Christopher Owens and JR White are Girls, and their emotions are all over the place. “Being in a band right now is a pain in the ass,” says White. “I’m overjoyed,” counters Owens. “I feel like I could do this for the rest of my whole life.” Well, I’m kind of lying. Those quotes are taken completely out of context: White is describing the difficulty of assembling enough players to tour, Owens is on about the thrill of singing his true heart. But that reckless enthusiasm, that’s real, and it powers every deadpan plea in Girls’, let’s be honest, amazing hits.
Before they started cranking out songs that sound inspired by earnest french kissing, Buddy Holly and the bottom of the ocean, Owens and White were the only straight guys in a group of self-destructive artists. Well, that’s not entirely true either. What happened was that White and his friends were sitting in some park in San Francisco when a lanky stranger with a spaceman haircut passed by and they yelled out to him that he was crazy. The spaceman was Owens. He turned around, sat down and ended up hanging out for the whole week.
That’s how it’s generally gone for Owens since he showed up in San Francisco. Shortly after leaving Amarillo, Texas, he found himself doing topless, one-on-one breakfast karaoke with Matt Fishbeck of Holy Shit, the singer from his favorite band, who introduced him to Ariel Pink. Days later he was invited on tour. He went. Not long after that he discovered at the age of twenty-nine that he could write songs. “I’ve always had a lot inside,” he explains. “I feel this need, you know, to express myself. But this is the first thing that’s really felt unforced. It also feels limitless.”
White, a former Santa Cruz punk who learned sound engineering from a drunk in a Big Basin railroad car, helped Owens with arrangements, recording and bass. They drove up north to Cotati, picked up a $600 reel-to-reel and banged out an hysterically euphoric two-minute bummer called “Lust For Life” with lyrics like I wish I had a suntan/ I wish I had pizza and bottle of wine/ I wish I had beachhouse/ We could make a big fire every night/ Instead I’m just crazy and totally mad. After finishing it, the floodgates were open and in a week it was one of their ten shimmering Elvis Costello surf laments. Within a month, Girls was the San Francisco band to see and they soon signed to the True Panther Sounds label. Emotional, right? “We try not to use the work ‘luck’ a lot,” says White, “but on occasion we do.”