Hometown: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Album: Gardens & Villa
Members: Chris Lynch (vocals/guitar/flute), Adam Rasmussen (keys/vocals), Shane McKillop (bass), Levi Hayden (drums), Dustin Ineman (percussion)
For Fans Of: The XX, Black Mountain, Ariel Pink
California band Gardens & Villa didn’t exactly have the most glamorous experience recording their first record. They weren’t discovered by an agent in some nightclub and immediately whisked off in a limousine to record an album in a ritzy studio. It started instead in producer Richard Swift’s backyard where the five-piece slept for two weeks. No showers, no kitchen to cook in, just the band sleeping in tents, baking in the summer heat.
A few months earlier the group hit their homemade studio to record what they hoped would be their first album. “We tore our garage apart and turned it into a jam space and it was just open-door,” singer/keyboardist Adam Rasmussen says. “Someone would come in with a riff… The songs took their own form. And then we were like, ‘hey, let’s clean out the house.’ So we threw everything out of the house and set it up.”
Unfortunately, the recordings the band sent were “really bad” and weren’t up to producer Richard Swift’s standards. So the band drove to Swift’s home in Cottage Grove, Ore., to record their recently released self-titled debut. “The whole experience was extremely magical for us,” front man and guitarist Chris Lynch says. “It was meditative. We were totally out of our normal comfort zones and all of the music wasn’t finished yet, so every time we recorded there was a little bit of improvisation going on. So we finished the song right as we recorded it.”
It was during this time that Lynch started playing the flute that peppers much of G&V’s music as “kind of an accident.” They were recording and Lynch felt that their songs needed something melodic other than guitar to fill them out. He started out playing a bamboo recorder and quickly moved to a Northern Indian wood flute called a bansuri and myriad of other flutes which you can see in a massive bag strapped to his back during live performances. The group consciously tries to draw from sounds outside of the typical American band. “In a way, a lot of the Western models have been [maxed], too many people have done it, and its time for Western musicians to expand into other modes,” Rasmussen says.
The group got its start eight years ago when Lynch, Levi Hayden and Shane McKillop met at college in Santa Barbara, Calif, a city of a million different bands with “only about 10 who actually played shows.” The three hit it off and performed together as a post-punk group for five years.
A few years later, Shane bumped into synth player Adam Rasmussen in a college class for sound engineering that Rasmussen says, “didn’t work out for either of us.” The four-piece started jamming together and later picked up drummer Dusty Ineman because “well, everyone loves Dusty.”
While they’re firmly rooted in the pop tradition so directly associated with their sunny home state, they pull in an otherworldly feel and mix it with a little chill-wave, electronica, funk and shoegaze. They even borrow licks from Fleetwood Mac tracks during their live shows. You could genre-drop all day and still not be able to pinpoint their sound.
The group describes themselves as “a plate of different types of colored heirloom tomatoes,” because of the diverse flavors. The guys cite musicians like Ariel Pink and Twin Shadow as influences but they find as much inspiration spending time in nature or reflecting on their ‘80s childhoods. And they want their music to inspire others. “Life is this dynamic thing full of so many ups and downs and people and friends and the whole thing,” Rasmussen says. “I hope that the music illuminates that and reflects that for people so that they can do things more completely.”