Lisa Lavelle catches up with misleadingly titled San Francisco eclecto-rockers Girls
San Francisco band Girls have begun to make their mark on the Indie scene with a sound that’s impossible to pin down; “a DIY Pet Sounds” is one attempt at describing their debut album – innovatively titled Album. This straightforward approach is characteristic of the duo, consisting of songwriter Christopher Owens and producer JR White. Their music, which comes straight from the heart of drowsy, crazy, sun-drenched San Francisco showcases an eclectic range of musical influences ranging from the Smiths to the Beach Boys to 70s alt-rock. When asked if these stylings are a conscious decision, Owens replies noncommittally, “I think everything comes from something else”.
He is equally ambiguous about the influence of his adopted hometown on his music: “We didn’t set out to do that,” he muses, “I think everyone is influenced by where they live.” This attitude, somewhere between modesty and an almost zen-like apathy, pervades the band’s music and is also, otwo suspects, behind their creative album titling.
It is also reflected in the story of the album’s origins: Album was, according to Owens, recorded on an eight track in the bandmates’ bedrooms. “I think it gave it a cool sound,” he says, adding in another fit of nonchalance that “we didn’t do it on purpose, it was just all we had.”
The album contains the songs ‘Lust for Life’ and ‘Hellhole Ratrace’, the latter being, in Owens’ own opinion, the best song he’s written. When otwo reminds him of this claim, he seems a little confused. “Oh yeah,” he remembers eventually. “That’s how I felt at the time, just because it was the newest song that I wrote, but I feel like I’ve written better songs now… I think I’m maturing every day,” he adds half-jokingly. “I’m still pretty new at it”. It is, however, an impressive track, and one that sums up Girls’ musical style with its psychedelic sound and incidental philosophy. In the composer’s own words, it’s “a song that acknowledges the surrealities of day to day life”.
Girls’ lyrics are simple, pared down and emotional – and together with White’s production, the music has a hazy, dreamlike quality and an unavoidable honesty. Owens acknowledges that he is influenced by “simple writers” such as Buddy Holly, but when asked to describe their sound, he finds it a little more difficult to pin down a source. “I think it’s pretty all over the place. I think we go from one style to the next.” In the end it’s this nonchalance about labelling their music that comes through in the album. The music just is, in a laid-back, sunbaked way that sounds like a Radiohead and Beach Boys lovechild. However, these convoluted musical comparisons that seem to follow Girls around are best discarded in favour of Owens’ characteristically simple formula: “It’s just sort of a little bit of everything I grew up listening to. Just sort of everything. And what it turns out to be is pop music.”
Girls’ debut, Album, is out now. See http://www.myspace.com/girlssanfran for details.