Gardens & Villa Interview
You just don't hear enough flutes in pop music, amirite?
Couple that breathy sound with flanged and plucked bass, vintage synths, a sexy beat and an incredibly high falsetto and you've got "Orange Blossom" by Santa Barbara band Gardens & Villa. The tune tips its hat to The Talking Heads and more modern smoove groove practitioners like Sebastian Tellier, The Sea & Cake, or Stereolab, but comes across remarkably carefree and original.
The writers over at Yours Truly described the band's sound as "bombastic, yet blase funk that can set the mood for any house party hook-up," which is a pretty dead on description.
The band hits the Trunk Space on April 27, and drummer Levi Hayden phoned Up on the Sun to discuss recording with Pac-NW wizard Richard Swift, running of the risk of sounding ironic and rocking flutes in the "year of the saxophone." We've also got a track from the band below.
Up On The Sun: So what you up to today, Levi?
Levi Hayden: We are driving from Portland up to Seattle, we have a show at Comet Tavern tonight. We did this video blog this morning with a site called Into the Woods, just did a couple songs live and talked, about an hour or two ago.
UOTS: How did Gardens & Villa come about? How long have you guys been doing this project?
LH: Let's see. We've been doing Gardens & Villa for over two years now. Just about three maybe. Three of us in the band Chris [Lynch], who sings, and Adam [Rasmussen], who plays keyboards and bass at the time, and myself on drums, we started as a three piece years ago, before that we had played in a different band, more like a post-rock pysch band with long songs, and we played with a couple other guys in Santa Barbara, more when we were in school. We started doing the Gardens thing as a three piece, and it was real folky and minimal. We sort of picked Shane [McKillop], our bass player, a little over a year ago, and started writing songs and basically ended up writing the songs that are on the record right now.
UOTS: So previous stuff didn't sound like Gardens & Villa?
LH: The sound on these songs really came together last Forth of July when we were recording them. We had written 10 or 11 or so songs that we had brought up to record in Oregon, and yeah, we recorded them all.
UOTS: That's the session you guys did with Richard Swift?
LH: Yeah, we recorded with Swift up in Cottage Groove and it was, uh, a changing experience. We spent two weeks there, and the recording process was so much fun, hanging out with Richard, because he's so casual and he has his board in the room with you and you really feel like you're just playing music and having a good time. I feel like through working with Richard we really found our sound and got some direction on where we were going.
UOTS: The stuff you recorded ended up on the single, "Black Hills" b/w "Orange Blossom." Do the rest of the sessions comprise the forthcoming album?
LH: Yeah, the coming full length is all from that two week session.
UOTS: I really like Richard Swift's work, his solo work and his production. He brings interesting things to the table.
LH: Totally. I think he's created a unique style. He's one of those guys who knows his music so well, especially stuff made from 1950 on. You look at his record collection, and you'd be hard pressed to find something passed 2000, not a whole lot in the 90s, some but mostly 60s. 70s, 80s, all on vinyl. So just to be able to draw from so many influences. He really knows music history well, in addition to being a great songwriter, engineer and producer.
UOTS: What records where you drawing from creating this album?
LH: We each have our closest influences, but as a band, we listen to a lot of Talking Heads. I feel like I really discovered that stuff, with the rest of the band, when we were up with Richard. Listening to bands like Tom Tom Club and Human League. They did a lot of dance/electronic work, but they were playing it live, having percussion, creating electric sounds with a live band.
UOTS: Alot of modern electronic music has a very different feeling than that. It's more structured and loop based.
LH: With the equipment that's available today, you can get your hands on a lot of equipment that can get you an infinite number of sounds, you can just program it. For us, it was about keeping a pure aspect of music alive, with live performance and live recording. I would say all but one or two of the tracks were done live with Richard.
UOTS: Have you guys titled the new album yet?
LH: It's going to be self titled and out July 5th. After the Forth of July weekend it will be out.
UOTS: Who's putting it out?
LH: Secretly Canadian. We are excited about it. It feels like a long time coming, but...we met the guys from Secretly Canadian last fall, and they were excited about it. When we did the recording we thought we were going to be able to release it that year. So, we've been going through some delays, but we really feel like its for the best, and things are the way they should be right now. It's a good thing.
UOTS: You guys have a sound that's rooted in 70s/80s post-punk and New Wave, but also kind of funk-light, with a lot of synths and effected bass, and even flutes. Do you ever worry about coming across as ironic?
LH: That's interesting. That hasn't come to my mind, and I haven't heard people say that [they have perceived the band that way]. Are you getting at a lightheartedness to it?
UOTS: Yeah. Maybe I am projecting some, but it seems like in indie-rock, for a long time now, there's been kind of a humorless, sexless vibe to what goes on. You guys don't have that, it's fun and looser.
LH: I totally see what you are getting at. That's a good way of putting it. Especially with the two tracks that are up right now, those songs are fun, we enjoy playing them. They aren't serious or trying to dramatize anything. A lot of that comes from our relationships with each other and our relationships with music we are really in love with. I hope that people enjoy those songs. As far as the full length, some of the other songs that haven't come out yet, they are still more or less in that vein, but there are some songs that are more serious. I don't know how dark it gets, but there are other things that are more mysterious on the album, I think.
UOTS: I think anytime you hear a flute in a pop song, you're kind of like, "Wait, what's going on, exactly?"
LH: [laughs] Yeah, totally. Our project manager said that in the year of the saxophone, we're doing flutes.
UOTS: There are a lot of sax records out, like Iron & Wine, and that last Destroyer record. You guys are on the cutting edge. The next big thing: flutes.
LH: [laughs] I hope so. I mean, it's fun. We enjoy a lot of saxophone music, too, but we're trying to do something a little different.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.