Photography Sandy Kim

A tiny practice studio in San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin District is sweltering from a seven-hour recording stint. Another faultless song has been recorded by JR White and Christopher Owens, the founding members of SF psych-pop band, Girls.

Did you choose the name as a homage to girls?
I love girls. John loves girls. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen him loving them. I watched him love them. JR loves girls, I live in the next door bedroom from him. I know he loves girls. We love girls. Gavin Newsome loves girls. He slept with his friend’s wife. It’s sexual repression that’s running this country.

And your album art, is that a homage to girls, too?
Have you heard that song “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers? It’s just that feeling. Only a girl can make you feel like that. Or maybe a guy. But only love. The pictures look good because there’s love behind them. It’s like, why did Raphael’s paintings of little boys look so good? Because he liked the little boys and he made them look good. Why do the girls in the photos look great and fit in that aesthetic? Because we love women and of course they look good.

What’s a perfect day for you?
We generally end up taking some kind of drug. But don’t judge. Don’t label us. Judge not lest ye be judged, as Jesus would say. Actually Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Nobody in San Francisco reading SOMA is gonna be able to point their finger at anyone for doing drugs. So give us a fucking break. We know what you did last summer… shoplifters.

The winds are changing for the boys of Girls, and while most “success” in the music business is typically the result of luck and hard work, Girls runs off of a different ideology. “Your parents will tell you to plan, to live healthy lifestyles and to make good decisions. But we did the exact opposite, and we came up with possibly the best band you could ever want to be in,” Owens says.

Anyone with nostalgia for a soiled adolescence, or a reverence for sadness will second the notion. The band has been blowing minds and breaking hearts despite a rotating cast of members and lack of albums; but now, it seems they have their feet on the ground even if their heads are still in the clouds. Recently signed to the venerable Matador Records, Girls are setting up to tour Europe this fall in conjunction with the release of their first full-length album, Album. Luckily, they’ve also found permanent bandmates with John Anderson on guitar, and Garett Godard on drums. It’s been a whirlwind year and a half for the new outfit, but so far it has paid off handsomely. Girls has reignited a love for alternative-pop and gathered a cultish following in their wake.

Album oscillates between masochism and summer fun, bouncing between lighthearted jams like “Lust For Life,” and the ethereal anthem, “Hellhole Ratrace.” The dichotomy of, and reliance between, pain and pleasure is no accident. “It’s supposed to sound beautiful and optimistic even though life in general is a pretty miserable experience,” Owens says. “We might have it pretty good sometimes… but there’s a good half of the world that can’t even get a break. Life is suffering. Life is hell. And we acknowledge that. We’re trying to make beautiful music as an alternative to life.” Girls wear their influences on their sleeves (think Buddy Holly listening to Nirvana Unplugged over a Long Island Ice Tea), but, simultaneously, have created a sound that is all their own. It’s the culmination of a generation with millions of awesome records at their fingertips—an audio cocktail of influences and genres that made up the mixtapes of their youth.

Yet, while the music reflects a frivolous reverence for tangled boyhood, Girls spends a tremendous amount of time perfecting their sound. White’s use of an extremely restricted recording process leaves scarce flaws for the untrained ear. It seems they’ve found perfection in low fidelity.

“There’s certainly a desire to do things as well as they could be done… not just a looseness. That’s something I never liked about hippies,” Anderson says, laughing. Owens adds, “We watched our parents be hippies and they let us down, even though we want to believe in things like love.” The result is the apathy of punk and with the precision of Spiritualized laced in morphine.

The aesthetic of Girls matches Owens and White’s sonic semblance, and adds an honesty to live performances. The subversive air of the four-piece is infectious; everyone looks drugged and unapologetically awkward. You’re more than likely to catch them in heels or lipstick, sequins or under a crown of flowers.

Owens admits, “I like to see what I can get away with wearing as a man…without just being a straight up gender-bender transsexual, because I’m not. Men should be allowed to wear beautiful flowery things. And it doesn’t mean that I’m trying to be a woman, because I’m happy to be a man.” Yet the album art, the music videos, the photos and their moniker all celebrate the capricious lure of a beautiful girl. Paradoxically, Girls will continue to be boys. Says Owens, “I love girls more than anything. There’s nothing in the world like a beautiful, smart girl. There’s nothing to compare it to. What, like a Macintosh? A car? A tree, a flower?”

– Jen Snyder