Jennifer and Jessie Clavin are cooler than you. “I have a really bad problem where, like, I shouldn’t be skateboarding anymore,” Jessie says. “I broke an ankle, I cracked my head open, but once I start drinking a little bit and someone rolls by on a skateboard I’m just like, Give me that board! And I’ll just act like I know what I’m doing.” There’s something tantalizing about feckless danger. The last time Jessie got on a board, Jennifer says, “there was this group of skater boys and Jessie started doing all these old school tricks like the coffin move on the skateboard, and they all were like, Oh damn!”
Jennifer and Jessie, 27 and 25, respectively, grew up in California listening to punk rock together. (They have two other less punk sisters as well, one is a NASA scientist, the other a professor). “When we got really into punk we both would pick different bands, like, she would be into Minor Threat, and I was into Black Flag,” says Jennifer. That kind of hair splitting is a good marker for the subtleties of their sisterly telekinesis; it’s a distinction akin to saying they’re both obsessed with pears but are totally different because one prefers Bosc to Bartlett. Their band Bleached benefits from this insularity. The cover of their Francis 7-inch is the two of them, arms wrapped around each other. They have a Tumblr page devoted to photos of them together; the band also has two other members who play bass and drums, which neither sister mentions.
Before Bleached, the duo made up two of the five members of the punk band, Mika Miko. Jennifer used an old telephone handset for a microphone. It sounded really sloppy, as did the rest of the band, who were good but not great, and got away on wild charm more than substance. They broke up and Jennifer moved to New York to join Cold Cave, where she played keyboards and looked despondent. That didn’t last very long, so she came back to California (and her sister), and they started to focus on Bleached, a side project that had never got its due. “While I was in Cold Cave I kept thinking like, I want to be doing Bleached so badly,” Jennifer says. “I really liked Cold Cave but I just wanted my band. It was really hard to be in a band where I was just playing what I was told to play when I know I know how to write songs.” Primarily, those songs have been love songs. There’s as much emphasis on cultivating a sad sweetness as there is on curt hooks and sloppy rage. Jennifer and Jessie are unquestionably punk at heart, but in Bleached, instead of being brash, they make eyes at boys. On “Think of You,” Jennifer begins coyly, I can’t tell you what I think of you because I know that I’ll be scared. “In Mika Miko I would never have written lyrics like that,” Jennifer says. “I would have been like, embarrassed.”
Stream: Bleached, Carter 7″