Charly Bliss, a Brooklyn band composed of four old friends, recorded their debut record twice. The spritely, irresistible Guppy, brimming with power-punk grime and poppy abandon, is out now on Barsuk, but the band's first swing at a debut actually happened two years ago.
"We didn't really know who we were as a band yet," says frontwoman Eva Hendricks. But there was something else missing for the four-piece, rounded out by Hendricks's older brother Sam (drums), Spencer Fox (guitar) and Dan Shure (bass). "It never really seemed like we quite fit in with a sub-scene within the larger New York scene," Sam says. "I think we were kind of horrified to feel like we didn't fit in," Eva adds.
That realization came slowly to the band, who were in some denial about their musical tendencies. "For a long time, we were like, 'We're a punk and indie band,'" Eva says. Their catchier instincts were merely couched in different syntax. "We'd be like, 'The recordings need to sound more fun,'" she explains, "which translates ultimately to poppier."
Drawing out that thread set them on a new course, one that spotlighted their pop tendencies instead of shunning them. "Instead of thinking, 'This is a weakness, how do we improve on it?' we embraced it and said, 'Maybe this is something where we can separate ourselves,'" Sam explains.
Eva and Sam were friends with Fox and Shure for years before they came together as Charly Bliss. For a long time, the mutual touchstone between them was Weezer, but time together has rubbed off. "All of our tastes have changed a lot, and we all have a hand in that," Shure comments.
"All of my best memories of listening to music are screaming along to pop songs in my car with friends," Eva recalls, a ritual serves two functions: a jovial burst of bright-eyed energy, and the freedom of pure, unbridled personal expression. The brilliance of Guppy is its positioning of her ultra-candid confessionals with breezy, serotonin-pumping pop punk jams.
While it's an apt mirror for the band in general, Eva notes there's a clear layer of autobiography to the juxtaposition; she's well-versed in the nagging discomfort of being idealized as a carefree bubble of sunshine and glee while combatting some very serious issues internally. "Often people are like, 'She's so bubbly and happy!'" she says. "The music upfront sounds very happy and poppy, and then it's a cool surprise to listen in and be like, 'The lyrics are kind of extreme and sad and come from a tough place.'"
That clever, if unintentional, repurposing of the pop scheme is what makes Charly Bliss's music a cathartic, provocative and jubilant exercise in self-acceptance and self-love. Eva is shouting out the things we're too nervous to talk about openly; in doing so, she's giving us an outlet for that anxiety, erasing our shame and inviting us out for a drink.
The band's tastes might not always be in perfect sync, but that's part of what makes Charly Bliss so remarkable and endearing; they're a ramshackle collection of influences and sounds, sewn together into a delightful weave of hyper, memorable melodies. They all agree on what makes a song good, and to them it's simple: a song that gets stuck in your head. "A song that you hear for the first time, and you need to hear it again," Fox says.
"We love that moment where you're listening to a song," Eva says, "and suddenly you're like" — all four shout in dramatic chorus — "FUUUUUCK!" The room collapses into laughter. "What feels better than that?" Eva poses rhetorically. "Nothing feels better than that."