Charly Bliss found themselves stranded continents apart during COVID, but that's only made the band closer

click to enlarge Charly Bliss found themselves stranded continents apart during COVID, but that's only made the band closer
Ebru Yildiz photo
After being separated for a year and a half, Charly Bliss are grateful to be together again.

No one would accuse Eva Hendricks of having a normal life. The singer/guitarist for the New York indie pop rock group Charly Bliss spent her 20s traveling the world singing bratty bubblegum anthems, gets to dress like a colorful fashionista for work, and even met her boyfriend via Tinder swiping while on tour in Australia.

But life got even more bizarre and surreal for Hendricks when she went to visit her Aussie squeeze down under...

...in March 2020.

What was meant to be a six-week vacation, turned into Hendrick's new normal when COVID lockdown restrictions made her an accidental Australian resident for a year and a half.

"It was really bizarre, honestly. It happened basically right after a period of time where we'd been on tour pretty much nonstop for a few years and so much of my life was just consumed by never being in one place for more than a week," says Hendricks. "I was living in New York, obviously, but I was hardly there. And the kind of life that you're able to build when you're always leaving somewhere is strange. It forces your life to be very fragmented. And would I have ever predicted that the time that I would finally get to spend a significant amount of time in one place would happen across the globe in a place where I knew one person — the person I was dating? No. That was really wild. Because it wasn't just that I was in Australia, it was also the experience of being in one place solidly for a year and a half was so new to me."

Up to that point, Charly Bliss had both literally and figuratively been Hendricks' family. In addition to guitarist Spencer Fox and bassist Dan Shure, the group also features her brother Sam — who Eva lived with — on drums. After spending basically all their time together for years while creating and touring in support of the group's first two LPs — 2017's Guppy and 2019's Young Enough — Eva was basically having to reboot her life from a hemisphere away from her bandmates.

"Having to build a new life sort of from the ground up and make new friends in a place where this thing that had been my whole life — Charly Bliss — was no longer like the central driving force in my life, and that was really interesting. It was the first time in my adult life where that was true," says Hendricks. "And I think what it really left me with was tremendous appreciation for Charly Bliss and all of the really strange and wonderful things that the band has brought me. I mean, there's no way I would ever have ended up living in Australia, weirdly, if it wasn't for the fact that we had toured there and met someone and fallen in love. But also I think I just grew up a lot, because I think when you're always moving, and you never really have to be accountable and living in one place, and really building a life, you kind of get frozen as your teenage self, or whenever you started touring. And I think it was a big opportunity for growth for me as a person... And no one over in Australia really knew about our band, so I definitely had like a Hannah Montana life for a minute."

Prior to the pandemic, Charly Bliss had built up quite a bit of momentum as a group. The Barsuk Records band's debut album Guppy is one of the most vibrant announcements of arrival in recent memory — a bratty sugar buzz blast of pop punk emotional chaos expressed via Hendricks' sweet nasal melodicism. If Josie and the Pussycats were a real band, they absolutely would've toured with Guppy-era Charly Bliss.

The band definitely took an evolutionary step with its follow-up LP Young Enough. The album still has a frenetic feel at times, but the aggression is toned down in favor of some Lorde-influenced synth-laden pop rock as Hendricks explores the messy confusion of young adulthood with a more composed and complex outlook. For Hendricks, a large part of Charly Bliss' growth over the years has come from finding space and variety within her voice and allowing herself to be a bit more real to herself.

"When I was younger, when we were working on Guppy, I think I just wanted to sound like a brat," Hendricks says with a laugh. "Like I really just wanted to sound like this kind of caricature of myself and these big feelings that I was feeling and sort of embody a really heightened version of myself. And then I think on Young Enough, I was still sort of working out how much of myself I wanted to show and how much of that character I still wanted to embody. And I think on these new songs, I think there's just more room for me vocally to... enjoy singing? [laughs]"

With travel restrictions lifted and concerts returning, Charly Bliss was finally able to reunite last year to play some dates with Jimmy Eat World. This spring the band is playing its first headlining shows in years, as well opening up for indie rock band Hippo Campus (which will bring Charly Bliss to the Knitting Factory on May 10).

"Now just being in a place where we're finally getting back to being in the same room as our fans and people who care about our music, it just feels... I mean, we never took it for granted to begin with, but it's so overwhelmingly special now, because we've been away from it for years and kind of had time to process just like everything that's happened throughout our career. We sort of just really appreciate being in front of people who care about our music, because we went years without feeling any of that," says Hendricks.

Perhaps surprisingly, the band has thrived in the remote work setting. While their normal process was often cram writing while touring or in the tiny gaps between stints on the road, technological advances and Hendricks' remoteness have opened up new creative processes.

"I've never enjoyed writing more as I have over these last couple of years, really having time to dig in and work on this [upcoming] record. We were Zoom writing, and it actually was an incredible way of working for us," say Hendricks. "I think it's maybe become our favorite way to work with each other. I don't know, I guess maybe something about the fact that we were all just able to be really focused."

Charly Bliss has been sitting on some fresh songs for a bit — ones Hendricks categorizes as thematically splitting the difference between Guppy and Young Enough — and plans on releasing at least some new music in 2023, though just how much remains to be seen because of typical music industry rollout logistics.

"The four of us are dying to put new music out and going totally insane," Hendricks says with a chuckle.

While Charly Bliss anxiously awaits releasing new music, Hendricks is splitting her time between living in Australia and returning to the states to work and tour. (She's halfway to attaining Australian citizenship and, unlike many, she and her beau's relationship survived the pandemic.) But the time physically apart from her bandmates and the careerist grind has only deepened her love for them.

"I really feel like I took my bandmates for granted a bit at that point, because we were all exhausted. We were so tired. And I think I just couldn't even see it. I couldn't see what was happening or what was working," says Hendricks. "And I think this time away has just left me feeling so much gratitude for my bandmates, and just able to really feel secure in who we are to each other and how much of a family we are to each other. And the fact that I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else. This is unquestionably the most right thing in my life throughout the last decade. That's really special and really rare."

"I think I heard Katie from MUNA say recently that being in a band is sort of like getting married at a really young age," she continues. "Like you pick your life partners when you're like 19 or 20 and build your life with them. Because every choice you make is going to affect these other people, and vice versa. And I think that's exactly right. I just feel profoundly lucky that the people I've chosen to build my life around are the most incredible, loving, talented, beautiful people I know. And I feel that more than ever now." ♦

Hippo Campus, Charly Bliss • Wed, May 10 at 8 pm • $30-$90 • All ages • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague Ave. • sp.knittingfactory.com

Margo Cilker, Junior the Band @ The District Bar

Fri., July 12, 9 p.m.
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Seth Sommerfeld

Seth Sommerfeld is the Music Editor for The Inlander, and an alumnus of Gonzaga University and Syracuse University. He has written for The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Fox Sports, SPIN, Collider, and many other outlets. He also hosts the podcast, Everyone is Wrong...