Christopher Owens, singer/songwriter for the San Francisco band Girls, which performs Monday at Detroit Bar, has captured the fancy of rock critics looking to tout the Next Big Thing. Despite my general leeriness of buzz bands, I found
Given Owens' reputation as having a mercurial personality–and penchant for drugs, I anticipated a phone interview with a subject who was either stoned, arrogant, a head case, or all those combined. What I got instead was an extended conversation with a bright and thoughtful 30ish man who came off as, if not exactly humble, at least what we would commonly understand as normal.
OC Weekly (Eric Snider): Listening to Album, it sounds like it was made by someone who had studied '50s and '60s pop music, but you were prohibited from that. How did it happen? Osmosis?
It was a mixture of things. It's like I had a little of that music in my subconscious. Some of it would be played while I was growing up, and not a lot of music was. But I wouldn't have been allowed to idolize anyone; I wasn't allowed to become a fan of Elvis Presley, but it crept into my subconscious. When I first really listened to ['50s and '60s pop] it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard, the most produced. The religious music I heard growing up was not very vane, just strumming guitars and singing about God. When I started writing songs, those [pop] influences came out subconsciously. The other part of what made that music so prevalent in Girls was that JR produced the record and ['50s and '60s pop] was a big influence on him. And he studied the stuff.
You made the album on the fly, with limited equipment, yet I don't hear it as lo-fi. Was it a struggle to get the sound you were after?
Yeah it was. We started off pretty spontaneously, not like, “Let's make an album and we'll buy all the things we need and do everything step by step.” It was more like, “What are you doing tomorrow? You wanna record this song?” I had an amp and a guitar basically, and a keyboard. [JR had some basic recording equipment.] As we went along we got stuff we needed to make the album. We put a couple of songs up on the Internet and there was a buzz even then, people wanting to hear more. So it was like, “We need to go all the way with this,” and at that point we still didn't have a lot of equipment. It felt important, though, like we had to do a good job. But we were still in our bedrooms with used gear.