Young alternative artists, “Bleach” return to the stage


Addy Berge

Jackson Stevens (left), Lance Johnson (middle), and Kaleb Mylenbusch (right) pose together. Despite the band not forming until 2018, they already have 32,000 streams on Spotify.

The pandemic created a creative bubble for artists to seclude into, whether they necessarily wanted to or not. Artists on the verge of young adulthood, transitioning from high school to reality, were at an especially vulnerable time for growth that was realized in their music. Bleach, a three-piece alternative rock band from St. Louis, reflected on their personal growth and rise as musicians through that period of isolation.

Bleach is composed of Lance Johnson (vocals), Jackson Stevens (guitar/vocals) and Kaleb Mylenbusch (drums). Johnson and Stevens were childhood friends, and were paired with Mylenbusch later on at a music summer camp when the boys were all around 14. In speaking to them about if they could imagine being where they are now, looking back at their initial group, Johnson confidently answered, “I mean, we definitely did. Pretty early on, being in the band, we were trying to make it.”

The effect the pandemic had on the music industry was particularly rough, halting all live shows, which served as many artists main source of income. This rift caused many artists to try to transition to online-based entertainment with the goal of gaining new audience members, and maintaining those that they had before in their engagements and support.

However, like many, Bleach used this time to hone their creative skills in songwriting and performing as well, which is reflected in the way their music style has matured and live show performances. Mylenbusch provided some insight as to what that looked like, investing in a practice space for the group to allow themselves to focus creatively along with the progress they saw as a result;

“We focused a lot on writing and bought a practice space in the city and built a studio to prepare for when Covid was over,” he said. “It paid off; our music right now sounds completely different to when we first started off.”

For such a young group, all around 20, the pandemic took up a sizable chunk of their transitional teen years, as it did for the rest of us in college. However, they pivoted to fully devote their energy to their music full time and decided to opt out of pursuing a degree. Balancing an artistic career and pursuing college responsibilities isn’t impossible with drive, but still can be very challenging, according to Johnson;

“I think it’s possible, I think it’s how hard you want to work, that’s a lot of it,” he said. “It’s also how much you believe in yourself.”

Social media helped Bleach establish their fanbase — the group has 72k followers on TikTok, around 10k followers on Instagram and 30,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Bleach started posting videos on TikTok of their performances after the pandemic in May of 2020 that consistently gained tens of thousands of views.

“We’re quite a different band from when all that happened, you know what I mean?” Johnson said, reflecting on the band’s growth since their early attention on TikTok. “We started when we were really young, the gap from when we started, to when the pandemic hit, to this interview, that’s a big amount of time for us. Honestly, we were just messing around in our basement as kids trying to get a few more streams on our songs, and it just so happened that everyone was using that app at the same time.”

Their first EP, Think Too Much, was released in 2018, and doesn’t take as many risks as the aptly-titled Growing Pains, their most recent EP released in 2021. They include more vocal harmonies, variation in vocal texture, play around with more production elements and have more intense and raw vocals on some tracks. All of their newer songs are more complex, with more variation in the structure of each song, more variations in instrumental highlights, and are overall angrier, the extra production elements add just that little extra depth and maturity to the songs.

Through the progression of the band’s ups and downs, their growth as musicians and band mates shows. In asking them to reflect on what advice they would give to their younger selves, they bluntly talked about trust, transparency, and ego.

Johnson chimed in with, “Don’t be a dick,” with Mylenbusch following up with, “Be open to your bandmates about everything, because you’re married to them.”

Stevens commented; “don’t overthink it, but also, be cautious, you know what I mean? Think about the impact you can make. There’s always that kind of power dynamic with the stage and everything, don’t be blind, there’s kids out there that care about you or view you in a certain stature.”

Bleach is in the process of writing and recording new music in what is somewhat post pandemic life for musicians, and have planned some shows around the east coast for the first time. You can keep up with them through their Instagram, Spotify, and Facebook.