Jennifer Clavin of Bleached: "Trump Being President Is a Blessing in Disguise"

Nicole Anne Robbins
Jennifer and Jessica Clavin of Bleached have been touring musicians in various bands since they were teenagers. Throughout their career, people keep asking them the same three questions:

1. “What is it like to be girls in a band?”

2. “How is it to be all women in a band?”

3. “Are you rebelling against the system by being an all-girl band?”

For the record, the sisters have never been in an all-girl band. They never wanted to make a statement about women in music.

But the questions kept coming — even after Bleached, who also include Micayla Grace and Nick Pillot, created Welcome the Worms, an acclaimed and intensely personal record about getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship.

“One time, I listed my top five favorite musicians, and the lady could not believe I did not list one female musician,” Jennifer recalls. “I feel like I am being given a gold star when I talk about being a girl in a band. It’s totally insulting to me.”

Jennifer was sick of letting people turn her artistic expression into a novelty. Those frustrations were channeled into the title track on the Los Angeles’ quartet’s latest release Can You Deal? as well as a self-published zine of the same name.

She was curious about the experiences of other musicians in similar positions and reached out them. The response was bigger than she expected. Musicians Liz Phair, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast shared personal examples of how their gender impacted their artistic story for the project. Proceeds from the zine went to Planned Parenthood.

Both the EP and the zine have raised awareness about gender inequality in music — an issue older than rock 'n' roll itself. While Pillot listened in, Jennifer and Jessica took a few minutes from Bleached’s busy touring schedule to discuss finding peace of mind and creating awareness in the age of Trump.

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Nicole Anne Robbins
New Times: Welcome the Worms was written after getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship. You said lost yourself and then you became found. What did you discover about you?
Jennifer: I feel like no matter what people are going through, you get lost in that and question whether you like the pain. I felt like I was drowning in my pain but was into it. Then I would go to the desert and reflect. I would write songs about it. I eventually realized I had to stop drinking and doing drugs. It was a really unhealthy cycle of drinking and partying. In Los Angeles, it is really easy to get sucked into that lifestyle. That is how you meet the really unhealthy people you end up dating.
Jessica: Misery loves company.
Jennifer: Exactly! I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I realized I needed to figure out what was going on. I obviously haven’t figured out all the answers, but I feel like I am a little bit closer to finding peace of mind.

Did you have to go through a program or did you do it on your own?
Jennifer: I did it on my own, but I had the help of my dad and sober people in LA.
Jessica: I actually did go through a program recently. I watched Jen get sober. I knew it was coming for me one day too. I wanted to take [music] more seriously and play better on stage. I did an actual rehab program and did sober living.

Congratulations! Was your family really supportive?
Jennifer: My dad has been in the program for over 35 years. When I knew I needed help, I called my dad. It’s funny because when you talk to people, they have a similar story. When you really need help, you call your parents because you don’t want to admit to them you have a substance abuse problem. I spent 12 years of my life hiding it from them acting like the perfect daughter, but then the day comes when you need help. My dad was totally cool. He took me to a meeting. I was still drunk. My hair was dark purple. I looked like shit.

There’s that line in “Hollywood, You Did It All Wrong” on Welcome the Worms where you sing “Growing up, I had models / Where are they now?” The zine Can You Deal? enabled you to find them. What was that like?
Jennifer: I got to know Hayley Williams through the zine. She’s a total inspiration to me now. The version I knew of her was what the media was throwing in my face. Now that I’ve had these e-mail conversations with her, she’s just a cool person. I’m glad to know she exists and so many people look up to her.

Do you think you would have created the zine a year ago?
Jennifer Clavin: I think now with Trump as our president [the zine] is opening a lot of eyes. Everyone is realizing we need to speak up because we got a little bit too comfortable. Trump being president is a blessing in disguise because we needed our asses to be kicked and keep working for the future.

Do you think that the zine shifts the focus away from the art you are creating with Bleached?
Jennifer Clavin: That is what I was first worried about when I decided to do it. I don’t want this to be what Bleached is known for. Since it is just one EP and every interview we’ve done has been super productive and enjoyable, I think now the next record we can do whatever we want to do. We don’t have to continue with this subject.
Jessica Clavin: It’s important to step out of your comfort zone a little bit to start seeing some changes.

Bleached is scheduled to perform Wednesday, May 3, at Valley Bar.
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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil