As the singer and guitarist in Girls, a San Francisco–based band, Owens has emerged as one of the premier songwriters of Northern California’s burgeoning psych-pop set. His sunny melodies often belie the deep melancholy in his lyrics, and his personal pain is not unfounded. Born in Miami in 1979, Owens survived a turbulent upbringing traveling around the world in the Children of God, a religious cult whose practices commonly included forced prostitution and child abuse. At the age of sixteen, while living in Slovenia, he left the cult and returned to the United States, residing first in Amarillo, Texas, and eventually in San Francisco. Owens teamed up with bassist and producer Chet “JR” White in 2007 to form Girls. They released their debut LP, Album, in 2009, followed by an EP, Broken Dreams Club, in 2010. Both records established Owens as a skilled composer of confessional pop songs and the possessor of a hauntingly original voice. Girls’ third record, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, was released last month.
THE BELIEVER: After the release of your last EP, you posted a handwritten letter to your fans on the internet, which said the recording was “a snapshot of the horizon.” What does the rest of the horizon—beyond that snapshot—look like to you?
CHRISTOPHER OWENS: The goal has never been to make the best or the most popular songs in the world. There are certain songs, like “Love Me Tender” by Elvis Presley or “Imagine” by John Lennon—they’re not complicated songs. Certainly “Bohemian Rhapsody”is more complex. But they’re more relatable, and universal, and honest, and direct. And my goal has always been to write a song like that. Like a Cole Porter song. Simple songs that you can’t argue with. That you just love. Maybe we’ll write a song like that on our next album. Maybe it will be three albums from now. But when we’ve had our fun, and all is said and done, I want to leave behind at least one of those songs. One that belongs in the group of songs that changed my life. A song that speaks to everybody.