Interview: Chet 'JR' White from Girls
Sometimes Twitter can be an odd and uncomfortable place.
The two boys from Girls are currently in the middle of their Laneway Festival tour. One half of the band, Christopher Owens, grew up in a cult and counts Hedi Slimane as a fan. The other half is the "together, father dude" by the name of Chet 'JR' White. Combined, they create a tiny but significant mass of San Francisco stoner beachy romance pop with melodies that make you feel like you're in a warped, dream version of an old, fifties surfing movie called Surfside Slumber Party or some such thing. We spoke to the "father dude" (both guys are the same age) while he was on the road between gigs on the East Coast of the USA and asked him about Coachella, Twitter, pop culture and more. Also, he sort-of almost gets into a fist fight over a parking space.
Emily Royal: How are you?
Chet 'JR' White: I just came from rehearsal.
And you're rehearsing with a new member, right?
When's your next show?
The day after tomorrow, in Philadelphia.
And you're playing Coachella?
Yeah, two weekends in a row – sounds pretty rough, though.
It does. Given that you're a little bit bigger than you were last time (in 2008), do you think it's going to be different this time around?
Yeah, I think we're a little higher up on the list this time.
Are you excited about coming to Australia?
Yeah, we were there maybe ten months ago, maybe eleven. Maybe it was a year ago.
Did you play festivals or solo shows?
We played one festival... I can't remember what it was called. We play so many that they all just cram together. It was outside. We get into arguments about whether we've played somewhere before. Or like, what we did when we were there. We had one once about Philadelphia and whether or not we've done an NPR session there. We all got into a big fight about it.
Yeah... we did one festival (in Australia) and the rest were closed shows. The promoter who was bringing us over was also bringing over The Fall at the time, so we got to be around Mark E. Smith which was really cool to be around him, hear about his anger and his freak-outs. He's such a legendary dude.
Cool, so how do you compare touring to being in the studio. You produce your records as well as play on them, right?
I have a studio in San Francisco now that I share with another person. So when I'm home I can do it on my own time, just working with other bands and recording with friends and stuff. Just staying busy. Honing my skills.
Skills! Awesome. Hedi Slimane is a huge fan of Girls, he's photographed Christopher [Owens]; what's the relationship there? Are you guys friends?
I've never met him. I mean, I know who he is, I know he took photos of Chris, but I've never met him. A lot of the people in that California photo series he did are my friends, so I think we may have a mutual friend who turned him on to a few people while he was in LA. Like my friend Liza is in the show, our sound guy is in the show. A lot of random people that I know are in the show. Just people we hang around with.
Have you ever lived in LA?
Would you live there?
I don't know, it's different to other coastal towns. It has its charm, I understand why people live there. I like going to visit and I'm not going to say I'd never live there, but not right now.
Understood. Hey who writes your Twitter?
Sorry hang on, I have to move the car.
Okay, sorry what was the question?
That's okay ? I was just wondering who manages the band's Twitter account.
Oh I do the Girls one, Chris does his own. He doesn't want to do one attached to the band.
I don't know. I started the account a long time ago – sorry, [talking to someone else] there's one right behind me, dude.
Sorry, just parking bullshit. Asshole! So sorry to ignore you right now! So yeah, I started the account right when Twitter first started, didn't really know what to do with it, didn't really know what Twitter was – okay I think I'm about to get into a fight over a parking space.
So yeah, I started it a long time ago. [Pause] Sorry, this is so Los Angeles, it's crazy.
Do you need a minute?
No. So, when people started using Twitter and it was just one of those weird things. I actually think Twitter is kind of cool; I don't think it's cool to be a band and not make it personal. I think you need some sort of human voice, like, you shouldn't just Tweet articles or retweet press about yourself. I sort of feel uncomfortable with it, at times, just because Chris won't do it and I do it. But I just feel like someone has to do it to relieve pressure. It's hard, though, I'm a very sporadic person. I like to speak off the top of my head, so sometimes Twitter can be an odd and uncomfortable place. At the same time I just have to go on it not as me, and you know, I mean, I could probably talk about it for an hour... my issues with Twitter. Hopefully people appreciate there being a voice instead of a label or a manager just Tweeting information.
Yeah it bugs me when giant superstars clearly have an intern at their record label doing their Tweets. It's like, just admit it's not you and move on.
I totally agree with you there. I just try to avoid all that shit and also try not to embarrass Chris too much.
I really like the music.
Good luck with everything.
Thanks a lot, I appreciate it.
Girls are playing St Jerome's Laneway Festival as well as two sideshows: Sydney (THIS THURSDAY!) and Melbourne (next Wednesday) with special guests, Melbourne band Twerps. Get your tickets by clicking the links below.
Thursday, February 2
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday, February 8
Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC