Q&A: Eva Hendricks from Charly Bliss talks mental health and musical theatre

Eva Hedricks of Charly Bliss discussed writing songs about mental health and being in a band with her brother before the groupd Portland concert on Monday night. (Courtesy of charlybliss.com)

Eva Hendricks, lead singer of Brooklyn grunge-pop band Charly Bliss, approaches her mental health with a quirky, uncommon sense of humor. She doesn’t just lightly brush off anxiety or panic in her lyrics but instead dives into what makes her uncomfortable. The resulting music is both personal and much bigger than her own problems. 

On the band’s debut album, “Guppy,” Hendricks sings about laughing when her ex’s dog died and other morbid occasions. The band, which features Hendricks, her older brother Sam, Spencer Fox (who voiced Dash in “The Incredibles”) and Dan Shure, is playing Mississippi Studios in Portland tonight.

The Emerald corresponded with Hendricks via email ahead of the show. Her answers have been lightly edited for length and style.

Emerald: You graduated from the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU. How has your experience in the scene compared to an environment like the Davis Institute?

Eva Hendricks: I think my experience at Clive just helped to prepare me for a lot of things that I couldn’t have anticipated needing to know about in order to be good at being in a band. For starters, I never thought I would end up being in a band, and then beyond that I definitely never thought that I would end up essentially managing our band for the first four years we were together. I definitely couldn’t have done any of that stuff without what I learned in school, or at least I don’t think I would have been nearly as proactive. It’s hard to compare school to just pursuing being a musician because I was always doing both things at once. One was always feeding the other, and our professors encouraged us to get as much real world experience as possible while we were in school. I think I learned a lot more than I realized at the time. Looking back I feel like it was a really invaluable experience.

E: Your brother, Sam, is in the band with you. Do you think being in the band together has changed your relationship at all?

EH: We are very good at separating our relationship into two different camps. I feel like sometimes we’re in brother/sister mode and sometimes we’re in band mode and that keeps us from driving each other crazy. He’s always been my best friend and musically I trust him more than anyone in the world. It is really a privilege to get to do this with him. I think if anything it has made us much closer!

E: A striking aspect of your music is how you approach singing. How did you develop your vocal style?

EH: I’ve been singing since I was 6 years old and I grew up doing musical theater. I think I was always at odds with my voice because I never felt like I had the right voice for musical theater. I started taking voice lessons when I was 10, and my first voice teacher used to just scream at me for how raspy my voice was. It’s so funny because now I am so thrilled that I sound different than the ideal, clear-as-a-bell musical theatre voice. I guess most things work out that way.

Another thing that I think affects my singing style is the fact that I also sang jingles for commercials while I was in high school. Doing that really taught me a lot about how to perform and act with just your voice.

E: “Guppy” is an intimate album that touches on anxiety and mental health, but its range covers much more than one person’s problems. How do you approach writing about mental health in your songwriting?

EH: A very cool thing about releasing this record is hearing how many relate to what I’m writing about. I think there’s an aspect to mental health problems that makes you believe that you’re the only person in the world who has ever felt this way, or that your darkest thoughts are darker than everyone else’s and if they had any idea what was really going on in your brain they would be horrified. It’s very isolating, so on a very personal level it feels cool to have so many people relate to it.

I guess in terms of how I approach it, I just always try to tell the truth in the ugliest, truest way I can. I never want to gloss over something or give a tepid impression of what something is like for me because it doesn’t feel cathartic to me, and I doubt that it would be useful to anyone. In my songs I’m usually trying to make fun of myself for the things that I’m most ashamed of. It forces me to laugh about the aspects of my personality that make my day-to-day life kind of difficult. Laughter has helped me through some of the worst moments with anxiety and depression, not in terms of like, “hahaha I’m laughing at a YouTube video,” but laughing at myself and my weird brain. Depression is so consuming and feels infinite and terrifying when you are feeling low, having a sense of humor about it helps me to not feel so “in it.”

E: I’ve heard that there were issues with the first version of “Guppy.” Why did you decide it wasn’t time to release it?

EH: We just knew that we could do better. We knew that we could write better songs and we realized we wanted it to be more of a pop record than a grunge-y, garage-y record. We are all very competitive and all perfectionists, so once we realized we could do better we had to try.

E: What do you want to accomplish now that “Guppy” is out?

EH: It took three years for this record to come out, so personally I’d like to challenge myself to actually just appreciate this exciting moment before putting immense pressure on myself for the next thing. But… that said… we’re already well into working on the next record, and I’m very excited about that. In general, I think the four of us wanna take over the world.

Tickets for Charly Bliss’s performance are available here. Follow Sararosa on Twitter: @srosiedosie

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