Bleached make music to listen to in your bedroom, door closed and heart full. Their hazy guitars recall the teenage feelings that still pour into our adult lives. Their first album Ride Your Heart was a 60s pop-soaked ode to the emotional torment of questionable decisions you make all by yourself. They followed it up this year with Welcome the Worms, a more grown up, although not stagnant, affair. The new album is tougher, imprinted with the LA punk scene they call home. It's music for people who are finally starting to get things together, but still find time to lock themselves away with a record and a stomach pitted with longing.
Their empathic approach to life and music have won them waves of dedicated fans who hold them somewhere between best friends and idols. The band themselves are still unfamiliar with this kind of recognition; they exist in that strange place where you're famous enough to bring a fan to tears but find yourself comforting them after the show.
We caught up with Jessie, Jennifer, Micayla and Nick to talk about our feelings.
Ride Your Heart was so embraced that by the time you came to work on Welcome the Worms you would have been playing larger venues, different kinds of gigs. Did that feed into the songs? Were you picturing performing in a different way?
Micayla: It's tricky because you don't want to be too premeditated, like "Oh we want to write a song like this so let's do it." You want it to be really natural. That said I was doing it recently because we have played a lot of big festival stages and I want that moment where everyone jumps like this, what's that song?
Jessie: The clapping part?
Micayla: Right! You don't want to get too down that anthem road but it's fun when you get the whole crowd going and you can feel what they want.
Are you ever surprised by who comes up to you and says, "I love your music or I love your band?"
Jen: We had two crying girls recently, that was pretty cool.
Jessie: That was unexpected, like, wow, this is so emotional. It made us a little emotional as well.
Micayla: She was with her mum.
That's so lovely. What's it like to be in a moment like that, where you know this stranger is having a seminal experience?
Jessie: If you only know me through my music and social media, then meet me in real life and I'm like, kinda just a nerd, you'd be super disappointed.
Jen: Right, they've only encountered your internet self so it's like, "who do you think I am?"
Do you ever cry at other people's gigs?
Jessie: I cried at a Stevie Nicks concert. It's the only time I ever cried at a show.
Micayla: I cried three times on the plane here because I was watching Babe.
Jen: Do you cry through music performances?
Micayla: Yeah sometimes. There is a really cheesy moment, I shouldn't say...I'm a huge Beatles fan and we went to Hamburg and did a self guided Beatles tour. I sat in a club they spent a lot of time in and I was just overwhelmed by the emotion of it. When you have a band that changes your life completely, your emotions run away when you're encountering it.
Do you get many people reaching out to you and saying your music has had that effect on them?
Jen: Yeah, people message us like, "Oh my god your lyrics are helping me through this time in my life right now." That's really cool.
Jessie: Jen's lyrics even help me out! I was going through a breakup when we were working on music and I just started crying to her lyrics I was like, 'Oh my god this is so sad'.
Micayla: That happened to me too! We've played Dead In Your Head so many times, I sing with her on it so I just know it by heart, but I went through a breakup and all I could think about was, "That song means so much!"
What's it like from the other side Jen, is it hard to get up there and perform these deeply personal songs night after night?
Jen: It goes like back and forth. Most of the time I'm like, "Oh my god, I'm so glad I'm not in that place anymore."
This whole album feels like that; like you've let go of the toxic relationships that fed Ride Your Heart and you're feeling good about being an adult and getting your shit together.
Micayla: Yeah, and that's part of respecting yourself. It's a transition that everyone has to go through where you've been living a life you thought meant all these things and then you reassess and go "What is really important to me? What's holding me back? What are my personal obstacles?"
Do you feel freer now?
Jen: Yeah, I feel like now there's a new chapter with new obstacles. But not involving a lot of drinking and drugs does help. You're self medicating and then you realise, "I'm just making life harder." I'm actually sober now and I'm so much happier than I was before.
Micayla: It's about figuring out how to get those highs into your life without it being unhealthy.
Jen: The biggest highs are when we're on stage. Even having like a stressful day of travel and everything, the show is going to be such an exciting and magical time. Also I have a dog that I love so much!
How do you look after yourself on tour to keep up all these fresh positive vibes?
Nick: Mindful meditation. I have this app on my phone, it's super cool, it tells you to calm down and be aware of your body.
Jen: Remembering to breathe is helpful and trying to sleep whenever you get a chance.
Jessie: I feel like it's helpful to have such a tight group of people. We're all really respectful of what each other do.
Jen: And as hectic as it is, I would way rather be doing this than working a 9 to 5 like I was before. When I get stressed out I'm like, it's fine, at least I'm not working at American Apparel.
Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Ben Thomson