It was only two days into their two-week tour with Dan Boeckner’s band Operators that the members of Charly Bliss decided that they needed some candy. They were wandering around Ottawa when they hit on what appeared to be the motherlode: a hulking, warehouse-sized building promisingly named “Sugar Mountain,” which seemed, at first glance, to be just the kind of confectionary wonderland they were looking for. The minute they opened the door, however, everything went Lynchian.
“It was one of the strangest experiences of my life,” says Dan Shure, the band’s bassist. “We opened the door and walked in, and it was totally silent. There was no one behind the counter and—the most unsettling thing—there was no music playing. It was just dead silence.”
Slightly rattled, the band began working their way through the store, when a basket at the end of one of the aisles caught frontwoman Eva Hendricks’s eye. “There was this bucket full of Cyndi Lauper trading cards,” she says. “I was like, ‘Sick! I love Cyndi Lauper!’ and grabbed a bunch of them. I soon realized this huge candy store somehow came into the ultimate inheritance of Cyndi Lauper trading cards, because they were everywhere. There were more Cyndi Lauper cards than there was candy. I’ve never seen so much of anything in my entire life.”
“It was… weird,” says guitarist Spencer Fox. “We kept waiting for steel blinds to slam down over all the windows and for the guy from Saw to come rolling out.”
The band is relaying this story in the slightly-cramped green room at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade Records, where they’re killing time before their 40-minute set. In a few weeks, they’ll release their long-gestating debut Guppy, an album they recorded once, scrapped, then recorded again, and whose overall lifespan from concept to completion took roughly the same length of time it takes a newborn to learn how to talk. In its own way, Guppy is not entirely unlike Ottawa’s Sugar Mountain: its day-glo pop-punk guitars and endless-rainbow hooks provide the bait, but the minute you’re deep inside, lured in by the promise of confections, the door slams shut and the knives come out. To wit: “Glitter” is a honeyed, perfectly-constructed pop number that doubles as a barbed kiss-off to an ex, and the giddy, pogoing “DQ” opens with Eva proudly declaring: “I laughed when your dog died.”
When the band finally take the stage at Rough Trade, they open their show the same way they open Guppy, with the giddily rambunctious song “Percolator.” In the canon of great album-opening tracks, it’s somewhere up near the Pixies’ “Debaser” for the way it both establishes the band’s knack for irresistible, off-kilter hooks and efficiently sketches out the thematic blueprint for everything that will follow. It’s a tightly-pulled slingshot made of rubberband guitars and avalanche percussion, and on stage in Brooklyn, the band tears through it with the kind of frenzied, maniacal joy that has become their stock-in-trade. Midway through the song, Eva leans into the microphone, lets out a spine-splitting scream, and launches herself into the air. Soon, the entire band is airborne, and the stage becomes a dizzying blur of color and motion.
When the song ends, Eva, sweating and beaming, grabs the microphone to work the crowd. “Hi, we’re Charly Bliss from New York City!” she announces cheerily. “Who here struggles with crippling anxiety?”