NYU alum-fronted band Charly Bliss has had a whirlwind year, to say the least. The pop-rock outfit — formed in 2011 as vocalist Eva Hendricks’ entry product to attend Tisch’s Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music — has released a critically-acclaimed sophomore album, an accompanying EP and toured three continents over the course of 10 months.
“When I try to wrap my head around what the beginning of this year looked like versus where we are now, it’s really hard to understand that all of this happened in the same year,” Hendricks said to WSN. “While I was at NYU, I was playing shows to nobody but my parents and my roommate […] so seeing that there are people all over the world who know about our music is really just something I don’t think I’ll ever get over.”
The new record, “Young Enough,” is a pivotal departure from the group’s debut effort “Guppy” in its pop-infused melodies and consistent use of synths over guitars. Hendricks described the album, which garnered praise from the likes of Pitchfork and NPR, as a transitional move, in which the band flourished in both style and sound, according to Hendricks.
“It was a lesson in learning how to stand behind your own choices,” Hendricks said of the stylistic shift between grunge guitars and pop synths. “I think [“Young Enough”] really marks such a big difference in self-confidence, trusting ourselves as writers and moving into this new space as a band and as people. In terms of genre, we definitely moved further in the direction of pop, it’s closer to the music that inspires us, and the music we want to be making.”
Over the course of the album production, watching fans list “Guppy” alongside albums by Carly Rae Jepsen and Robyn eased any fear that Charly Bliss would isolate themselves from fans by delving further into their pop roots. For Hendricks, the band’s fondness of the catchy hooks of Weezer and The Killers is an important part of their identity — and “pop” should not be a dirty word.
“I think it would feel really sad to put out a record that was just chasing something that we had done before and trying to repeat it again,” Hendricks said. “It’s so important to us to make really honest music and most importantly that we stand behind it.”
The new album has also tested the quartet’s skills both as songwriters and performers: with the addition of synths, the quartet is constantly switching between instruments on stage or playing two instruments at once, making for an interesting added wrinkle of performance.
“It’s been a really fun challenge for us to figure out how to play some of these songs,” Hendricks said. “We all kind of move around on stage and take turns playing different instruments. It’s an ongoing challenge, and we’re always going back and trying new things and seeing how the audience reacts.”
Alongside a constant instrument switch, Charly Bliss shows can be characterized as nothing short of a pop-rock-infused energy boost. There can be many guarantees: the band will play all their fan-favorites, audience members will be grooving in place to the sounds of sparkling upbeat synth sound and Hendricks will be decked out from head to toe in a fun, outrageous getup inspired by “pink puffballs and pretty mermaids.”
“It helps me to be kind of in character on stage,” Hendricks said. “A lot of the songs on this record are really aspirational — I think whenever I’m writing, I’m writing as the best possible version of myself and if there’s something I’m struggling with, I’ll write about conquering it instead of feeling really sad about it. I think it helps me on stage when I’m reliving these songs every night to feel like this superhero version of myself and larger than life, cause that’s how the music made me feel.”
The songs are some of the darkest content the band has released to date. Contrasted with verses from “Guppy” about glitter and trampolines, “Young Enough” offers tracks about vulnerability, break-ups, theft, loneliness and post-apocalyptic scenarios. But through the darkness are bubbly, danceable and ultimately hopeful anthems that seem to shed an optimistic light through the tumultuous verses.
“These songs are about pain and growing up and trying to maintain a sense of hope and love for the world even when you experience some darkness,” Hendricks said. “I definitely use songwriting as a way to process my life and the things that happen to me.”
In fact, some of Hendricks’ favorite songs are the most vulnerable on the album, serving as a bonding moment between the band and the crowd during live shows. To Hendricks, “Chatroom,” a song about one of the most “awful moments” in her life, is a beacon of hope that can be intimately shared with audiences.
“It’s comforting to see the journey of something you go through alone that makes you feel really depressed and scared and sad,” Hendricks said. “It can eventually kind of magically transform into this thing that connects you to people you’ve never met before and people all over the world. You can kind of help each other and heal each other. I think that that is the most beautiful [thing] I’ve experienced through being in this band. And, that song is very fun to dance to.”
Yet, despite the overwhelming attention the band has garnered over the course of the past year, Hendricks emphasized the importance of authenticity, humility and, above all, making music for herself.
“I learned very quickly that as long as you’re being honest and as long as you’re making music that is authentic to you, whatever people say on the internet can’t really hurt you,” Hendricks said. “If someone thinks your band sucks, I find that it’s way easier to let that roll off of me and just know that, in spite of that, I made the record that I wanted to make.”
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, print edition. Email Nicole Rosenthal at [email protected]