Chelsea Bleach are one of the most interesting, potent, hardworking musical outfits in Melbourne right now. Their sound is a unique amalgamation of different influences, resulting in a complex and nuanced musical palette that defies the constraints of traditional genres. This allows them to stand out boldly from the crowd of bands in Melbourne, and has earned them much deserved attention, and an expanding following. They’ve recently released their debut EP Decent Connections, which is a testament to their song-writing prowess, rugged style, and music sensibilities. Chelsea Bleach will officially be launching Decent Connections this Saturday the 20th of January at The Tote in Melbourne. Ahead of the launch, we had a chat with them about all things Chelsea Bleach.
Decent Connections has been coming together for a while now, and all of it was DIY. “We were working on the EP for a bit over a year. The writing process happened slowly, and we changed our mind about which songs to use and when to release it a few times. We actually did some earlier recordings around a year ago, decided not to release them, wrote some new songs (‘Shedding Skin’ and ‘Eat Your Heart Out’) and then did a second recording. Jay, our drummer, did all of the recording, mixing and mastering – Jay worked so hard, and put a lot of love and energy into it. The song writing was a team effort. Em, Bridget and Jay did the main framework on various songs and then we all came together to flesh them out as a band.”
Although the band have just now released their first EP, they have been playing together for some time, refining their sound and getting to know one another as artists and musicians. “At the very end of 2013 we finally all got together. We were self-taught and really just starting out. Over the last couple of years we’ve all really grown as musicians, and the main difference has been confidence. It took us a year to play our first show because we were so nervous! Now we can have four rehearsals of a song we’ve just written and play it live with no issues.” As they’ve developed that confidence together, the way Chelsea Bleach goes about creating their music has developed as well. “When we started, Em would usually bring us a song that was pretty much complete, and then we’d all learn the parts. Now it’s much more collaborative. We all have a bit more confidence to try things out and work together, which has been a really exciting process – and one that is still evolving.” As a group made up of diverse people, Chelsea Bleach feel that they have an important message to offer others – “We want to tell any other women or gender non-conforming people that if you play music, then you are a musician. You don’t have to be perfect or amazing, which was something we really struggled with.” There is something about the rough around the edges, imperfect music that the group create that is simply so enthralling, and the beauty of their music does exist within its imperfections, which allows for a very intimate listening experience.
Their genre defying music sits in a rather unique territory, and this came to the band entirely organically, as they explained to us. “The way our music sounds comes from a combination of our influences as well the way we started out as a band. Initially, I think our song writing process was limited in a sense due to the fact that we were beginner musicians. But over time, our band dynamics and confidence has developed and our sound has evolved. For example, having three guitars wasn’t a conscious choice – it’s just that three people who wanted to be in the band knew how to play guitar. But now I would say the way the three guitars work together is a defining feature of our sound, which is really cool. Over time, as we’ve worked together more, I think we’ve been able to go to new places with our music and move into writing songs in a different way, and working together a bit more, which has allowed for more improvisation and has developed our sound.”
Em, who wrote the majority of the lyrics on the EP aside from ‘Eat Your Heart Out’, has a writing style that is very honest, and seemingly based around experience, with raw emotions on display. Em told us a bit about their writing process, and how it feels for them to put their emotions out into the world through the musical medium. “The reason I started writing songs was as a way for me to process and communicate some of my feelings, as I tend to have a bit of trouble opening up. Writing songs has always come from a pretty vulnerable place and I like to use song writing to be really honest and open with myself. I find that the challenge comes when people want to talk about the content of the music afterwards, or if I’m asked a specific question about what the song means. Whilst I don’t mind discussing it, I guess I feel like the lyrics really speak for themselves, and when I try to explain it too much I feel like I can’t explain it as succinctly as I have in the song.”
The launch for Decent Connections is going down on Saturday the 20th of January at The Tote, and Chelsea Bleach are bringing along a phenomenal line up of local talent for the event. “We’re so excited. It’s always nerve wracking putting on your own show, but we know we have an incredible line-up with Palm Springs, kandere, Cable Ties and DJ Sov Trax. Our single launch for ‘Public Safety’ earlier in the year finished with a wild dance floor to Habits DJ’s that confused some of the older punters at Old Bar, so we’re hoping that the EP launch on Friday brings just as much of a party.”
The DIY nature of Chelsea Bleach’s music adds to the rough, raw style that they’ve crafted. They explained to us why they decided to go along the DIY route, and how they went about it. “There’s a couple of factors that come into this, one of which is money. Let’s be honest – DIY is cheaper! For the first video clip we released, we had our friend Sorcha Mackenzie do it, which was really cool. For the second video, Prani had an idea and we just ran with it. We’re lucky to have other talented friends that can help out. Recording with Jay (drummer) definitely gives us more creative control, and it’s also comfortable to record with someone who knows our sound back to front and understands what we’re about. It’s fun getting to be creative in other ways than just writing and playing music.”
As artists, the circles in which the members of Chelsea Bleach are involved serve as inspiration. “Our friends inspire us heaps, as does the wider music community we’re a part of. It’s shaped around prioritising women and queer people, which is awesome, and our experience in meeting other bands and people who come along to gigs has always made us feel safe and welcome.” They’ve also been inspired by pioneering women of music – “Bands that really shaped our sound and inspired us to pick up instruments were groups like Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, Placebo and Hole. They were bands that showed us how it was possible for people who aren’t men to get on stage and be amazing. But having five people in the band means that inspiration can vary so much, and we’ve all come to the band with really diverse interests that shape what we do.”
Although they have a productive and evidently successful working relationship, the unity of Chelsea Bleach stems from their friendship. “We’ve all been friends for years, so ultimately we’re friends first. Something really special happens when we play music together. Even if someone’s not having a good day, when we play together on stage or in the studio there’s an energy and a trust there that transcends everything in our personal lives. It’s like Chelsea Bleach is more than just all of us playing our instruments, something else is created and that’s what keeps us going as a band. Our band relationship is an important kind of friendship for all of us.”
Chelsea Bleach launch their EP Decent Connections at The Tote on Saturday the 20th of January, with support from Palm Springs, kandere, Cable Ties and DJ Sov Trax. You can stream and purchase their raw, emotive, and powerful debut Decent Connections on their Bandcamp page.