In 2019, the lines between genres are more blurred than ever – and music lovers are all the better for it. Case in point: Charly Bliss, the Brooklyn four-piece who leaned into their love of anthemic pop music and produced their acclaimed sophomore album, Young Enough.
Charly Bliss’ talent for sticky melodies and good hooks was already evident in 2017 on Guppy, their rawer full-length debut. But for Young Enough, the self-proclaimed “bubblegrunge” band decided to properly embrace pop – and in the process, challenge themselves as musicians, as frontwoman Eva Hendricks explains.
“I think we’re all really obsessed with pop music,” she tells Guitar.com. “It felt really exciting to push ourselves and try working in a genre where we were a little bit in over our heads. We were working with synths, really, for the first time, and were trying to mess up our guitar sounds to sound like synths. I think that was really good for us, to push us creatively.”
With producer Joe Chiccarelli by their side, Charly Bliss experimented – especially with pedals – while in the studio for Young Enough. Guitarist Spencer Fox landed on a standout unit that would become a live essential for the band: the Meris Enzo synth pedal. “We were really concerned that we might have to add a fifth member in order to play all the different parts,” Hendricks says, but that was avoided with the Enzo.
The Enzo helps Fox conjure synth mimicry from his Fender Jaguar when performing live, helping him nail Young Enough standouts like Chatroom and Capacity. “There are a ton of ‘synth pedals’ on the market but this is the most authentic sounding and least gimmicky one by far,” Fox says. “It’s also insanely versatile: you can switch between mono, poly and arpeggiator modes and save up to four different settings on a preset footswitch.”
“All this to say I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for this pedal, I would have been replaced by a sampler by now,” he quips. “Just kidding, but it’s become my most prized piece of equipment since the record was released.”
For the lyrics of Young Enough, Hendricks drew upon fraught, traumatic experiences from a past abusive relationship. But the gleaming, synth-buttressed sonics of the record endow it with an infectious, empowering confidence. Charly Bliss remain self-possessed, too, on sparser tracks like Fighting In The Dark and Hurt Me, in command of the slow burn and happy to stop a song when it should, even when it feels just shy of conventional resolution.
“I trusted myself a lot more,” Hendricks says of the songwriting process for Young Enough. “On Guppy, every time I wrote a song, I was like, ‘It’s a fluke, I don’t think I’ll ever do it again’. Once Guppy came out and was more or less successful, it kind of forced me to develop some confidence as a songwriter, and so I approached the record differently.” Eva also worked closely on songs for Young Enough with her brother and Charly Bliss drummer Sam Hendricks – their first time collaborating in such a capacity. That was “kind of nerve-wracking but a really special experience,” she recalls.
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GUELPH!!!! Tonight is OUR LAST SHOW on the @puptheband tour ???This will be a weepy happy special sad fun one, please, come one come all and witness the emotional spectrum that this show will encompass, we love you Canada, it has been an absolute pleasure playing for y'all these past few weeks ❤️❤️❤️ . . . ?: Brandynn L Pope
Hendricks – who plays a St. Vincent Ernie Ball signature guitar – says she “came to guitar later in my life”, before laughing and qualifying she means when she was a teenager. “I was always taking lessons from older dudes who were trying to get me to play, like, Smoke On The Water,” she says. “That made me sad.” Hendricks initially pursued guitar mostly as a means to write songs, but approached the instrument a little more seriously in college, taking lessons with guitarist Sara Landeau, one of the founding members of The Julie Ruin.
When asked about formative influences that resonated with her in a way Smoke On The Water didn’t, Hendricks quickly names Rilo Kiley’s 2004 album More Adventurous. “Growing up, I’d never seen many examples of women playing guitar and fronting bands, so I don’t think it ever occurred to me that was something I could do,” she reflects. “Then once I saw Rilo Kiley and discovered their music, I fell in love with the lead singer Jenny Lewis. I just thought she was the coolest person. The first time I’d ever seen her play guitar, I immediately was like, ‘Oh, if she could do it, then I could do it too’.”
Charly Bliss are in the midst of a victory lap in the wake of Young Enough: At the end of October, they released Supermoon, an EP of outtakes from the sessions for the album, and just yesterday played a triumphant homecoming show at New York’s Webster Hall. The band are putting a neat bow on a brief but successful era of their careers and are already looking forward to the next one: Charly Bliss have begun writing and sharing demos for new music that Hendricks says will “continue the path we started on Young Enough”. It’s one that fans will be more than happy to follow them down.