A photograph of a woman adorns the cover of Ride Your Heart, Bleached's 2013 debut album. She's leaning out the window of a car's backseat, head pointed toward the wind. Her long hair is whipping in strands, totally obscuring her face. We don't know who she is or why she's here -- Bleached's Jessie Clavin has never known who the subject was either -- but Chloe Aftel's striking, blue-tinted photo instantly brings a few adjectives to mind: young, upbeat, hopeful, free. Even with such limited information, it's enough to start telling a story. "You look at the picture and you know there's more to this," Clavin says of the photo. "When I look at it, I feel like I'm looking at a snapshot of some really cool movie."
That same sentiment goes for Bleached circa summer 2014 as a young band whose story isn't at a noticeable arc but still feels like a worthwhile work-in-progress. Established circa 2010, the Los Angeles-based outfit permanently consists of Jennifer on vocals/rhythm guitar and Jessie Clavin on lead guitar and backup vocals (They might add more personnel for live performances) -- two sisters who have shared a love for music since growing up in the San Fernando Valley. As a minor, Jessie got into punk through a neighbor's Velvet Underground tape and would also became a fan of the Germs, Minor Threat and the Clash. Jennifer rode a similar but separate track, also loving punk but aligning with Blondie and the Slits.
The siblings would become avid punk concertgoers, catching shows every weekend and even some weekdays. Witnessing female-fronted bands had a special effect on them. "That hit us harder in wanting to play music 'cause we were like, 'Whoa, they look so cool. She can go up there and play. Why can't we?'" Jessie says. "I had already been playing bass and that's kind of what got Jennifer into playing guitar."
As musicians, the pair first got going in high school circa 2000, tinkering with Slits covers and forming a punk/thrash band. By the mid-'00s, the Clavins would be part of Mika Miko, a spirited, often tongue-in-cheek garage-punk outfit linked to heavily hyped underground L.A. venue the Smell. As Smell-related bands like No Age rose in prominence and Mika Miko began to tour nationally and get press from the right people, the group rose in popularity. But after members' priorities and schedules began to change, Mika Miko called it quits in late 2009. Around that period, the concept of the Clavins having their own new band popped up. The eventual result would be Bleached.
Some things have changed for this new band. The Clavins have leagues more creative control in Bleached compared to Mika Miko, plus they've worked on maturing in more general ways, like having a manager for the first time and maintaining greater communication with their current label compared to past instances. Musically, Jessie notes that Bleached is about being less one-minded compared to Mika Miko's punk sound, and tapping into more diverse sounds. "I remember while Mika Miko was on its last run thinking how I wanted to start a band and have a country influence," she says, referencing both her parents' and her own love for the genre's traits.
Country comes through here and there on Ride Your Heart, particularly with "Searching Through the Past." More broadly, the record is jangly, hooky garage pop, with some punk and surf rock blended in. While broken hearts and relationships play a big role lyrically on Ride Your Heart, the music itself sports a generally lighthearted, playful spirit -- much like the album's cover image.
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Bleached take their name from the idea of bleaching your jean jacket (which the sisters have done in the past), but a secondary, more profound meaning is at play, too -- one that perfectly fits the two siblings and their affection for music. "Jennifer and I always say, 'When you bleach something, it's permanent,'" Jessie says. "Bleaching is just something that's forever, and we always say that because we're sisters, we're going to be forever."
Bleached perform as part of Burger a-Go-Go with Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls, Shannon & the Clams, and others at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.observatoryoc.com. Aug. 2, 4 p.m. $32.50. All ages.