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It's Cool To Care: Charly Bliss And A Love Of Pop Songs

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Shervin Lainez

Charly Bliss have a foot in two camps.

From the outside, they’re a young band a few months on from the release of their first record. Inside, though, they’re itching to make up for lost time. That’s why their sets on their current UK tour - their first shows outside the US - will contain a rotating cast of new songs being road tested.

As immediate, sugary and satisfying as their debut LP,‘Guppy’, is, its construction was a tortuous process that involved the album being recorded, scrapped, re-written and recorded again. Along the way, they learned exactly what they wanted the band to represent and precisely how they should sound.

“Hearing it sound wrong was more educational than anything could have been for us,” vocalist and guitarist Eva Hendricks says, sat on an L-shaped sofa at Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach with her brother, Sam, the band’s drummer, bassist Dan Shure and guitarist Spencer Fox.

Charly Bliss are among a growing number of indie and punk-derived bands cribbing from a scholarly approach to pop songwriting. ‘Guppy’ is a goldmine of memorable hooks and buoyant, fuzzy energy topped off by Hendricks’ ebullient delivery, and that approach isn’t going to change any time soon. “We’re not a garage band,” she says. “We’re a pop band, before anything else.”

It is fiendishly difficult to write a great pop song, though, which is perhaps why ‘Guppy’ took three years to piece together. Its follow up will be out as soon as humanly possible if the band have their way, and that’s going to be made achievable by the musical shorthand developed during that period of wiping the board clean over and over.

“The centre of what makes us good is songwriting,” Shure says. “Having strong songs. Even if we change the language of the sound and vocabulary of how we’re doing it, the core of it is going to be a strong song. It’s going to have our voice.”

Like the best moments on ‘Guppy’, the three new songs they roll out in Cardiff are direct and richly melodic. They’re also well received. In their current iterations (liable to change in a later phase described by Sam as “trimming the fat”) they are slightly more preppy in presentation and bolstered by addictive four-part harmonies. Even at this early stage they are largely pristine.

“That is what we strive for,” Eva says. “We’re naturally competitive people and there’s something about pop writing that lends itself to that mindset. We want to be the best. Not even compared to other bands. We want to write the song that if we heard it we’d be like...fuuuuuuuccckkkk. I think we all have respect for the craft of pop songwriting. There was a time when we were ashamed of how much we appreciate it.

“That first time when we scrapped the record is when that went out of the window. We shouldn’t be hiding what we do best and what we love. People think we sound like the ‘90s. We think we sound like Fountains of Wayne. We want a song that’s going to be played at Bar Mitzvahs for the rest of the century.”

Prior to the lights going down in Cardiff the music thudding through the PA changed. As Hendricks and Fox sorted their pedals out the night’s pop-punk soundtrack was replaced by Robyn’s Dancing on My Own. The pair sang along, Fox even chucking in a couple of fist pumps. Hendricks, meanwhile, wore an Abba shirt on stage. They know what they like and these days they’re happy to tell you about it.

“We can all agree on what we do and don’t appreciate in music and I know for a fact that none of us want to be standing at a fucking show listening to a 12 minute jam,” Hendricks says. “I want songs to be tight and hit you hard.

“In every area of life it’s just so much cooler to care. Being in a band gets a reputation, like we must just party all the time or whatever, but it’s a really hard job. It’s a job where there’s always alcohol present, so I see where that comes from, but I would say it’s also the most physically and emotionally taxing job I’ve ever had. I respect bands that take it seriously.”

Charly Bliss have two chunks of touring to come that will take them through to early next year. During their downtime they’ll get back to work on the new songs and “trim the fat” on others. They plan on working fast and the goal is to land at a particular pop sweet spot: same but different.

“I personally hate it when a band I love comes out with something 100% different,” Hendricks says. “There have been times when I’ve been a total hater. I hope it’s the best of both. It feels like there’s more direction than ever and the writing feels more concentrated than it’s ever been.

“Previously we’d go months without writing a new song. This has been like bootcamp. Ultimately we’re a band that works better under pressure. When we feel like there’s all the time in the world we’ll take all the time in the world.”

There’s one small interruption from Fox. “Fun bootcamp,” is all he has to add.

'Guppy' is out now on Barsuk.

Charly Bliss Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed September 13 2017 - LONDON Old Blue Last
Fri September 15 2017 - LIVERPOOL Studio 2
Sat September 16 2017 - LEEDS Headrow House
Sun September 17 2017 - GLASGOW Hug and Pint
Tue September 19 2017 - MANCHESTER Eagle Inn
Wed September 20 2017 - BIRMINGHAM Sunflower Lounge

Click here to compare & buy Charly Bliss Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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