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R.I.P. Chet “JR” White, Girls Member Dead at 40

on October 21, 2020, 11:27am

Chet “JR” White, bassist and producer of indie rock band Girls, has died at the age of 40. His passing was confirmed by Pitchfork, but a cause of death isn’t yet known.

White was born in Santa Cruz, where as a teenager he got his start in music as part of a country punk band called The Willies. He eventually took off for San Francisco and met Christopher Owens, with whom he founded Girls in 2007.

With White and Owens serving as the two core members, Girls went on to enjoy a successful, albeit short, run highlighted by two acclaimed albums (2009’s Album and 2011’s Father, Son, Holy Ghost). White co-produced and played bass on all of their releases.

Tensions between White and Owens unfortunately reached a boiling point during the recording sessions for their second LP, as Pitchfork points out. “At the time we weren’t spending as much time together, we used to spend every day with each other, used to go out every day, which was happening less,” White recounted to Impose.

“The relationship between us was changing because of the band,” he continued. “I think this record was a big influence on us because we had to find a new way because at times we were uncomfortable working with each other in a sense you know, because after two years of touring there are stresses that build up.” That stress build-up eventually resulted in Girls’ breakup in 2012.

Owens later cleared the air about the split, commenting, “In a way, yes, he [White] wanted to be in a band like I did with Girls, but in a way, I know what he really wanted was to be producing records, and he wasn’t really getting to, and now he is. JR’s good at what he does.”

Moving into a more behind-the-scenes role, White devoted his time to working as a producer, engineer, and mixing engineer. He notably assisted on albums by Tobias Jesso Jr., Cass McCombs, and Spectrals, among others.

On social media, friends and colleagues have paid tribute to the late musician. Former bandmate Owens tweeted,

“I hope you feel nothing but peace now my brother. I love you, and thank you for believing in me, and for what you brought to the table. Always and Forever, and I’ll always be proud of you… I’ll always remember you protecting Liza, Patrick, myself and Beta from the jerks.”

Meanwhile, former Girls touring drummer Derek James posted on Instagram saying,

“Rest In Peace to my friend and bandmate, Chet JR White. An immensely talented musician and producer with the sharpest ear. Was Girls the best band of the late aughts? Most likely yes. I came in at the very end, for what turned out to be the final tours.. but those shows contained some of the most powerful moments I’ve ever felt on stage. Much respect & much love [Chet] – you will be missed 💔”.

Below, revisit a few of Girls’ best known singles.