Ian Maleney spoke with JR White of San Francisco’s Girls ahead of today’s release of their new album Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
Ian Maleney spoke with JR White of San Francisco’s Girls ahead of the release today of their new album Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
Girls burst upon the scene in 2009 with the release of their debut album, Album, which spawned the alt-anthem singles ‘Lust for Life‘ and ‘Laura‘. Front-man Christopher Owens regaled the music press worldwide with tales of his childhood as part of the Children Of God cult while the gleefully weird pop songs that emerged from this unusual development made for great summer sing-a-longs. Returning now with album number two, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, the the ever-present duo of Owens and Chet “JR” White seem to have avoided second-album syndrome completely. With a charming sense of curiosity and innocence, the two San Francisco residents have crafted one of the year’s finest, weirdest pop records. Drawing on the unsettling kind of twee that Lou Reed imbued The Velvet Undergound with, as well as Beach Boys harmonies and Neil Young style guitar freak-outs, Father, Son, Holy Ghost is an ambitious and bright record that shows no sign of nerves or inhibition.
JR White explains that it was a big change in many ways for the two men at the head of this indie phenomenon. “Well with the new album, we tried to make it more a whole band situation and less like Christopher and I doing loads of stuff ourselves. We brought in our friend and old guitar player, John Anderson and a new drummer and Darren Weiss. We recorded it in this weird basement that some guy was running, this strange kind of large concrete room that was filled with loads of gear and whatnot. We just got the keys, locked the door and sat in there for a month. We didn’t really come out until it was done.”
Do you feel there was an attempt to make a more polished or professional kind of record this time around? “I guess we were probably trying to do that all the time, definitely with whatever equipment we have. I’m trying to make the guitars sound like their right in front of you and trying to find a clarity but still have interesting and somewhat original sounds, like the tones would be original and not stale.”
White does still believe in an underlying Girls sound though, one that it would be impossible and pointless to run from. “I feel like, with our band, what we bring to the table is like a filter where no matter how much we go over it, there’s always going to be something a little strange and off-kilter about it. So I kind of wanted to find those things and put them out in the forefront a little bit with the production.”
Despite being a talented engineer in his own right, White thought it would be a good idea to bring in a true professional for this album and the difference is plain to hear on the album, which sonically outshines it’s predecessor in just about every way. “We wanted to hire someone who had made big records and had worked at a commercial level. I wanted someone who was working like ten years ago when people were making records for six months and of kind brings that side of the production value to the table. The guy we found was young, cool and overwhelmingly positive. He liked good music. I remember calling Chris and going, he’s really positive. Like, we can both get in such negative slumps when working so it’s good to have balance. So yeah, that was definitely the plan, to make a record that sounds competitive up against any other record you know? Clear, strong.”