When you’re trying to write music, to let your mind roam free and your fingers play whatever guitar line that comes to mind, the last thing you need is someone halting that creative process. For Jennifer Clavin of garage pop trio Bleached, her world was spinning out of control and she kept hitting roadblocks that were out of her control. Unfortunately, they took form in an emotionally abusive relationship – one that she now, thankfully, is out of.
“I have such trouble explaining it,” she says over the phone, referring to her now ex-boyfriend. “There was a lot of manipulation. If you try to leave them, they tell you that they’re going to kill themselves so you can’t get out of it. But when you’re in it, you’re getting called names and awful things and being accused of things you never actually did. I ended up being stalked by the person later and had to get a restraining order.”
Several girls warned others to avoid him, one of whom went on to accuse the man of rape. While he never threw punches or anything worse at Clavin, he did incite deep mental pain and confusion, the type of bullying that scars people for life.
“The thing is, I got along very well with this person on a musical level,” she says. “He inspired me to let myself go musically and let myself write whatever I wanted. That’s what attracted me to him originally—the musical side—so it’s strange to think that he began to affect it negatively. I remember him telling me he would hang himself in my closet so I could find him dead when I got home. It wasn’t okay at all. At all.”
The rest of the band, her sister Jessie Clavin and bassist Micayla Grace, struggled to find ways to help along the way. Instead of letting it halt life as a band, they began working on their sophomore LP, Welcome to Worms, which, in many ways, wound up saving Jennifer Clavin. They ditched Los Angeles to record in the desert. Things were silent. Clavin left her phone in the car so she didn’t have to hear from her then-boyfriend.
“I trust my sister so much with her songwriting,” says Jessie Clavin. “Her lyrics hit me so hard that I’ll start crying during practice sometimes. There’s times where I have to get a grasp and realize that what Jenn is singing about is really happening. I think it went on for so long because you just don’t want to believe what’s happening is real. It begins becoming really unhealthy and it’s hard to process.”
“It’s almost a form of self-sabotage,” Jennifer Clavin explains. “You almost like the pain of the relationship because it makes you feel in a way despite being really unhealthy. It’s a way of not respecting yourself. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I do. If you do love someone—which I did at the time—you don’t want to let them go because you think you can save them.”
The recording process saw the band enduring crazy hours, rereading lyrics repeatedly, and shifting their songwriting towards a smarter realm of melodies. Finally, it hit her. She realized she was going through an abusive relationship and how she was treating herself as a result. “It felt like a form of therapy without even realizing that was going to happen, that it would help me,” she says. “When we’re playing the songs, I’m so stoked on each one because various lessons came out of it. It’s like reliving it for a second without having to be there. I’ve never experienced that before in songwriting. You get to compare then to now – and I’ve grown so much, that comparing the two periods of my life actually feels good. I get to know things are okay now.”
BLEACHED + NO PARENTS + GYMSHORTS. FRI 4.15. GREAT SCOTT, 1222 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. 10PM/21+/$12. BOWERYBOSTON.COM.