Embracing the full liberty of San Francisco lifestyle, Christopher Owens has come a long way since his childhood growing up as part of the Children of God. The religious community, previously home to River and Joaquin Phoenix keep pop music a restricted taboo, but Owens always yearned for the freedom to create. With the help of Chet ‘JR’ White, that pent up energy has become Girls, a band looking to do it all, with a little help from the back catalogues of The Doors, Led Zeppelin and most other acts of rebellion you’d care to mention. Here’s what Chris had to say to The List.
Now you're from San Francisco. Is it still that great city of creativity and liberty?
Yeah. Very much so. It's a great place to live and I enjoy the city and the people who live there. I can't imagine living anywhere else right now. I get a lot of inspiration from it.
What about the music scene?
There are a lot of bands, and we do hang out together. And we all play in each other's bands too and play shows together and just talk about music. We feel like it's a really interesting scene right now.
You were formed in San Francisco too. How did that happen?
Well JR and I were friends for a long time and I started to write a bunch of songs and I approached him about helping to record them. Then when we out some on records, we got a big response on the internet, and people were wanting to book us shows and stuff, so we had to put on a live band. So we found a couple of guys who are really good musicians and it's been a real pleasure playing with them.
Was being in a band like this always the goal?
No, not really. I did not plan this. I'm enjoying it though.
When did this idea become a part of your life then?
Well I always listened to music. Then I started to play in a band called Holy Shit in California. And that was 2006 and it was while I was playing with them that I started to write my own songs.
And you were part of the Children of God group before that. Was music a part of that experience?
Yeah there was a lot of music in that group. It was like when you go to like a church and everyone's singing together – it was a similar kind of idea of music - except we would do it at home, and in public for other people - religious songs.
The only person I've talked to to who's been in a similar situation has been Matt from Cage the Elephant who told me a story about how his parents smashed a Green Day record they found. Was there a similar attitude towards popular music in the Children of God?
Very much so. We weren't allowed to listen to anything that wasn't in the group. And we never did. We never read books or watched TV. There was no contact at all. It was like growing up in a monastery.
But you realised there was this other world out there?
Oh very much so. And being able to experience it was my number one objective.
So when did you leave the group?
It was when I was 16. I'm 30 now. It was a release, and I was really excited. I'd wanted to leave since I was a kid.
What happened after that?
I don't know really. I spent a long time just meeting people and having friends and trying to have those experiences I felt like I never got to have and doing the things everyone probably did when they were growing up. It was exciting for me to buy records and see concerts and hang out with people my age.
You're work is certainly passionate and full of ideas. Is that pent-up energy?
Oh, definitely. I spent a long... well I was enjoying myself and it was just exciting to just hang out. But I knew I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what. And that took a while to figure out. I was painter before I did music. I never felt like I'd found a proper outlet, and never got the same satisfaction I get now from writing songs. I think writing music is an easier way for me to express myself.
What can we expect from the album then?
Oh I think it's a great great album. I'm really happy with it and I listen to it all the time myself. It covers a lot of different ideas and all different types of songs and I try to sing differently all the time. I don't think it's boring at all. From the beginning we were like: “Let's try all the ideas we have.” And that's been really fun to do. If we feel like trying a rock and roll song, we do it. And if we try a spacy song, we do it. And if we want a slow folk song, we do it. I feel like there's no limitation on this band.
How do you think people will feel when they listen to it?
There are definitely a few things going on. It's an artistic endeavour, and at the end of the day it's music. If it sounds good, you'll like it. But then, on the side, I'm voicing a lot of my feelings and expressing myself. I like to address the fact that life can be difficult and not exactly as you'd planned and sometimes it's lonely and difficult and rough. But if you stay positive yourself - if you have hope and love within yourself - you can always keep going. The way people lose their dreams or become hateful is by giving up hope and becoming bitter which is something I never want to do. So there's music and an idea of positive energy.
You say it's just 'music'. Is that a similar reasoning for the title? It's simply called 'Album'.
Well, we talked about some names. But we were like: "Why does an album have to have a name?. Let's just call it what it is." And it's our first album too. It's like how Bjork's first is called debut - this is us at this point and maybe they'll be another one. But for now this is the album I asked my friends to help me make. And there it is - Album.
What's the nicest thing someone's said about your work?
I have a friend in LA, Rachel Detroit, and she approached me before we even had a band, when we just had music online. She knew one of my friends and she was like “Hey you made that song 'Lust For Life' and I love it.” She showed me her diary and she had all the lyrics written in it, and you can't look online for those so she had to listen and write them out. There were little photos of her friends all glued around it too. Then on the next page she had her own version written out, cos mine is "I wish I had this, I wish I had that" and so on, and she'd done her own. I was like “Wow, that's really sweet.” And it just felt really good knowing someone was moved that much just from hearing the music. She said it was music that made it feel like not giving up on life and that's exactly what I wanted Girls to be.
Girls play Glasgow, Captiain’s Rest on 13 Oct and Edinburgh, Sneaky Pete’s on 14 Oct.s