The Santa Barbara-based band Gardens & Villa has taken off in the American Riviera and beyond with their intelligent synth-driven indie pop. Career highlights so far include their acclaimed 2011 self-titled album and a coveted spot at the Mojave Tent at Coachella in 2012. Their second album, Dunes, will be released on February 4, 2014. The band’s lead singer, Chris Lynch, answered the following questions by email, with answers received on 1/30/14. This was for a preview article for Gardens & Villa’s performance at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 2/8/14.
Jeff Moehlis: How do you think Gardens & Villa has grown as a band since the first album?
Chris Lynch: A few years on the road will change a band. You become more like a family. We’ve grown as musicians and we groove more. The energy is more fluid and the engine is well greased.
CL: We barely went outside, but when we did it seemed like another planet – vacant and burned out buildings, ice, bricks, hardly any other people or cars, very desolate. Much time was spent giddily experimenting with all kinds of synths, instruments and machines.
We made lots of tea and showed [producer] Tim [Goldsworthy] and his British engineer French Press coffee (which they loved). Adam [Rasmussen] and I did all the cooking for everyone. We made lots of curries. We stayed up really late usually and couldn’t always tell whether it was day or night.
Sometimes we slept until 4 PM and worked until 5 AM. Lots of record spinning, laughing, crying and VHS watching. Lots of the claps and swoosh noises on the record came from ’70/80s kung-fu movies.
JM: I read that you used Sly Stone’s Flickinger recording console on Dunes, the one he used to record There’s A Riot Goin’ On. Did any strange powders float out of the console while you were using it?
CL: Strange powders and strange powers. That board is legendary. The owner of the studio told us some of the craziest stories about it. Stories that (no joke) involved guns, nudity, a terrifying baboon and lunch bags full of powders.
JM: How do you see Gardens & Villa fitting into the musical landscape of 2014?
CL: We didn’t really set out to fit somewhere. But if the slipper fits, it would be nice to end up somewhere special. But to be honest there haven’t been too many records that we’ve really fallen in love with in recent years. And the stuff we do love like The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, or Foxygen is totally different from us. A lot of bands we like because we are actually friends. We mostly listen to music from past decades.
JM: When you’re on tour, what do you miss most about Santa Barbara?
CL: Obviously friends, but after that the beach. It sounds cheesy but we actually talk about it quite a bit on the road. Just having a beer somewhere near Mesa Lane and watching the ocean – there’s nothing quite like it. We definitely miss the Mexican food too, it’s terrible most other places.
JM: You guys played at Coachella in 2012. What was that experience like for you?
CL: It was really, really fun. Most of us had been before as fan. So when we got to play on the Mojave Stage and hang out on the other side of the curtain, where everything is free and you get watch bands from side stage, it changed the whole experience. We felt warm and we felt loved. It was a good time.
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
CL: Take the plunge. You have to jump out of the nest to see if you can really fly. Take a risk and go for it if you really think music is what you want to do.
By this I mean put songs up and play some gigs! If you really want to give it a try go on tour! We booked our first two tours. They were complete shit and we lost money, but they made us hungry and lit the fires that are still burning.
JM: Beyond the upcoming tour of North America, what are the plans for the band?
CL: We are going to Europe in April, then touring North America through the summer. Probably try and record some more in the fall!
JM: Where are you responding from?
CL: My apartment on Bath Street! Most of us are moving out of our places for the upcoming tour. Back to hotel rooms and couches!