Photos by Cheryl Georgette.
Greil Marcus once wrote that the more Lester Bangs loved and respected a band, the worse he was at writing about them. That is essentially my apprehension about trying to writing something comprehensible about The Garden.
The Garden is the best band of our generation, they’re also the last, and possibly only, modicum of the true essence of punk. By “punk” I’m not talking about their musical style, I mean the way Richard Hell described it as the ability and wherewithal to create yourself and your artistic identity from scratch.
The inclination to brand The Garden as punk (post-punk, experimental Punk etc) is understandable, it’s the most identifiable influence and sound in their repertoire but it’s still wildly inaccurate. There is no real way to describe and label the Garden which is probably why they decided to forgo usual classifications and create their own genre and audiovisual identification — Vada Vada. Initially this seems like a little bit of a schtick until you fully grasp the limitless spectrum of their artistic output. There’s no fucking way to describe what they’re doing other than just as what they’re doing.
Haha, their second studio album is a testament to Vada Vada. Within a single LP the Garden covered more ground than many bands do in their course of the entire discography. Aside from feeling like a more concrete declaration of intent, everything The Garden has done since The Life and Times of a Paperclip (random singles, U Want The Scoop?) has proved that they can carry a song past the two minute mark, that they can be witty and satirical but also serious and reflective, and that they excel as much in complex and difficult lyricisms as they do in their initial primitive and nonsensical dada-ist lyrics.
It’s probably this attitude and dedication to doing what they want, when they want that’s gained them a cult-like status among the alternative counterculture scene. It’s also why they have such a feverish and dedicated following.
Their concerts are an exercise in how much energy, sweat and noise a room can hold before it physically combusts. The Garden’s live performances are hard to describe but the bottom line is however good the Garden is in studio recordings, they are infinitely better live. Their performances differ from tour to tour, from show to show. Some audiences get the jester experience, others get the Shears twins.
Despite the oscillation between performance styles, the constants are the low rumble and buzz that fills the entire space and time of their performance. They’re only two people but when they’re on stage there’s really not room for anyone else. They’re everywhere at once and they throw themselves into the performance like this is the last concert on Earth. The Garden are the type of band that remind you why people become so devoted and fanatic about music in the first place. Read our interview with Wyatt and Fletcher Shears below.
The clown epidemic started pretty soon after you guys came out with jester/clown-themed “Play Your Cards Right” trio of tracks—was that planned?
Fletcher: I don’t mean to sound like a snob [laughs], but we were kind of doing it before the clown epidemic. We don’t want to and we’re not trying to scare anyone.
Wyatt: It’s mostly for entertainment, as less contrived and Hallooweenish as possible.
Fletcher: It’s more about entertainment purposes and it ties into who we are as people. It has nothing to do with halloween or fear or whatever. It’s more about our personalities.
So you guys directed your own music video for “Play Your Cards Right”
Fletcher: If you want to call it directing [laughs].
In the music video you guys are dressed up as jesters and playing tennis. How did you get from playing tennis to vomiting?
Wyatt: We were just making up ideas as we went at that point. We had just done Haha, the album, so this was the first music video after that and it was the best option.
Fletcher: It was just like see if you can throw up, throw up. We wanted to come back with a song that was way off the chart, with a video that we knew no one was going to like that much. But it doesn’t really matter, we like it.
Is it still just you two or consulting outside people?
Fletcher: As far as ideas go it’s him and I but we’ll make all of the songs in our own space and then go somewhere else to re-record them because we don’t have that kind of equipment.
Wyatt: We have very minimal equipment to the point where we can’t do everything. I mean we can do as best as we can and it’ll come out pretty decent.
Fletcher: With Puzzle and Enjoy it’s straight up all just us, with the Garden it’s all just us but sometimes we’ll go to a studio and re-record everything. Keep the sounds but re-record the bass and some of the drums and vocals. It just helps with quality and stuff like that. Not that we’re trying to get big quality but it helps when it’s a little cleaner.
Wyatt: Easier to listen to I suppose. But we’ll actually keep the sounds that we make at home which we like that way.
Wyatt, did you do the vocals on “California Here We Go?” I haven’t heard you go in that range before.
Wyatt: The Caliiiiifornia — yeah I think the only other songs I attempted that on were “Gift” and “Egg,” and some Enjoy songs but that doesn’t count. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes I can’t. I’m trying to get to the point where I always can. I want to get to be a better singer it’s important to me. My voice has been gone for half this tour for some annoying reason, I’ve been having to slowly gain it back. I like singing a lot, I try to be the best I can but it’s tough. I try not to make that the focal point because it’s not like I can hold the weight of the songs with my voice.
