Following a stellar sold out performance at Whelans in March, San Fancisco duo GIRLS are back with a headline date at the Academy on Monday 23rd August. Tickets are on sale now priced €17.50 incl. booking fee
It’s often said that great bands are more than just the sum of their parts. In which case, Girls – two San Francisco slackers who go by the name Christopher Owens (words and melodies) and JR White (production and general studio boffinry) – shouldn’t need to worry.
Christopher was born into the hippie Children of God cult, where he spent his childhood traveling across the globe, attending prayer sessions whilst being shielded from the outside world.
The full story of Christopher’s time in the cult, which involves tales of suicide, prostitution and an eventual escape to Texas, is one for another time. But what’s clear is that this is far more than just a neat backstory – life in the Children of God had a massive impact on Christopher’s songwriting. It was there that he learnt to busk, there that he listened to a diverse array of music made by other cult members, and there that fellow cult member and former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer gave him his first guitar, an instrument he still uses to write songs on.
After leaving the cult at 16 and spending several drug-fuelled years immersed in Amarillo’s punk scene, Christopher headed off to find a natural home in San Francisco. It was here that Christopher fell into the local music scene, playing gigs with freak-folkster Ariel Pink and his Holy Shit project (Christopher: ‘I wouldn’t have got into writing music at all if I hadn’t played with Holy Shit – watching them play was like a lightbulb going off.’) And it was here that he met the final, crucial part in the Girls story: JR.
Strong male friendships serve as the backdrop to some of the best rock’n’roll, from Mick’n’Keef through to John Squire and Ian Brown. Christopher and JR are no exception: not only do they spend all their time together – writing, rehearsing, partying – they even share a bedroom after knocking down the wall that divided their two rooms. And as Christopher’s innocent, open-hearted songs began to take shape, JR was on hand to conjure up the perfect musical backdrop. Think of their debut album as a kind of DIY Pet Sounds, recorded in bedrooms and rehearsal spaces on broken equipment.
Meanwhile, the accompanying video encapsulates their San Fran aesthetic perfectly. It was shot by Aaron Brown, one of the many arty outsiders who’ve become part of the Girls extended family.
You soon realise that every song has a story. Curls is a gorgeous little instrumental, one that Christopher’s ex-girlfriend had previously refused to sing on because it wasn’t ‘rock’n’roll’ enough. The handclap-strewn Lust for Life documents the time Christopher met up with his ex following their split and was forced to listen to all the great things she had going for her (a new boyfriend, a father, a beach party with friends). Meanwhile, Laura is a plea to a best friend, asking if they can patch up their differences and start afresh. All feature Chris in astonishingly honest, heart-on-sleeve storytelling mode.
Elsewhere, variety is the order of the day. Far from simple Cali-pop revivalists, the Girls album is a music obsessive’s paradise, with references dotted all over the place. Listen carefully and you’ll pick up everything from Martin Denny-style exotica (Headache) to blissed-out shoegaze (Morning Light). You’ll hear the vocal stylings of Elvis Costello, the spaced-out fuzz of Spaceman 3 and cheeky pop references to the likes of Prince and Iggy. Like Girls themselves, the music is the sum of many fascinating parts.