While it's clear Owens is singing about a girl, he could just as easily be singing about Girls, the much-loved indie-rock crew he unexpectedly dissolved late last year. In that sense, it's fitting that "Lysandre" often plays like a breakup record, packed with quieter, more introspective songs and delicate, almost fragile instrumentation.
In a recent phone interview, the musician discussed the difficulty of pulling the plug on Girls, his formidable pingpong skills and the one thing he hopes people understand about him.
Is there a different sense of anticipation with this album since your name is directly attached to it?
I've had that with every album, but there is a little bit of a different feeling this time. I guess it's a bit more of a personal sense of anticipation than a group one.
Do you think this is an album you could have made with Girls? Or did you have to strike out on your own?
It could have easily been a Girls album, but it does make a little bit more sense presenting it as a solo album. Really, I think almost all of them would have made more sense as solo albums. Everything ended up becoming so personal. Even the songs on the first [Girls] album are so incredibly personal that if they had been presented as a solo album it might have made a little more sense in a way.
You mention the personal nature of the songs, yet you recently told Pitchfork you feel like you and your audience are still strangers. What's one thing you wish people could understand about you that maybe they don't?
It's very possible people do know me more than I think. I guess I think I'm just a little bit more mature and put together than I've come across over the years. As I write songs, for the rest of my life, people will continue to learn a lot about me. I'm going to change, and the only way to get the whole story is to follow the work over time.
Was it difficult to pull the plug on Girls?
It was very difficult. It took me about a year to even do it. It wasn't something I wanted to do, but I'm a lot happier now and I had a great time making this record, so I do feel like I did the right thing. It's an emotional thing to have to do. You really do want to keep working with all the same people forever.
Are you ever tempted to lie and tell people you lost the name Girls to Lena Dunham (creator of the HBO series "Girls") in a game of Rochambeau so you're not forced to continually talk about the split?
[Laughs] It really wouldn't have been worth ending a band if that was the only thing, but it being one more thing against me didn't help.
Has it been a different kind of experience playing your first solo concerts these last few weeks?
It's a very different kind of show. We're playing the album [in its entirety], which is different from just playing whatever you like. It's a little bit more delicate, and there's more concentration on playing the space in between the songs even. It's a bit of a task, but it's nice to do something new.
Are you playing any Girls material on this tour? Or are you giving yourself some space from it for the time being?
I think I will in the future, but for now I'm giving it space, like you say.
You've posted a lot about pingpong on your Twitter feed in recent days. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being Forrest Gump, how would you rate your skills?
[Laughs] I'd like to say I'm an eight. I lived in Asia until I was 10 years old, so I played pingpong more than anything else. I guess I'd have to play again to know for sure, but I was very good.
Christopher Owens, 8 p.m. Jan. 15 at Lincoln Hall, $20