Wyatt: Fashion to me is — if we get a call, make a deal and if it’s for the right amount of money then we’ll go do it. It’s good decent exposure in certain markets. Other than that I respect fashion, I actually take a liking to a lot of it. Not necessarily the high end stuff because it’s not relatable to me. I like it, I respect it but as far as doing it and modeling you know it’s just so so. The more that comes in, cool, because that way I can better myself, as selfish as that sounds.
Fletcher: It’s not really a passion it doesn’t make us feel super happy or anything like that. You’re not really creating, your being part of someone else’s creation and that can be cool at times. For the most part it’s not something that I find amazing but I don’t mind doing it every once in a while.
Did you see a spike in exposure after being in both Saint Laurent campaign and runway shows?
Fletcher: Not right away, I mean right now things are okay. We did a campaign for Diesel and we have something else coming out that we probably can’t say. Things are happening but it’s not anything gnarly or crazy. Most of the time we do music and then somebody calls and wants us to do something fashion. If we can make it work we’ll make it work in between the music.
Wyatt: We’re also with Elite London so whatever they get us and whatever they send our way we’ll discuss. So if we all agree on something and if it works we’ll do that. If we don’t agree on it we move onto the next thing.
Have you ever been booked separately?
Fletcher: Actually for the first time ever Wyatt got booked separately
Wyatt: I came here last month by myself which was for a brand called Frame and we did a campaign which I probably shouldn’t have said.
You guys are identical looking. How did they even pick one of you over the other?
Wyatt: I don’t know it’s the first time it’s ever happened we were just like okay I guess…
Fletcher: Maybe my hair color was off at the time? I don’t know.
Wyatt: It really depends I guess but it was a cool experience, I’ve never done any modeling by myself.
Wyatt you run your own online thrift store Sketchy Hut, how did that happen?
Wyatt: Literally I need the money basically and I always idealize people and their stores and how people start things from scratch and make their own little thing. I’m just starting out with vintage clothes and hope that I can make enough money to make my own brand of Sketchy Hut clothes. It was on a whim, I just wanted to do it and see how it went. People that look at our pages for the Garden and Enjoy they automatically see Sketchy Hut now because I link it through. Enough people buy it to where I’m like alright I can keep this going. I’ve always just in the background wished I had my own little store, in the physical form. It’s just a fun thing to keep doing and all I have to do is every week go to the post office and ship off the packages but other than it’s pretty easy.
You guys dress really well so it makes sense.
Wyatt: Thanks! I started out actually selling all my old clothes.
Fletcher: Actually it was my old clothes.
Wyatt: He gave me permission to sell some of his. We just had trash bags full of them so I was like why not. But now I go buy and try to make profit off of it because I ran out of clothes [laughs].
Are there certain cities where style/clothing offerings are better?
Fletcher: Honestly I like where we live, I like all the stuff in Orange and Santa Ana. Then again for instance, I went to goodwill in New Jersey today and I found a bunch of stuff.
Wyatt: It depends I think the Goodwills and the Salvation Armies are great. I have trouble going into like vintage stores because everything’s set up and most of it’s picked over.
Fletcher: It’s really expensive as well.
Wyatt: It’s like $30 for like a thin shirt or something and I just really don’t want to pay 30 bucks for a shirt or like 80 bucks for a pair of pants, it’s like come on. I would rather just go to a Goodwill where you can get everything from like a $5-$20 dollars range. You don’t have to feel like oh I have to get that really cool jacket before somebody else gets it because usually you’re just with a mom and her baby.
Fletcher: Saves money, less stress. Most of the time it’s cooler anyways. Nobody’s really looking for the same thing you’re looking for anyways so it’s like a free for all for yourself.
What is your relationship with makeup, on stage and off?
Fletcher: It’s just like clothes. Whenever you feel like doing it you do it. Other than that there’s not that much thought in it. If it works with what you’re doing and feels right at the time then go for it and if not then no, just like wearing a certain pair of pants I guess.
Wyatt: The only time I wear makeup is — and when I say makeup I mean face paint that’s pretty much the only thing I do — is essentially just on stage for certain purposes. It can create a different vibe sometimes.
Fletcher: I was talking both [laughs], it’s just about how you feel at the time which is boring but that’s the best answer I can give you.
Do you see expanding into other artistic mediums, maybe film or something.
Fletcher: I would never say never. Right now there’s no plans as far as like film or stuff like that. I mean we still make crappy videos and stuff like that but as far as film and more official things like that, nothing right now. But I definitely would never say never because we’re always trying to progress and expand and experiment.
