With their debut full-length ‘Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness’ on the way this September, Bleach Lab are here to make a difference.
Words: Jack Press.
While some have spent the past few years buying up denim jackets, stealing their mum’s Kate Bush cassettes, and throwing dice for Dungeons & Dragons, a band from London were doubling down on the decade after. If Stranger Things took you travelling to the eighties, Bleach Lab are offering acid trips to the 90s.
An all-you-can-eat buffet of cotton candy dream-pop and sweet-and-salty shoegaze, their shimmering sepia-toned imagery is ablaze with ideas and their limited vinyl drops cause chaos amongst fans. After a slew of singles and a slingshot of rapid-fire EPs, they’re now gearing up to release their debut album, ‘Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness’.
While their lyrics pine for the spoilt fruit of failed relationships and long-gone loved ones, the band themselves have constantly been evolving with one eye on their next step at all times.
“We’ve always said that we never want any release we do to sound like the last one,” says drummer Kieran Weston, who describes their three EPs – ‘A Calm Sense Of Surrounding’, ‘Nothing Feels Real’ and ‘If You Only Feel It Once’ – as “testing grounds”. It’s a sentiment they all share, as vocalist Jenna Kyle explains that “the EPs were like a blueprint for our album.”
“It was always in the back of our minds that we couldn’t just keep releasing EPs forever,” says Kieran. “There was a bit of a demand; people were asking us.”
Not short of songs, ‘Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness’ came to life across three months. First came ‘Indigo’, with its splashy cymbals and rhythmic riffs summoning summer sunsets, and now ‘Counting Empties’, its marching band drums and spacious riffs that crash like waves. Just like their glittering soundscapes of sunny days juxtaposing lyrics of grey sky days spent indoors under covers, the two songs show both sides of the Bleach Lab coin.
While for Kieran, ‘Indigo’ is the “the biggest statement of what the album was” when making it, for Jenna, it was their way of mixing things up from the off. “We wanted to put a bit of a mix-up and offer a little bit of a surprise with ‘Indigo’ because it’s so different to what we’ve had before.” It’s all part of their master plan. “We want to attract different audiences and tap into different genres because we’re still exploring.”
‘Counting Empties’, on the other hand, “exemplifies what Bleach Lab is and should be,” according to Kieran. “We had to bridge a bit of a gap because ‘If You Only Feel It Once’ had songs like ‘Safe Place’, which is very upbeat, so ‘Indigo’ sonically is [also] very upbeat, a great impact track, and then it was important to come back to what we wanted Bleach Lab to be, from those very first EPs, which is ‘Counting Empties’.”
‘Counting Empties’ came to life at Frank [Wates, guitar]’s kitchen table, where he and Kieran would spend days demoing ideas to send to the band’s lyricists, Jenna and bassist Josh Longman. “Every week he would cook us dinner, we had this fabulous tofu Ottolenghi thing which was absolutely incredible – that is the taste of the album for me – and he would just give me some guitars, I would sift through them. He’d cook dinner, and I would just demo songs, and ‘Counting Empties’ was one of them. His flatmate was actually in the room after I finished, and he just turned and was like, ‘that’s really beautiful’.”
Josh took to the song like a duck to water, penning a heart-wrenching plea to a partner from the perspective of someone struggling with addiction. With delivery from Jenna as delicately soul-destroying as a late-night stroll through Lana Del Rey’s repertoire, she interprets ‘Counting Empties’ in her own way.
“It’s asking for patience and understanding and acknowledging that you’re not the person you want them to think you are, and you don’t think that about yourself. It’s like being at war with yourself and dealing with this mammoth issue that someone else is also having to take on at the same time as you.”
“I want what I write to be relatable”Jenna Kyle
‘Counting Empties’ will crush a heart or two, but it’s the perfect primer for ‘Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness’. It’s an open book, designed to be taken however you want, suggests Kieran. Bleach Lab are no strangers to late-night confessionals, and their self-reflection this time cuts closer to the bone than ever before. Make no mistake, Jenna and Josh have travelled to the deepest corners of their minds to make this album.
“The general themes are toxic relationships, self-reflection, and discovery about yourself; I found a lot of things that I wrote about and said were things that I’d be too afraid to say to someone in real life,” reflects Jenna on what she says was “quite a cathartic process.”
Much of the album comes from periods of personal struggle. For Jenna, she “wrote a lot of the lyrics towards the end of a really bad relationship”, with future cuts ‘Saving All Your Kindness’ and ‘Never Coming Back’ “examples of what I was feeling, and maybe a lot of other people feel as well because I want what I write to be relatable.”
Wearing your heart on your sleeve is a double-edged sword. Take ‘Smile For Me’, a track which for Jenna “is a difficult one” that she’s “nervous about performing. It’s personal and really raw, but sharing that with the guys was like, ‘okay, I’ve done that’, and then it’s like, oh shit, I’ve got to share that with the rest of the world.” It’s not a bad thing, though; it’s “a good thing to be afraid of.”
In many ways, the fear of fear, of confronting your demons, is the feeling of ‘Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness’ itself. For Jenna, the moniker describes “the feeling of finding out something really awful. Someone tells you horrible news, and you’re spinning out of control, and your chest is burning, and you feel dizzy, your head feels like it’s on fire, and you’re lost in that rush of emotion.”
It’s not just a labyrinth of emotion to get lost in; the title is taken from Leonard Cohen’s late-career poetry collection The Flame. “We were in the studio, we hadn’t decided on a name, and Josh was obviously there for really long days and hours and had picked up a few books.
“A lot of things that I wrote about were things that I’d be too afraid to say to someone in real life”Jenna Kyle
“He said a lot of the themes in that collection of poetry reflect on the album, which was completely incidental. He was quite shocked that this one book he decided to pick up reflected a lot of themes, and it was a rough line he found.”
Just like Josh finding a slice of the album’s soul in Leonard Cohen, Bleach Lab hope listeners find themselves in ‘Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness’. Jenna wants the album to help people “not to feel alone with things that they go through, that everyone goes through.”
Being relatable is what Bleach Lab have been about since day one. For Kieran, it’s “one of the main things for me, since being in this band, when people have come up to us and said this song really helped them through their breakup last summer, or when someone just said ‘Indigo’ is exactly what they needed right now.”
Early-era cut ‘Never Be’ has been the soundtrack to so much summertime sadnesses they might as well cover Lana, says Jenna. “We had someone come up to us in Bristol when we played there last year, and she was like, ‘this song was my whole summer with this guy that I had a whirlwind relationship with, and it got me through everything. We’ve broken up now, and I listened to it all the time and cried’. She just had this real experience with it.”
For a band just about to drop their debut album, having risen so quickly to the top of the hype machine’s mountain, having such an impact on the world around them is wild. It’s a constant state of euphoria for the foursome. They hope, more than anything, that ‘Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness’, will make a difference. ■
Bleach Lab’s album ‘Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness’ is out on 22nd September. Their new single ‘Chasing Empties’ is out now. Follow Dork Playlist on Spotify here.
Bleach Lab are set to hit the road for a new UK tour later this year. Tickets go on sale this Friday, 14th April. The dates read:
3 Belfast, Ulster Sports Club
4 Dublin, The Grand Social
6 Birmingham, Hare And Hounds
7 Nottingham, Bodega Social Club
8 Manchester, Gorilla
10 Glasgow, Stereo
11 Liverpool, District
12 Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
14 Bristol, Thekla
15 Brighton, Patterns
15 London, Scala