L.A. rock band Bleached opens for Against Me! at Neighborhood Theatre Wednesday, and while gender is at the center of the headliner’s story – given frontwoman Laura Jane Grace is one of the most high-profile transgender artists this side of actress Laverne Cox – it’s also an issue for Bleached.
They just wish it was less of one when it comes to them being identified as girls in a band.
It’s the topic of the title track of the group’s new EP, “Can You Deal,” which was written after a lengthy tour for its last album, “Welcome the Worms,” and how they were continually asked about their gender in interviews.
“Growing up, gender to me – I didn’t see,” says Bleached guitarist Jessica Clavin. “I had idols and a lot of them were men – Mark Bolan, Jimi Hendrix, Iggy (Pop). I can probably just give as many females I was inspired by, but I didn’t think anything different (about them).”
Her role models represented freedom, and for Clavin, that meant freedom beyond what might be expected of a girl or boy. Of course, that free way of thinking didn’t quite last.
“When you go to high school and you’re getting opinions, you start forgetting the feelings you had as a kid,” she says. “We’re easily influenced to believe or share other people’s opinions. I felt like it wasn’t like that in the beginning.”
She began questioning herself at that time.
“I do remember when all of a sudden I started lacking confidence, or having weight issues. These things started piling up,” she says. “I don’t remember ever having coping skills growing up. I feel like that is so important, and now I’m starting to do more of that and better myself and work on self-esteem. We become self-destructive without coping skills. I feel like learning how to communicate and how to take breaths sometimes and say, ‘OK, I can’t control this right now’ is an important part of growing up.”
Jessica and her older sister – Bleached frontperson Jennifer Clavin (vocals, guitar) – grew up outside Los Angeles. Two and half years apart, they followed their father into music while their other sisters followed him into science.
“It was so helpful to have each other,” says Clavin of starting the band, calling from her rocket-scientist sister’s house in Dublin, Ohio, after a day off from the tour. It’s still important today to have that camaraderie.
“I feel weird when I’m running on stage and haven’t seen anyone. It’s so important to have the time to do breathing exercises and give everyone a hug. There’s this cool footage of (the band) MC5, (where its guitarist) Wayne Kramer is going around patting everyone on the back, checking on his band members before they’re about to play a show,” she says. “I don’t care how high he may be. He’s putting out this good energy.”
That good energy is part of her focus these days.
Adds Clavin: “We tend to romanticize the negative parts of being a musician.”
Against Me! (with Bleached)
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.
Details: 704-942-7997; www.neighborhoodtheatre.com.