We interviewed up-and-coming St. Louis-based alternative rock trio Bleach! Bleach is composed of Jackson (guitar), Lance (vox), and Kaleb (drums). They’re staples of the STL scene and known for bluesy hits like “Elizabeth” and “Spit.” In this interview with Bleach, we discuss what they admire about each other as artists, their evolution as musicians over the last few years, and the best things about living in the midwest. They’re planning on releasing music soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
What’s your go-to gas station order?
Lance: There’s this gas station called QT where we live and they have a kitchen in the gas station open till 10 o’clock every night.
Jackson: Just enough for the munchies.
Lance: They got like, cheese pizzas? They cook it there, bro, it’s awesome. What’s your order?
Jackson: I’d say like a hot dog with pico on it. And then just a doughnut. You know? I’m disgusting.
Lance: I’m getting a Peace Tea, Reese’s cups, the large Reese’s cups with pretzels in them. And then probably like a milkshake or something.
Kaleb: They have amazing coffee, and then I’ll get scrambled eggs.
Jackson: That’s disgusting. That’s so gross. Scrambled eggs. Would you eat scrambled eggs from a gas station?
Weronika: I don’t know what’s worse, scrambled eggs or gas station sushi.
Lance: I love gas station sushi.
Jackson: We used to have a song called gas station sushi.
Between the three of you, what does your writing process typically look like? How do you think you’ve gotten better at writing over the years?
Lance: Good question. Well, the cool thing about this band is actually all three of us write songs, we all know how to play guitar. all know how to sing. For me, I actually usually now write on piano, I used to write on guitar for the first four years of writing songs. But piano has definitely been more of my interest instrument now. So, I write chords, and then I just come up with a melody on top of it. And then eventually I’ll go back in and write better lyrics, because I like to just come up with things on the spot a little bit. So that’s kind of how I roll with songs. Most of the time, yeah, sometimes it’s lyrics first.
Jackson: But when it when it becomes a band’s song, when it becomes the Bleach song that either comes out on Spotify, or you get to hear live, that is all of that it’s either a piano song, or it’s something I wrote on my couch or, you know, a drum beat that Kaleb has. And then it’s all of our influence over that, which is probably how most bands do it. I think the thing that’s unique about us is that everyone has a fair shot at getting their melody on the record. Something that you’re going to hear in some of the newer stuff is a little bit more of that, you’re going to hear a little bit more of all of our voices, and what we can contribute as writers.
Lance: I’d say a lot of our songs are jammed out as well, we have a practice space. It’s in the city. And we just we jam out and figure it out together as a team, compared to some people who direct the other people and say, “Well, this is what you’re playing, and this is what you’re playing.” So, we all kind of just compromise pretty much, and we usually want to punch each other in the fucking face. But it gets done.
What do you admire about each other as musicians?
Jackson: Nothing. I hate being in a band with these guys.
Kaleb: I like all the passion behind us. You don’t have to be the most amazing guitar player in the world—
Kaleb: Or the most amazing bass player in the world—
Kaleb: And I’m not the best drummer in the world. But the cool thing about all three of us is that we all put 110% passion into anything that we play, whether it’s what we love or not. And it’s pretty sick.
Lance: I admire Jackson’s ability to feel the guitar. He’s literally my favorite soloist when it comes to guitar solos, he, he makes love to the guitar and I know that’s gonna make him cringe.
Jackson: I’m blushing.
Lance: But he does, and people can tell on stage and it’s all about feel for him. I kind of compare him to someone similar to Jimi Hendrix, who just, it’s all about feel it’s not about technicality and playing everything perfect. It’s about making it sound like someone’s singing. Kaleb, in my opinion. I mean, dude, you’re literally just the heaviest hitter on the drums. The coolest drummer when it comes to writing songs. I’ve never heard someone write a fill like you do and everything like that. That’s what I admire about him. He’s just a badass on the drums. That’s what I see.
Kaleb: And Lance has the voice of a Chris Cornell angel. Like he was always resurrected and brought back down to earth.
Jackson: We’re fans of each other, really. We are. I’d rather… listening to any record that I like, I’d rather hear Kaleb drumming over that record than even the drummer in that band. Of course, he’s paying tribute to all of his inspirations, but at the same time—
Lance: Besides Neil Peart.
Jackson: Yeah, besides Neil Peart. But like, other than that, just like they said, passion. We all have a passion for what we’re doing. And we respect each other in that vein.
So, I saw you guys open for Mt. Eddy at the Firebird in 2017, which was almost four years ago! What have you learned on your journey since then?
Kaleb: Whoa! That was awhile ago!
Jackson: Holy shit!
