By Maryam Azizli
Picture this: Mac Demarco concert, Vogue Theatre, September of ’17. The crowd is comprised of blue boys, Tumblr girls and an odd frat brute. The opener is about to come on. Standing in line you heard someone say the name of the group in passing — The Garden? Some EDM outfit. Never having heard of them, you dismiss it almost immediately but then a teenage heartthrob swaggers onto the stage and sits behind the drums. He looks like Urban Outfitters pays him to exist. All of a sudden the drums combust with a fast, taut rhythm and his blond clone somersaults onto the stage. All at once the venue is alive. You are no longer thinking as the bass shakes your bones and the boys in Vans and spurs leap from wall to ceiling while the audience sweats in perfect sway and impulse. The off-kilter singer summons you to “CALL THIS # NOW.” Chaos is unleashed and yet contained within two “pretty boys.” They are the Garden.
Born and raised in Orange County California, twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears formed the Garden in 2011 at the age of 17. According to them, the “origin story” of the Garden is considerably less exciting than what came after. Despite the brothers having walked the runways for Yves Saint Laurent, Hugo Boss and Balenciaga, no big deal, music is the beginning and end for the duo.
The Garden hardly belongs to any one genre, and are ever-morphing. The permanent instrumental installments are (frequently dense) drums and bass, played by Fletcher and Wyatt, respectively. Inspiration is drawn from the likes of M.I.A., with experimental roots and surreal lyrics fleshing electro punk skeletons. Ballistic vocals, stylistic versatility and bold fashion choices conjure up the trademark sound and presence of the Garden. This genre ambiguity allowed room for a niche of their own. Portraying themselves as modern day court jesters, here to trick and entertain, this paradigm fits most organically with their tone, look and essence. The brothers live by the self-made words of Vada Vada, meaning total freedom of expression without boundaries or guidelines of any sort. As for the internal workings of the group, thinking is put aside to facilitate creation.
“When I’m making music I try not to think, cause when I think I start thinking about all these other things that are in my head all the time, and then I get distracted, and then I make something I don’t really like cause my full self wasn’t in it. So I try not to think about anything, so I can just put my full self into whatever I’m making. Usually I try to clear my mind so I don’t have other crap floating around. That’s the most important thing,” says Fletcher.
The OC natives claim that where they are from it’s as easy to stand out as it is to blend in. Growing up, the clean-cut, conservative surroundings conflicted with their interests, views and aspirations. After being signed to Epitaph Records in 2015, tensions were quick to arise, caused by the Garden’s androgynous sound and its misalignment with Epitaph’s otherwise heavy music roster. This antagonism with their environment was quintessential to their growth as individuals and musicians, and only served to further internalize the duo. Still living in the same room they grew up in, the twins have always been very private and have never been apart for long.
Their musical longevity can be attributed to their attached-at-the-hip dynamic and artistic integrity in making music that resonates with them, that they enjoy. From the outside, there is confusion surrounding the lyrical themes of the band, often interpreted as nonsensical, but with a band like the Garden (is there a band like the Garden?), looks are often deceiving.
“When we write music, we don’t really put it all out there, like ‘hey I love you, you love me, let’s get married,’ we keep it more to ourselves,” says Fletcher. “We’re not really trying to convey anything 100 per cent understandable to our audience. We appreciate our audience, but we make music for ourselves, it makes sense to us.”
The Garden’s fresh approach to lyricism, self-expression and the creative process throws monotony under the bus and gives EDM a welcomed facelift.
The Garden perform at the Vogue Theatre (Vancouver) on November 16.