Interview: Gardens & Villa

The Californians on nature and washing, plus download a Richard Swift remix of 'Orange Blossom'

Words Sophie MonksKaufman
Photography David Mount

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Gardens & Villa sound like summer, but a complex sort of summer in which loss and sadness mingle with the midday sun, and feelings you can’t express are momentarily relieved by gentle breezes. ‘Black Hills’, the first track off the California boys’ self-titled debut album, is full of fluttering harmonies held down by Adam Rasmussen’s tight drumming. The album, produced by Richard Swift and due out July 4 on Secretly Canadian, is coloured by contrasts: familiarity and freshness, sunniness and melancholia. Gardens & Villa channel the hipness of Talking Heads with the electronic discipline of Kraftwerk filtering technique through a languid, heartfelt worldview.

The Stool Pigeon put in a transatlantic call to vibed-out vocalist, Chris Lynch, a week before the band’s 48-date tour of North America.

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Your band is called Gardens & Villa, there are songs on your album with names like ‘Black Hills’ and ‘Orange Blossom’ and there are lyrics like ‘let the earth reclaim all that’s mine’. Would it be fair to say you have a fascination with nature?

Definitely. Most of our album was born out of our wonder with the local Mother Nature that we experience all the time. We are all lovers of nature and love to hike. One of our favourite things to do when we go on tour is bathe in rivers if we can. We’re not like smelly hippies but we do love to immerse ourselves in nature.

How did you fall into contact with Richard Swift?

That began through a mutual friend and it just so happened that Richard had some extra time and he was looking for a younger band to give some of his wisdom to. We sent him some of our music and he sent us an email and we started talking. The vibe was strong from the very beginning, I’ll say that much. Immediately, we hit it off and realised that we were on the same page. Richard is a master of analogue recording. We had no experience with that but we’ve always wanted to so he mentored us. One of the biggest influences on the making of the record was laying it all down to tape. Most of the album is live as well.

Where did you record it?

We recorded at Richard’s house in Oregon. We drove 14 hours north from where we’re from in Santa Barbara. We drove up to Oregon and slept in tents in Richard’s back yard for two weeks without a kitchen or a shower.

So you are smelly hippies!

[Pause] Totally, we are, we can’t escape it [laughs]. We bought a bunch of avocados and nuts because we didn’t have a kitchen. We felt like squirrels. Richard’s wife wasn’t too mad at how dirty we were, she even let us take a shower one time. There was also a local swimming hall where we would swim a lot between sessions but the whole album has this magical feeling. We would do a song a day pretty much but not really spend too much time on it. We would just listen to records and feel the vibe and lay down the tracks.

What records were you listening to?

Richard Swift has an extraordinary record collection so he would almost DJ for us and we would try to vibe out to different tunes. He played a lot of Tom Tom Club, Captain Beefheart, Kraftwerk and a bunch of unreleased Bowie tracks that I’d never heard of. He knows of all the shit that no one else knows about.


Gardens & Villa, Orange Blossom (Richard Swift Remix) by The Stool Pigeon

The album as a whole is languid and smooth with either funky or folky treatment depending on the song. Does that reflect your character?

Yes, I’m definitely a languid person. I’m very much a Californian. Wherever we go we get labelled as Californians because we like to lie around in parks and look at things for a long time. We have a tendency to ‘vibe out’ as we call it.

But there must be a splinter of something driving you because if you were vibed out all the time you wouldn’t have made an album, would you?

Definitely. One cannot be vibed out all the time. That’s our goal, but life can be hard and there are struggles we all face. Our biggest struggle right now is most of the band don’t really have a place to live so we’re bouncing around between friends and girlfriends.

You’re about to go on a pretty intense tour of North America. In July you only have four days off. Are you ready?

I hope so. I think I am. We’ve been partying pretty hard with all our friends and saying goodbye. Overall, we’re all just so excited. It’s the biggest tour we’ve ever embarked on. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was nine years old.

When are you going to come to the UK?

There are talks of us coming to the UK in late October. We wanna get over there as soon as possible. Most of the members of the band haven’t been there and haven’t been to Europe before so we’re just extremely excited to have that opportunity to play in some historical places.

Does it feel like the future is opening up for you?

It seems like a tidal wave has hit us in less than a year. Before we met up with Richard Swift we were just a local band playing in our home towns, incubating in this small, college-town bubble but then we met Swift and quit our day jobs and now we’re giving everything we can to the music. We all feel like this is the biggest thing we’ve ever done in our lives. We’ve all been in bands since we were twelve years old but none of them have really worked out. We feel like this is really our big shot to make music our way of life for as long as we can.

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