I recently had the opportunity to speak with Girls bassist and producer Chet "J.R." White in the midst of his band's nationwide tour in support of the excellent sophomore LP, Father, Son, Holy Ghost. White talked about the new album, the music press, and what it was like to literally live in a studio while in Seattle.SW: So how's the tour going?
White: It's been great. Personally, the band gets along well--they're all the best people we've had in the band so far. The response to the shows has been great. We've had backup singers on some of the nights, so it's been some great shows, great times; it couldn't be any better, really.
SW: And the new material's been going over well?
White: Yeah, it seems to be.
SW: Is there any song from the new album that particularly translates well or that you just really enjoy playing live?
White: There's not one that stands out head-and-shoulders above the rest. I like playing "Myma" a lot, playing "Honey Bunny" a lot, "Die" can be really fun to play at times. I really like playing "Myma," to be honest. It's so simple and fun.
SW: I'm sure you've been getting a lot of questions about "Die" [the third track from Father, Son, Holy Ghost], but it seems like such a departure from what you guys have recorded previously. How did it end up on the record?
White: It's fun to play. We assume that as long as it's written or arranged by [band leader] Chris [Owens] or me, that's all that matters to make it a cohesive part of the album. It's pretty different than anything else on the album, but in a way we hope to set ourselves up to do things like that, to be selfish. We always will be selfish, in a way. Sometimes the label will get involved and say, 'I don't know if that should be on the record, I don't know if that works.' [But we] never really pay much attention to that.
All the songs are valid. [Chris] thinks everything's valid; he doesn't often write something if he doesn't want it to be recorded. He wants to record everything he writes. And I'm interested in being a part of that. I back that up as well.
SW: Your band has received quite a bit of positive press. Do you pay any attention to that?
White: It matters, but I don't read it, if that makes sense. There's other people in the band that read it; I hear it from the band. I question everything--maybe it's from being slightly paranoid--but when I see a good review, for example, having a really good Pitchfork review, I'm sort of like, 'What the fuck is going on?' This thing that's become so valuable in independent music, to get a very good review, putting so much weight on something like that, it's very strange, you know? The whole thing's kind of weird.
SW: Do you mean it's weird to have something you've created be analyzed and scrutinized by so many other people?
White: Yeah, I guess that's it [laughs]. Our band has always tried to not be very political. That's why we've always been very [open] to talking about drug use and stuff like that, because I feel that the way social media works now--how you can actually talk to a band on Twitter and have direct contact with them, and you haven't been able to do that before that point--it's almost created an [environment] where people don't buy records anymore. It's a really cool time to be into music, because everything's so available.
Especially now, it seems so stupid to censor yourself in interviews and not talk about things that were a big part of making the record. I just not to believe the hype and just do what I want to do. I don't feel that much more confident than when we first started, to be honest, and I kind of think that's good.
SW: Girls has played a few times in Seattle before. Any thoughts on the city?
White: Chris and I actually mixed the first record with John Goodmanson at a place called Electrokitty in Seattle. We lived in a studio--John Goodmanson has a studio of his own, too, that's just a trailer, an old educational trailer that he's kind of converted into a studio; it's pretty bare bones, though. Chris and I lived in it for over a week, with no windows, on air mattresses. I remember that.
We have kind of a weird relationship with our time in Seattle. It was a pretty strange time, to spend a week there in a garage, basically. It was in sort of a suburban area and we didn't have a car, we just had a little bit of money to mix the record, so we just walked around the neighborhood and worked during the day. It was a pretty strange time.
Girls place the Neptune Theatre tomorrow at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $14 at the door.