ACL Music Fest Friday Interview
Stranger than fiction
3pm, Zync Card stage
Born into the Children of God – an evangelical movement of the late 1960s accused of prostitution and child sexual abuse – and raised in seclusive communes around the world, Christopher Owens' escape to Amarillo at age 16 wasn't quite the American dream the Girls frontman had in mind.
"I spent a good deal of my teenage years fanaticizing and romanticizing what it would be like to move [from Europe] to the U.S. and be a normal teen with total freedom," recalls Owens. "Then suddenly there I was in another weird bubble, this redneck Bible Belt, Texas. It wasn't exactly 90210.
"I got into a lot of hang-ups there because I was so confused as to who I wanted to be. I got really involved in the punk scene, just hating society and eating out of the garbage to make a point. Punk was very accessible for me because I had all of those values of unity and brotherhood instilled in me; it's a very self-righteous thing.
"Eventually I just got bored with it."
Nearly a decade later and after befriending Stanley Marsh 3, the eccentric West Texas philanthropist responsible for Cadillac Ranch, Owens moved to San Francisco to pursue painting. Eventually he hooked up with multi-instrumentalist Chet "JR" White to form Girls, finding redemptive triumph in pop music and a colorful assortment of handshake drugs.
"That was my clean slate, a second chance to move out on my own again," relates Owens. "Except I was 25, so it was a real adult experience."
The band's 2009 debut, Album (True Panther), is the sound of a great awakening, 12 steps of slow motion heartache offset by a Californian summer bounce, flashes of British shoegaze, and Wall of Sound grandeur that magnifies in every subsequent listen. Owens writes with the kind of honesty that makes Fight Club's Tyler Durden "go a big rubbery one," like a wounded Buddy Holly merged with the post-punk immediacy of Elvis Costello. Despite the hang-ups in his stranger-than-fiction past, Owens remains cautiously optimistic about the future. Girls has a new six-song EP, Broken Dreams Club, due out in November, with a full-length following next year.
"I'm a grown man at this point," he says in regard to his reconciliation with his mother and estranged father. "I've thought about all of these things for a long time and dealt with them. It's no big deal. I don't regret anything."