By Ian GormelyAs far as Christopher Owens is concerned, the only thing standing in the way of his success as a solo artist is his own record. After leaving Girls, the band he formed with JR White in San Francisco, with whom he released two critically acclaimed albums, Owens quickly set to work on Lysandre, a song cycle about his former band's first tour that he originally wrote back in January, 2009.
"I just knew that there were some records that I wanted to make that I'd written that were different from what a rock'n'roll band can really play," he says. "When you have access to any musician, you can change things a lot easier."
Lysandre charts all the excitement and anxiety Owens experienced during the band's first jaunt across the country, including a brief relationship with the woman for whom the record is named. "It was a very new time for me," he says. "It was a very short relationship… but we connected in a very real way."
Owens describes Lysandre as spiritual cousin to '70s singer-songwriter records like Nico's Chelsea Girl, or the baroque sounds of Donovan. Classical guitar, saxophone and even flute sit comfortably with the guitar, bass and drums Girls fans have come to expect.
Tying the record together is a recurring motif that's appended to each of the album's tracks, a Renaissance-style melody Owens wrote on his acoustic guitar. "It helps people to understand that these are songs that work off each other," he says. "I thought it was a challenge to do that musically."
Despite a rotating cast of musicians, Girls were never able to satisfy Owens' itch to find a songwriting partner, making the life of a solo artist uniquely suited to his creative whims. But, he says, the modern cycle of recording and touring continues to stifle him; he's sitting on a few different records worth of material, but he feels trapped by the promotional obligations of his solo debut. "There's just not many options for me now."
He admits that the gap between writing and recording gives him the distance to reappraise a song's quality, but one way or another, something's going to have to give. "I'm going to try and find some way to record more now, but it's going to be a while before I get totally caught up."