How many bands must there be around the world that are searching desperately for a record deal? If you think about it, you probably know at least one, but Girls – a quirky lo-fi rock duo who, despite the name, are 100% male – picked up an offer for debut album Album without even trying. Then again, when you have a history as interesting as Christopher Owens’, writing music must come incredibly easily. When State caught up with the songwriting half of Girls, he was preparing for the latest date on his European tour in Malmo, Sweden, and willing to discuss much more than your average well-prepped musician will delve into with the media. Read on, for a glance into the cult-influenced, drug taking world of a man who’s finally found his niche…
Your new record, Album, comes out next week. Tell us about it…
Well, it’s the first thing I ever wrote. I was in punk bands before as a guitarist, but this is the first piece of music I wrote myself. I didn’t actually write it with the intention of making an album; it was all just a bit of fun. We recorded it all in the early hours of the morning on broken recording equipment, while we were working full time jobs. Then it got a good reaction from our posting the songs on the Internet, and we’ve gone from there. It’s actually been quite a long time since we wrote the album, even though it’s only coming out now. But, as much as we’re happy with this, it was never our aim. We kind of fell into it.
I hope you won’t be offended if we say Album is quite a raw LP, perhaps because of the way it was written. Is there anything you’ll do differently on your next effort?
We won’t be changing our values, but we will be going for a slightly more mature sound. There were things we weren’t able to do with this album, because of how it was recorded. I’ve already written about fifty more songs since, and our live set now is made up of a 50/50 mix of songs from Album and other stuff. We don’t know what will be on the next album yet, but we plan on touring a lot until about spring or summer next year, and then making another album.
You had quite an unusual upbringing. Is that something that comes out in your music?
Not really. I mean it’s a big part of me; I was born into a cult, and escaped when I was 16 and went to live with my sister, who escaped before me. But my time playing punk was more a reaction to that, to the anger. Obviously I’ll never forget it. This album is more about my life now. But the cult’s still going. It’s been through about five different names since then, and changed a lot. I was a second-generation child, and most of us left, though the older members would tell us it’s the worst decision of our lives, and that we’d go to hell for it. Shortly after I left everyone started leaving. There were murders, suicides and all sorts after I left because of kids leaving. In the end the group were forced to go back on their beliefs, and I’ve heard things are different now, though I don’t have any contact with them anymore.
You took a lot of drugs when you were writing the album, right?
(laughs) Can you hear it in the music? Yeah, we just did it to relax, really. We don’t do it as much now that we’re touring, but we’ve had a few gigs where fans who’ve read about the drugs come along afterwards, and I wake up the next afternoon and have to scramble to the next venue. But the rest of the band isn’t really into it, and for me it’s pretty normal. It’s not really exciting.
If that’s not exciting, what is an exciting tour story for Girls?
I prefer just meeting people. On our first US tour with The Smith Westerns we got really close, and became best friends. We still keep in touch by email all the time now, set each other up with gigs, stuff like that. There have been quite a few crazy things happening, but not as many as you might expect, mainly because I’m so scared of failure.
What’s the dynamic like between yourself and JR?
We have a really good relationship. I think it works well because we need each other. I write the songs, but I can’t do the production. He’s really good at that.
Laura and Lauren Marie (song titles from Album), are they real people?
Yeah, Laura’s a friend. Actually she’s an old girlfriend’s best friend, who became jealous about her friend spending more time with me than her. The song’s about trying to clear the air with her. Lauren Marie is a girl I met at a party that I kind of liked, but it never really worked out. They know who they are; it’s a really tight knit group in San Francisco. Everyone knows what everyone’s doing all the time.
Do you think San Francisco is an important part of your music?
I think it probably is, but it’s not intentional. Bands usually sound like where they’re from; it’s natural.
The album manages to be quite upbeat despite being about quite negative things…
Yeah, a lot of our lyrics are quite downbeat, but the music’s about me trying to be positive and look at things in a good way. When you have a background like mine you can’t concentrate on the negative all the time, so even when the subjects aren’t so positive, I wanted to keep a positive feel.
Will we be seeing you in Ireland soon?
I hope so. I’d love to come to Ireland; one of the first band I bought all the albums by when I escaped from the cult was The Cranberries. But we’re still at a stage where budget is a major restriction on where our tours can go, we have to go where we can afford to. We’re doing a UK tour in February, so hopefully we’ll make it over then.
As published in State Magazine, September 2009. Click here for original.