Lance: We were literally children.
Kaleb: Seventeen years old.
Kaleb: We could go for hours.
Jackson: You got to be people before you can be musicians. Number one. You got to, to be in this band, to be in any band. And what we’re noticing about the bands that have gotten to the amount of success that we would like to make it to, you have to absolutely be committed to one another. It’s the closest thing to a marriage or relationship. We’ve worked with the producers and whatnot and they all say the same thing. The bands that can’t make it are the ones that can’t—
Lance: Live with each other.
Kaleb: We actually all do live with each other, we have a house in St. Louis.
Lance: Yeah, we have a house in the city. It’s near the bad area. So it’s a little dangerous.
Kaleb: It’s like on the edge.
Lance: What I over the last four years. What I’ve learned is, first off, the song is the most important thing. If you have a crappy song, doesn’t matter how cool your clothes are. Doesn’t matter how good that guitar part is. It doesn’t matter about that. It matters about the overall song. And if you are writing not that good of songs and if you’re worrying more about “Well, this specific line is important.” No, that’s not what matters. What matters is a good fucking song.
Jackson: If it feels right.
You started the year with an honest post explaining your recent hiatus in the pursuit of bettering your mental health after a pretty intense year. If you are comfortable sharing, what’s really helped you during that time and what have you taken away from these experiences?
Jackson: Communication, the ability to, to let everything out. I was just talking to Lance in the car yesterday. And we were talking about like love, and kind of that definition of it. And it’s just trying to find the beauty and all of that fucking ugly shit. We all have terrible, terrible cancerous parts about us, all of us do. Some people are just better at hiding it. But those special people, those artists that we look up to, those hard workers, even athletes that are extremely successful, like Serena Williams, or LeBron James, like those people are the ones that filter all of those terrible experiences. And then they kind of filter it to their talents. And that’s probably what we’ve been doing with our music right now.
Lance: Absolutely. And I think the thing that I’ve seen over the past year is the power of forgiveness. It if you allow someone to become a better person, it’ll, it really makes them understand what empathy is, and understand that you can grow and change. And that is the most encouraging thing you can offer someone and I’m coming from the perspective of the guy who had the opportunity to be forgiven. And that’s fucking awesome. Because I’ve changed so much over the past year, because these guys were willing to stick through with it and hold us together and become what we are today. That’s amazing.
The Midwest is often underappreciated, so what are some of your favorite Midwestern bands and venues?
Kaleb: We live right next to The Duck Room and The Pageant. So we’ve got to shout out those two venues. We’ve been in love with those venues since we’ve started playing shows. Period.
Jackson: Some of our first favorite concerts we ever went to were at those venues. And they’re all on the same street called The Loop. So, building ourselves up as a band, getting to play the smallest one. And then a couple months later, you build your way up. That’s definitely my favorite part.
Lance: The Pageant. So the singer of the Goo Goo Dolls, I saw him play an acoustic set and he said The Pageant is one of the best venues in America to play. And that was really cool because I’m like, “Damn, I’m lucky enough to live on The Loop.
Kaleb: Like we live across the street from The Pageant.
Lance: If we get up on our roof on our house, we can see the bad side. So there’s so much motivation when it comes to seeing that venue and knowing that one day we’re going to be able to play that and sell it out and do all we’re just excited for that. I don’t know about bands, though. Like, I don’t know, what’s your favorite Midwestern band?
Jackson: We’ve met a lot of cool people, like Friday Pilots Club is dope. I know one of the guys in this Midwest emo band called Belmont.
Lance: Yeah, they’re dope.
Jackson: I think they’re broken up now.
Lance: The Bad Haircuts.
Jackson: Yeah, they used to be a band quite a bit ago.
Kaleb: The cool thing about St. Louis and the Midwest is that there’s not a whole lot of bands that have made it out of here. And I say it’s cool because it gives us room to have a scene in St. Louis. So, since there isn’t a scene, that means we have the power to build one.
You guys recently uploaded an emotional acoustic demo to Soundcloud titled “A Way.” Could we expect to see this track on an upcoming release?
Kaleb: We did that on GarageBand in 20 minutes.
Lance: So the funny the funny story, but that was I was I just wrote that song. And then replayed it. I wrote it on the spot and just replayed it. And I didn’t even know—
Kaleb: The recording is Lance writing the song. And he didn’t know he was being recorded.
Lance: Basically, what happened was, Jackson opened up the computer and put a mic near me. I didn’t even see it. And I just played the song. And then he’s like, “Hey, that sounds good. I recorded it.” And I was like, “What? What?”.
Kaleb: There’s also me playing video games in the background if you really listen.
