Attention Hollywood directors! Instead of remaking the A-Team or a super hero film featuring Jack Black why not turn to the hottest indie band in music right now for inspiration. San Francisco’s Girls have a back story that is so laden with amazing tales and fantastic characters it seems like myth, but lead singer Chris Owens assures us it’s all real.
For the uninformed here is the (condensed) low down. Owens is born into the infamous Children Of God cult whose former members include actress Rose Mcgowan and the late River Phoenix. He travels the world with his family and spends time in Japan amongst many other places. The Children Of God don’t believe in medical intervention however and so when Owen’s brother falls ill his Mother refuses all treatment and he dies. This is too much and the family disbands with Owen’s Father fleeing before being followed by Owen’s himself who, aged eighteen, moves to Amarillo in Texas. Whilst there he starts experimenting with drugs, punk rock and a long absent freedom. He forms bands, makes friends and has the life he’s always dreamt of. A billionaire named Stanly Marsh 3 (he hates Roman numerals) befriends Owens and moves him to San Francisco where he is paid to be an artist. He forms the band Curls with his girlfriend but before things get off the ground she dumps him. He writes the song ‘Lust For Life’ in retaliation and renames the band Girls alongside producer and musician JR White. Fast forward to the late Summer of 2009 and Girls are every critics favourite band and gaining a growing fan base in every city and town they leave behind. Now honestly, who wouldn’t want to see that film?
“Half the songs were written about the break up and all of them were written as we were splitting up.” says Owen’s of the band's titled ‘Album’.“I write all the time so the songs on the album are basically just the first bunch of songs I ever wrote. I wrote my first song when I was twenty seven, I used to be a painter.” ‘Album’ has an aura of solitude and despair running through it’s core and whilst that is clearly inspired by the demise of a relationship in the immediate sense surely Owen’s background informs his song writing to some degree. “I’m not entirely sure what it is from my past that is coming through at the moment but I know that it has a lot to do with the way I write and the way I feel. I just write off the top of my head so I’m not aware of what goes into my songs but I know my past will always play a big part in my life.” As well as the aforementioned solitude and sadness Girls channel in their music there is also a joy and a happiness that is reminiscent of escapism and freedom, could this be inspired by Owens escaping the Children of God and arriving in Texas? “I think so. It was such a great time I could do whatever I wanted and not have anyone telling me what to do. It was so liberating and I tried pretty much everything I was always told not to do and went pretty crazy for a while.”
Any great film needs great characters and Stanley Marsh 3 is certainly the most intriguing figure in the Girls backstory, is he aware of the band? “Yeah, we’re good friend still. He’s a bit old now, he’s 71 but he knows I’m in a band and supports me in everything I do.” Owen’s was introduced to Marsh in 2001 and the pair struck up an immediate friendship with Marsh giving Chris a job as a painter. “He was a really good friend to me and cared about me and was interested in what I did.” Could he have been the desired Father figure from 'Lust For Life'? “Yeah definitely. We both got things out of the friendship- I would go to him with my problems and worked with him for about four years.”
Dig a little deeper at Owens and it’s easy to unearth a raging ambition. Beneath the stoner image Girls have and their rambling 3am music there is a desire to be bona fide popstars which sees Owens speaking of staging the half time show at The Superbowl and “playing on the darkside of the moon”. Owen’s even claims to have written six albums worth of material. “I want to do great things, to be able to record albums and put them out there.” There is even talk of writing for other people “I can see how that would work. On the Girls album there are songs that if other people were performing would be really big pop songs. I love Beyonce and think she is just amazing. Her sister has a blog and she writes about bands sometimes so maybe she will hear about us and make that happen!”
Despite the backstory being the most striking thing you first hear about Girls it is in fact the music that has the most resonance. ‘Album’ is a stunning piece of work that will rank amongst the best of the year and it’s creator is an old school dreamer, a creative and intriguing musician. Having almost stumbled into the role he currently occupies Owen’s simply says “Everything seems so unreal and out of touch and then it happens and it just seems to make sense.”
The most exciting thing about Girls is that ‘Album’ does not feel like the result of twenty-eight years of hedonism, suppression and heartbreak. Rather it feels like another chapter in a massively entertaining tale and one that hopefully we have only just started to hear about.