It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of sunshine and good times when you’re a twentysomething rock musician living in Los Angeles, in flux between work, sleep and hard partying.
And Jessie Clavin, lead guitarist for the pop-punk group Bleached, remembers those glorious days of 2013 with a large degree of affection.
Having just released their first full-length record, Ride Your Heart, Clavin and her sister Jennifer, who sings and plays rhythm guitar for the band, had achieved a high point that most musicians would envy. Laced with pretty surf-guitar riffs, goth-kissed vocals and a renegade girl spirit, Ride Your Heart achieved critical acclaim and landed the Clavins bigger and better gigs.
But for Jessie, the first inklings of self doubt started creeping in—not only in terms of her skills as a guitarist, but in her ability to continually create music that excited the band’s burgeoning fan base.
“I was in my twenties, living on my own and making my money through music,” Jessie recalls. “There’s this pressure that happens!”
It would take a perfect storm of harsh events—which included Jessie getting kicked out of a group house and Jennifer breaking up with a long-term boyfriend—before the San Bernardino native ditched her inner critic. Hitting bottom emotionally proved to be more inspirational than destructive, and a short while later, the Clavins and bassist Micayla Grace headed to Joshua Tree National Park for the sole purpose of crafting their next record.
Days later, the threesome emerged with the beginnings of “Keep On Keepin’ On,” the first track on their 2016 record, Welcome the Worms, a fuller, louder and layered record loaded with the kind of memorable riffs and wailing solos that Jessie’s rock idols—Joan Jett, Minor Threat and T Rex among them—would love.
As 2017 begins, Jessie is excited for the release of Bleached’s forthcoming EP, Can You Deal?, (due March 3 on Dead Oceans). And as she prepares to go out on the road again, the guitarist is spending most of her time feeding her sunburst Epiphone Les Paul through her Music Man 210, accompanied by a short list of pedals including an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man, a splitter pedal (to play through two amps simultaneously) and a Fulltone Plimsoul that doubles her Les Paul’s sonic reach.
“The Plimsoul is a boost with a little bit of sustain—and it has a tone level so you can make it sound more muscled,” she says. It’s a powerful combination that juxtaposes nicely with sister Jennifer’s rig.
“Our guitars work well together because she loves really cheap Japanese guitars, and I play a Les Paul,” says Jessie. “And when I play a Les Paul, it feels really natural to come up with cool, rocking, shredding solos.”