How much of the year are you guys touring?
Wyatt: At this point 6-7 months of the year.
Fletcher: It depends what year it is. Last year it was a lot and this year was a little less than that because we had a lot of other things to sort through. This year has been mellow compared to the past years but we’ve still been touring a lot. We kind of never stop.
[man in the background watching ~sports~]: FUCK!
Fletcher: That’s how I feel sometimes on tour [laughs]. I’m just kidding.
What do you do with extended periods of down time?
Fletcher: On tour we have a few things we do when we have down time which is like hitting up a skate park and skating or maybe looking for some clothes, eating food.
Wyatt: Working out
Fletcher: Working out if you have the extra energy, pretty much just boring stuff like that.
Wyatt: At home it’s like play hockey here and there. I mean, we honestly record in our down time all the time, that’s the main thing we do. Its not really work to us, it’s fun so.
Fletcher: I haven’t personally been getting enough time to record lately so I’m really wanting to get back into it. I’m trying to do it as much as possible. I’m trying to juggle both the Garden with the new EP and Puzzle with the new album when I get home. I’m trying to do as much as possible I guess.
Speaking of Puzzle — how do you balance that and the Garden, especially with releasing new music.
Fletcher: Puzzle is so much looser than the Garden. There’s no record label, there’s nothing. I can put it out whenever I want, wherever I want but the Garden is first priority. Puzzle is more of a fun therapeutic type thing for me. So whenever I’m done with something I’m done [laughs]. I’m kidding there. It doesn’t take me that long to write songs it’s just takes some time for it to come out because of everything else going on.
There’s the Garden and then your respective solo projects Puzzle and Enjoy. Did you consciously make all of your band names un-googleable?
Fletcher: No we didn’t, that’s an unconscious mistake on our part.
Wyatt: It’s weird, something we wish didn’t happen. Maybe it’s just because I’ve typed it into my computer but I can always find it quickly if I type in certain things. It’s getting better over time. If you type in “Enjoy Wyatt Shears” you get everything. For the Garden you can find it but you won’t find everything unless you type in the Garden twins then you’ll find everything.
Fletcher: I agree, when you type in Puzzle puzzle pieces come up, autism comes up. When you type in Enjoy it’s probably like a girl eating a salad or something. It depends on how much you want to find it. But it’s entertaining and funny.
Wyatt: It’s almost bittersweet. I like that we don’t just pop up right away.
What’s the weirdest or grossest thing you’ve ever seen on the internet?
Wyatt: If I saw a picture of our car on the internet I’d say that’s pretty gross [laughs]
Fletcher: It’s pretty gross but I don’t even want to say the grossest thing I’ve seen to be honest, it’s not even worth saying.
Wyatt: This isn’t the worst but I always think of this and it always haunts me. It was when this guy from Puerto Rico or something jumped off the side of a cliff, jumped really far, dove smacked his face on some rock and his whole face was gone. That’s not the grossest thing ever but it just disturbing.
Fletcher: Yeah it’s more disturbing than anything else, just like a bummer kind of feeling. I don’t really go that far into the internet anymore. I realized you could turn a page and your whole world could change in a second, or just your week. I’m not really down with it that much.
What are subcultures, scenes or places that you think are turning out cool musicians, artists or work?
Fletcher: Personally I’ll give a shout out — last time we played in Indonesia there were a lot of kids there. A lot of kids were talking to us about the scene going on, there are a lot of bands starting and I think that’s rad because I would have never guessed that Indonesia had a scene going on. But last time we played there it was packed and fun and there were a lot of kids, a lot of local bands and a lot of energy so I would definitely say check out Indonesia, check out Jakarta.
Wyatt: I’ve been trying to think while he’s been talking. There’s gotta be something, I just can’t come up with it right now. There’s always something but it’s more fun to find scenes in other places rather than the typical places. Of course London, of course New York, of course LA but it’s cool to find stuff in other countries that you wouldn’t have known about.
Do you experiment with drugs or alcohol?
Wyatt: I personally haven’t done anything drugs or alcohol. I’ve just never really tampered with it, the most I’ll do is smoke a cigar here or there.
Fletcher: Basically the same with me. I’ll have a little drink if I’m in a country and it’s the right setting but it doesn’t really interest me that much like smoking cigarettes or doing drugs. It’s not really something that’s part of my life, I’m sure it could be if I got into it but I’ve never really had the interest to go for it. Just like him, I like cigars every once in a while. I like nothing really. Probably nothing [laughs].
Puzzle, solo project of Fletcher Shears headlines this month’s Cult Citizen on August 29th alongside Junk Boys and YAASSS.