played a big festival before.

'Decent Connections' is out now independently through the Chelsea Bleach Bandcamp. Join the band on 20 January for the video launch of 'Shedding Skin' at The Tote in Melbourne with guests Cable Ties, Kandere, Palm Springs and DJ Sov Trax.


Text Simona Castricum
Photography James Robinson