Lance: Halo Reach. You an hear the controller, it’s great.
Kaleb: But you know, it was just something that we put together really quick. And we just loved it. And we wanted to throw something up on Soundcloud real quick, just so you know, because we just loved it. It wasn’t for anybody but us.
Lance: I’m glad people can hear a different side to us. Because we do not know we don’t just play loud rock instruments. We can play acoustic guitar and piano and I’m excited to share that with our fans and our friends.
Kaleb: But no, we do not plan on releasing that any further than SoundCloud.
Lance: Not for now.
Assuming you’re taking time now to write new music and release new projects, can we expect something totally different from “Prove Them Wrong” or something that builds from your last release?
Lance: Completely different.
Kaleb: But still us.
Lance: We have five songs coming out. I don’t know when. But a single for the summer for sure. We worked with the coolest dude, Carl Nappa. He’s a mixing engine bay producer, he worked with Nelly and the song sound… I didn’t even know songs could sound this professional. It’s blows my mind. He knows that guy is a genius, genius when it comes to recording instruments and mixing and producing. So when I tell you this record is gonna be dope, it’s gonna be dope.
Jackson: He saw us after “Prove Them Wrong” came out and playing some shows, actually with that Friday Pilots Club band. And he came to that show. And he thought, you know, like, it’s kind of time to set foot, you know, dip his toe into what we were doing. And you know, we took it kind of lightly at first because we didn’t know how much to trust. And throughout the year of him helping us out, he’s matured us as artists and as people. And he’s shown us, I mean, somebody that’s worked with, like Lance said, Nelly for that long and working at the hit factory in New York for fucking however many years. You’re around so many successful people that that just starts to kind of get trained into your brain and so to be able to learn from someone like him, it’s just a treat, for sure.
Lance: Yeah, there was a lot of magic with this recording process, a lot of learning, but there was a lot of cool vibrations floating in the air. It was… I loved it. It was a great time.
Jackson: That’s probably what the biggest differences between this center and our previous releases is. It’s that maturity.
Lance: It’s the maturity and the magic. There’s a lot more magic with these five songs that are coming out.
As the promise of live music appears to finally be on the horizon, what is a pre-pandemic show memory that makes you feel excited to get back out there?
Lance: We played a show in January, right before everything went down. It was at The Duck Room. It was the first show where we were, I think, just a couple people away from selling it out. So as being a band, and trying to sell out venues, it was a big deal to us to finally play this legendary venue in St. Louis, where Chuck Berry played once a month. And all these people were here to come up to a good night. And it was just like the last hurrah before the COVID took over. We didn’t know it was there. But looking back, that Duck Room show was awesome.
Jackson: It was a good way to kind of say goodbye to it for a minute. It was bittersweet.
Kaleb: We also played another show, right for COVID, too.
Jackson: That one was, eh. That one was alright.
Now that the pandemic is winding down, what are some of your upcoming plans?
Jackson: Lots of stuff is coming. Some of the stuff we can’t talk about yet, just because of how it goes. But a lot of that has to do with where COVID is, you know?
Lance: Some stuff is planned. It’s planned, but we don’t know if that’s gonna happen. But we’re excited to play some outside shows, that’s probably the only thing that will happen for the rest of the year. So, shows might be coming back, we’re fucking stoked for that. I mean, we’re gonna just keep writing songs. That’s what we’re obsessed with. So that’s mostly what this summer is gonna consist of, shows and writing songs and doing promiscuous things that we do, because we’re teenage boys.
Kaleb: And supporting the local scene as much as possible, which is something that we’ve been doing recently that’s not what we normally did.
Lance: That is something that is big that we are planning, we have two things that we actually can talk about right now. We’re starting a scene in St. Louis, we’re going to get a bunch of bands together. And another thing is, is we’re going to start throwing shows that are art related. Anything that is art, doesn’t have to be just music, it’s going to be creativity. We got some cool places in mind. Whenever we can do it, we’re gonna do it.
Jackson: Yeah, we’re gonna want to do fashion shows, we want to do art projects. We want you know, we want creative directors involved. What COVID has shown us is how much stuff there is in other people’s heads, things like TikTok have completely exposed us, especially as musicians, to the world of creativity, and how similar people are to us, just down the street from us. And that the idea that we’re all in, like our own bubbles, you know, like, this is the music scene or this is the photography scene. And the fucked-up thing about that is like, it needs to be a complete scene of creativity. And I feel like creativity completely heals people.
Lance: We want to bring it together. We all have beautiful minds, and we all work differently. But we all can agree on certain things like love, and fighting hate with love and stuff like that. And art is a great way to do that. So, we’re ready to bring everyone together.
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