Gardens & Villa is a five-piece, indie-pop band from Santa Barbara, Ca. They are signed to Secretly Canadian record label. The band consists of Chris Lynch on vocals and flute, Shane McKillop on bass, Levi Hayden on drums, Adam Rasmussen on synthesizers and Dustin Ineman on the keyboard.
For two weeks in 2010, the band camped in the forests of Oregon, behind labelmate Richard Swift’s studio to record their first, self-titled album. The band made an oath to always play live instruments when they performed.
Photo by Alex Silva
This past fall, Gardens & Villa had the chance to tour with Polica, making a stop at the first CounterPoint Music Festival in Atlanta. Here is what Rasmussen and Lynch had to say about flutes, electronic music and their unique sound.
Can you explain to me how your band got formed?
Adam Rasmussen – Gardens & Villa started sort of as a four-piece. The band before that was three people and the three of us went to them [the remaining members] and ended up in Gardens & Villa.
What kind of mood or emotion do you try to convey with your music?
Chris Lynch – I would say melancholy and serenity, oscillating back and forth.
Do you guys do DJ sets at all?
CL – We do dabble with some of the DJ arts and have gatherings with friends.
And that’s the extent of it? Do you DJ shows?
CL – We don’t technically do shows.
AR – We have a side project with electronica DJ Hero. We’ve only played one show, but we’re gonna play another one.
What song of yours is the most memorable and you like the most?
AR – They’re all kind of dreams and reflections, so sometimes you hear them differently depending where your mind’s at. All of them have had an influence on me from an outside force.
CL – I think that my favorite song to play most of the time is “Orange Blossom” just because it’s a different sort of groove than any of the others. It has some bass nastiness that none of the other songs have and I really like that.
AR – Ya, it’s also nice. People seem to be excited about that jam.
CL – It’s always fun. And usually, when we started out, people showed they were always thinking positively of us.
How did working in the forest influence your music? Would you do it again for future albums?
CL – Yes and no. No because we didn’t really have that much food.
AR – Or showers.
CL – We didn’t have a kitchen. We didn’t have food. We didn’t have proper sanitation. So, it was very much like we were transported a couple of centuries back in time.
AR – It definitely lessened some of the distractions of cleanliness and appetite. We, definitely, were able to kind of go out of our heads in a way and come to a different place. I think recording records is a lot about that kind of stripping yourself of the things that are not the music, instead of allowing it to pass through you, like the wind. And the force is constantly breathing, so it encourages you to do the same.
Why have you incorporated a flute into your music? Why did you decide to bring that into the band?
CL – The flute was never a conscious decision or something we planned out. It was actually “Orange Blossom” that was the first song that we started [to use the flute]. I just happened to have a flute in the room while Shane, our bass player, was playing the riff and Adam started the keys melody. It was really spontaneous and I was like, “Oh, flute. Right here.” Boom. Pick it up. Play it in the mic. It just added this weird element that we never really thought about. It was nothing premeditated. It was completely spontaneous. Then, after that, we used it for different songs and it became a different shade of color of sound that we could bring in that could mix with the synths really well, but it’s an acoustic instrument. It’s a very old, spiritually inclined instrument as well. We thought it brought a cool element.
That’s interesting. You’re one of the only live bands here. How did you end up at Counterpoint, especially because it is so heavily electronic based, and have you ever been to the dirty south before?
AR & CL – We love the dirty south.
You do? Have you ever been here before?
AR – Yes.
CL – We love it down here. We’ve played here like five or six times.
Have you ever played in Florida?
AR – Once.
CL -Yes, Tallahassee.
No way. I went to school in Tallahassee.
AR – Tom Petty is from Florida. There’s a ton of music out of there.
So, how did you end up here as a live band at an electronic music festival?
CL – Um, we don’t know. We’re kind of in this weird zone of being straddled between genres. Also, our mentality is like play with whomever. We don’t want to be isolated in some box of genre. We like to play music with any genre, whether it’s hip-hop, reggae, punk, electronica, whatever. We like to expand our horizons [laughs]. Do you have anything to say about that? (directed towards Adam)
AR – We definitely feel weird as the only…
CL – No, I mean there’s a couple other indie bands.
AR – Polica, Washed Out, Crystal Castles. And Crystal is pretty heavy on the electro. And maybe both of those bands are bridges between what we’re apart of and what more true electronica groups are doing. I think they both can communicate the same thing. People come to see bands play…
CL – Cross-pollination.
AR – Ya, exactly. That’s what I’m trying to say.
You said you were working on a new album. What can we expect from it?
CL – Expect to have your mind blown.
AR – Expect certain urges to put your marshmallow pants on.
How will this album differ from the first?
AR – I think we’ve had almost more time to develop the jams and the material that we’re considering right now and been able to live with it a lot more. I think the first record was written during a time when we were all working jobs and trying to create this thing. It was like our first expression of where we’re coming from. So with this second record, having more time on it. We’re not working jobs like we were. Not because we don’t have to, but we’ve just found a way to scrounge, found a way to exist in the crevices of Santa Barbara. And even the crevices of Santa Barbara are pretty beautiful.
CL – The music is maturing a little bit. Our ability as song writers is developing and we’ve toured so much in the last two years that we’ve seen so much music that it’s influenced us a lot. We have taken on all these different characteristics from touring and playing with all this music we love. Some of the songs are experimental. Some are more straight-up rock ‘n’ roll songs. Some are more electronic based. There is a lot of flute as well.
AR – So with all that touring and new experience, I think our palette for inspiration and the colors that we are working with are, perhaps, modifying or maturing, getting a bit more dynamic.
What music are you listening to now? Any new artists you want to share with us?
AR – Maybe some artists from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that are new to us. Remember that Alice Coltrane record? (directed at Chris)
CL – Ya, I do. As far as contemporary stuff, we’ve been listening a lot to Shabazz Palaces.
AR – They’re phenomenal. Also, Peaking Lights is a source of camaraderie and inspiration for us.
CL – We’re touring with Polica. Did you know that?
No, I didn’t. That’s awesome. Congratulations.
AR – They have been a definite source of inspiration as far as contemporary music and having the opportunity to meet them and fall in love and now we’re try things out.
Ok, last question: If you could pick one artists of all time that you could perform with, who would it be?
AR – Wow.
CL – That’s intense. I mean, you would have to separate it into sub-categories.
Ok, I’ll make it easier. Fifties, ’60s and ’70s.
AR – I’ve always wanted to play bass for The Meters.
CL – Earth, Wind & Fire.
Keep an eye out this year for Gardens & Villa new album.
via Bionic Beatlab