If This is Playing Grown-Up: The Formative Years of Charly Bliss
The Kinks. Oasis. The Jesus and Mary Chain. Things always go smoothly when siblings start a band, right? For Sam and Eva Hendricks, perhaps ignorance was bliss…
Eva Hendricks (Vocals/Guitar): Sam and I were always really close. Growing up, we did everything together. I’ve always felt really lucky because, when you're the younger sibling, it's really up to the older sibling what your relationship is going to be like. I always looked up to him and he was the coolest person in my life. Sometimes he’d be practicing drums in the basement and I would go down and make up funny dances to whatever he was practicing and that would get him to work even harder at it. Our parents always wanted us to play music together, but because they were pushing for it, we of course had no interest in doing it! Until much later.
Sam Hendricks (Drums): Our parents wanted it to happen so badly that, like, it became the last thing we ever wanted to do. We love our parents and they're very supportive, but that's just what you do as a kid.
Eva: At one point when we were much, much younger, Dan and I were dating. For an anniversary present, I got tickets to go see Tokyo Police Club, Harlem Shakes and Born Ruffians at Webster Hall in New York City. My mom drove us to the show and didn't come in with us, which is a big deal when you’re 15. In the line outside, Dan saw his friend Spencer and introduced us. I had heard all of these rumors about Spencer, like that he was in The Incredibles (editor’s note: an 11-year-old Fox indeed voiced the character Dash in that 2004 Pixar smash), so he already seemed very cool to me. He was drinking whiskey out of a Snapple bottle, which to me that felt like “Oh my God!” I was such a goodie-goodie.
Spencer Fox (Guitar): I've known Dan since I was 10 or 11 years old because we went to performing arts camp together and had become fast friends. I was pretty much there for the rock band program. All the campers formed bands with their friends and mostly did cover songs. They would have the bands play every Saturday. Dan and I did a lot of Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and probably most memorably, we arranged nursery rhymes and got the horn instructors to write trombone and trumpet parts.
Dan Shure (Bass): Spencer moved to our hometown and joined us in high school. I’m a year older than Spencer and Eva, and after I went to college, they started this band. I was a fan from afar for a long time.
Eva: Eventually, Spencer said, out of nowhere, “I bet you've secretly been writing songs and not showing anybody, and I want to hear them.”
Spencer: I don't remember if I had actually heard the music she was making or not, but I knew that she was making music. At the time, no one in my friend group in high school was really interested in making the music that I wanted to make. I wasn't trying to make dubstep songs, you know, I was trying to write catchy guitar tunes. It just became obvious to me that, like, Eva has been here this whole time, so why has it taken me this long to ask her if she wanted to make some music sometime? Like, what the fuck was I thinking? She was definitely hesitant at first to show me the songs that she was working on and let me collaborate with her creatively, so it took a little bit of convincing.
Sam: Eva and I really started playing together when she was applying to college and needed to record a few demos for the program she was going for. I happened to be home from what I was doing with my old band, and she was looking for a drummer and someone to help her with the songs. We recorded them in Connecticut and the owner of the studio really liked what we had. He took an interest in us and helped us form what eventually became Charly Bliss.
Spencer: We brought Sam onboard to play drums and our friend Kevin Copeland to play bass. The four of us just took these songs that we'd been messing around with and turned them into full-band arrangements. It really was just supposed to be this demo that Eva was making for college, but we realized that the four of us really had a pretty instant chemistry with one another. The guy who owned the studio and produced the EP, if you want to call it that, was like, “You guys are too good to not continue doing this. You guys actually are a band. You just don't know it yet.” That led to a pretty long period of growing pains, but I think those early words of encouragement are pretty much the reason why we're around today.
Sam: We joke that those songs sound like they were written for a Starbucks compilation CD. There’s even a banjo on one song! After a while, we looked at each other and were like, “Why are we making this? We don’t listen to this kind of music ourselves.”
Spencer: They were definitely peppermint mocha kind of songs - very sugary, wholesome folk music. A Lot to Say was our first stab at making songs that we would actually seek out on our own time. I think you can hear the growth, but you can also hear us fumbling around the fact that we didn't really know what that was yet. But it was us taking ownership of the music. When I listen back to a song like “Friends,” it's sort of like looking at an old high school yearbook photo or something. You can look back at it with a grin while being a little embarrassed. But it was also this really sweet, fun moment in our history. On the Soft Serve EP, we wanted the music to be a lot more fun and emotional. Eva writing “Love Me” was a pivotal moment, because until then we didn’t quite know what we wanted to do. We didn’t know how to articulate these feelings we had or what they amounted to until we heard them in song form. In fleshing out “Love Me,” “Urge to Purge” and “Strings,” we finally understood how we wanted to sound. Soft Serve was a crystalized mission statement of, “This is who we are as a band.”
Dan: I came to see them a couple times when I was in town and I was just a big fan. Right when I got out of college, Kevin had decided he wanted to go do something else, so Eva asked me if I wanted to be in the band. And I was like, “Obviously, yes!” There was definitely momentum for Charly Bliss at that point, but I was just excited at the idea of performing at all. I was like, “Oh wow, we’re going to play a show in Boston!” My first performance with the band, we did two shows in one night at Glasslands and Palisades in Brooklyn. I was so nervous for the first one. I was like, “I'm not going to have a drink at all.” I didn’t want to fuck anything up. Afterwards I was like, “That was fun!” and rolled into the midnight show totally wasted.
Spencer: When I think about the bands we were able to tour with early on, I wonder how we got so lucky. Thank God for booking agents, right? The first tour we ever did was with fucking Veruca Salt! They were incredibly kind and set the bar so high for what a live show should be. Nina and Louise did 45 minutes of vocal warm-ups every night and absolutely destroyed every single night of that tour. We were just like, “Time to step up our game,” because we saw what makes people turn up and become devoted to a band. We also played three shows with Glass Animals in 2,500 capacity venues that were all sold out. That showed us how good it can get. Getting a taste of that early on was pretty important because it gave us a very real aspiration to look towards.
Dan: We were still sleeping on people's couches and floors. A lot of times we would be driving to a city and be like, “Okay, does anybody know anyone in Detroit?” “Oh, my friend doesn't live there anymore, but his friend does.” We were constantly doing detective work through Facebook to find somewhere to sleep. Now that we’ve graduated from that level, I can say that it’s very important for our sanity to stay in a hotel.
Eva: I had this big moment when we first started to play shows in New York. It felt like every time we would play a show, I would be the only girl on a bill with six other bands. That was really embarrassing. For a long time, I felt like when we would play a show and not immediately become the biggest band in the world, it was my fault because people didn’t want to see that or the things I was signing about were wrong. Then I had a really cool moment where Kathleen Hanna came to talk to my songwriting class at college, so I got really into Bikini Kill, The Breeders, Belly, Throwing Muses and stuff like that. And I just started to feel like, “Oh no, it's actually not bad. I shouldn't change. I should lean into it. This can be powerful. What I have to say is important.” That shifted everything for me, and you can hear that a little bit on Soft Serve and definitely on Guppy.
The Charly Bliss Bandbox features our exclusive pressing of Guppy on pink vinyl (limited to 300 copies), plus a full-color, 16-page zine featuring an oral history and track-by-track breakdowns of Guppy and Young Enough by all four band members.
Photos: Jacqueline Harriett & David H. Barehand