Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 08th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Homeward Bound

music GirlsGirls’ J.R. White talks about his formative years in Santa Cruz

s with any artistically inclined town, the music venues in Santa Cruz are of a cyclical nature, spaces opening and closing, scenes and genres moving from one locale to another. But aside from its annual New Year’s Eve galas, the Cocoanut Grove—a local institution of 105 years—has stood outside it all, reveling in the quiet dignity of its big band and swing roots of the ’30s and ’40s.

That’s all about to change—and there couldn’t be a more appropriate act to usher in a new era for the venue than Girls, an indie rock band clearly harkening back to an older one. The duo, made up of singer/guitarist Christopher Owens and bassist Chet “J.R.” White, leans toward Buddy Holly sensibilities (if Buddy Holly used opiates as a creative catalyst), and will bring the time warp with it when it visits the venue on March 1.


White has a better understanding of the Cocoanut Grove’s place in the Santa Cruz music scene than international artists stopping through town. That’s because he spent his formative years growing up in Santa Cruz’s punk scene, hitting up record stores like Steven’s Music World, and playing shows as a 13-year-old in a band called The Willies at places like the Red Room and the basement of the Veterans Hall.

“Punk allowed me, as a 17-year-old, to get a number of labels and then realize that you could scrape together some money and put on shows,” says White. “We didn’t even know what punk rock was back then. We probably thought it was wallet chains and tattoos.”

White retains a retrospective view of Santa Cruz.

“I’ve actually avoided going back and playing there—it’s like a whole other world,” laments the 32-year old. “It’s almost this untouchable thing, that place in time. I loved it, but I don’t necessarily have a desire to go back [to live].”

As a young man, White spent a little time at Cabrillo College before dropping out.

“Cabrillo was like seeing everyone from high school all over again,” he recalls. “I was getting more and more interested in recording bands and things like that, and one day in class I just thought: ‘Why am I not going to school for recording?’”

So, he enrolled at the now-defunct California Recording Institute, and earned a degree in recording engineering—today, White produces all of Girls’ albums. Despite having “supportive, liberal parents,” a traditional career route was never in the cards for White, who even worked for a stint as a catering chef at the well-known Zuni Café in San Francisco.

White describes himself as the guy in the band who was the least likely to play music full-time. However, he’s all in now, handling the band’s contractual negotiations and the various business aspects. In addition to being the primary songwriter, White bounces off song ideas and arrangements.

Even though the band’s first album, 2009’s Album (the band’s second effort, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, was released in September), was admittedly fueled by a great deal of drug use, White has longevity on his mind.

“I don’t like to say I’m paranoid, but I’m definitely cautious,” White says of the band’s success. “It’s a fleeting thing, and most people don’t understand what’s really going on. I’m 30 years old, and originally it was a question of, ‘Do I really want to do this when I’m 35? What is the lifespan of a band?’”Photo: Sandy Kim

Girls performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at the Cocoanut Grove, 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $21. For more information, call 423-2053, or visit

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Hot in Here

This ain’t no Burning Man—the MAH’s GLOW festival flames on


Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of October 9

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Seoul Food

Santa Cruz’s new Sesame Korean is a great introduction to an ancient culinary tradition


Is there evil in the world?

Yes, some people don’t think right because they have been treated badly. Milo Robbins, Scotts Valley, Second Grade


Dos Aguilas Olive Oil

Aptos company is letting locals pick their own olives in October


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist