Who: San Francisco’s Girls are led by Christopher Owens, who was raised in more than a dozen countries as a member of the Children of God cult before escaping at age 16, moving back to the States and taking a job as a supermarket stocker in Texas. He hitchhiked to New York and eventually decided to become a painter in California, where he met Holy Shit’s Matt Fishbeck and Ariel Pink, fell in love with their sound and joined the band. He had learned to play guitar as a teen in Denmark — he busked on the streets playing Everly Brothers tunes — and began writing his own songs at age 27. Bassist-producer “JR” White cultivated Owens’ Beach Boys and Phil Spector influences on the band’s debut, Album, out later this month.
Sounds Like: Owens is a vocal dead ringer for Elvis Costello on Album, which is packed with surfy, ’50s-tinged psych-pop. “Big Bad Mean Motherfucker” recalls Chuck Berry put through a Sister Ray-era Velvet Underground filter, and “Hellhole Ratrace” is a giant, strummy acoustic stoner epic that approaches the seven-minute mark.
— Country-hopping with his mom, Owens didn’t have the most traditional childhood to put it mildly. “Growing up I wasn’t allowed to listen to radio or watch TV or read books,” he says. “I was like brought up inside of a commune, we wouldn’t even really go out that much. But I remember the first time I discovered Michael Jackson and it was crazy intense for me. My mom was like, ‘That guy is the devil himself, he’s the most evil’ and I was really skeptical of what my mom believed so I thought like, ‘That can’t be true’ and I became obsessed with Michael Jackson.”
— Album was recorded “in the rehearsal studio after hours, when I would get off of work from being a cook at 1 a.m.,” White tells RS. “We’d stay up all through the night ’til the next morning just recording on kind of like frazzled minds. It’s not like the best hour to be creative, but it worked for us, so apparently it is.”
— Owens admits his time playing with Holy Shit strongly influenced his songwriting and says, “The songs on our debut album are the first songs that I ever wrote, so they’re like me learning a new skill, a new form of expression. I’m getting my feet wet so to speak.” His goal was simple: “We set out to make classic pop music that would appeal to most people, like all age groups. Just like good sounding pop music, the best music we could record with what we had. Songwriting is a bit of a way for me to vent my personal feelings, it’s an outlet and I’ve gotten a lot out of that personally.”
Get It Now: Click above to watch Rolling Stone‘s chat with Owens and White at a recent New York gig and hear a bit of “Hellhole Ratrace.” Plus, read our review of Album.