Q&A: Gardens & Villa Talk Tour, Richard Swift and Their Debut
By Adam Valeiras; photo by Cara Robbins on June 30, 2011
Head's up: Gardens & Villa is about to release your new favorite album. (And they're already a bit of an obsessive compulsion for FILTER.) Formed in 2008, this five-member indie rock group is just now releasing its highly anticipated self-titled debut via Secretly Canadian, set to come out on July 5. Gardens & Villa continue on their North American tour as they wrap up dates with Foster the People and head out with Generationals, followed by shows with Craft Spells. Along the way, Gardens & Villa effectively wipe clear the vaseline from the murky bedroom funk of recent days. Their debut is a youthful exploration of just how opulent and pop starkness can go. FILTER got in touch with Shane McKillop, the most recently added member to the group, and discussed his impressions on remixes, band oaths and E.T. Check out our interview with him below.
You have been extensively touring this summer with several buzz bands like Foster the People and Craft Spells, resulting in many sold out shows. Have the shows felt different this summer than they did in the past?
Shane McKillop: Most definitely. The shows have been really wild and inspiring. We are right in the middle of our tour with Foster the People. All of the shows thus far have been sold out and in really large/beautiful rooms all accross the U.S. It's been a really fun challenge for us to try and win over crowds who have never seen or heard of us before. I think we've been doing a pretty fine job, turning people's heads with our dance moves... and the occasional wooden flute solo. But we are definitely excited to start our second leg of the summer where we split shows with Generationals and Craft Spells. We are megafans of their music and have been spinning their records on our long-haul drives across the states. It'll be a interesting to watch how we take our performance experience on the big stages back to the smaller stages for the second half of the summer. Those are the types of shows we have always loved playing most.
Gardens & Villa formed in 2008. Why are we just hearing a debut album now? What was the band like in its earliest years?
I joined the band last summer right before we recorded our record. Before I came in to the picture, I was just another friend of theirs that went to all of the shows because I thought the music was incredible. There was a small run of a five-song demo, but back then it was just a three-piece ensemble with Chris, Adam and Levi that was more in the downtempo, psyche-pop realm. It was totally entrancing music. The three core dudes have been playing in a band together in various forms for seven years. Once I started playing with them, and started working through the songs, it really opened up the chance for the band to take a more precise and groove-based sound that you hear on the record. I think you haven't heard of Gardens & Villa before because the brew had not yet fermented into something we wanted to start sharing. We all feel that there's a stronge sense of kismet that put us all together to create what you're hearing now. You can hear remnants of the old sound in the song "Chemtrails" on the new record. It's a pretty good representation of the older songs.
As a band, what has creatively influenced your work as whole? Anything in particular that's driven the development between Gardens & Villa in 2008 to the present?
I feel that once I came into the picture, Adam didn't have to play all of the bass parts on his left hand anymore. That was a liberating experience for him and the entire band. It opened up the doors for all kinds of sonic and dynamic capabilities that weren't there before. Another huge part of our transformation came from working with our producer, Richard Swift. He is one of the most enigmatic and talented musicians we have ever met. When we created the album, he was able to stretch the scope of the band's sonic palette and brought strong vibes to our music that weren't there before.
On your Facebook page, you mention that you all took a band oath to always play all parts live. What is more important to the band: the recorded album or the live show?
I don't think our band has a specific rationale concerning our thoughts on what's more important between the two. They are in two different camps entirely. I think what we feel is important to us is to not get carried away during the recording process with overdubs and elements that can't be translated live. There's a huge trend with bands playing to backing tracks nowadays and we are all confused by that. It's always better seeing a band execute everything live in front of you. I think our strong point is that because all of the songs on our record were recorded mostly live, they continue to evolve. We want the listener to feel the human element of the music that is ever-changing and striving to improve. Basically, we want to make music that is visceral and tangible. That's what we're really trying to accomplish with both recording and playing live.
You recently had your song "Orange Blossom" remixed by Richard Swift. How did he get involved?
Richard Swift came into our lives through a recommendation from a friend. We were barely acquainted before we went to Oregon to record our album. We ended up becoming such friends and partners in crime that we now consider him kind of like a visionary uncle figure... He produced and recorded our record, he directed our music video and when the label suggested we look for artists to remix some of our songs, it was a no brainer: Get Swift to do a remix. He jumped at the opportunity and we were rolling on the floor laughing when we first heard it. It's amazing. As he described it, he took the song and "gave it a mullet."
Remixes are an interesting way to give listens a new perspective on a track. What is your opinion on remixes, expecially when it is your music being changed?
I think it's super fun. People have been remixing other people's songs for decades, essentially. It goes all the way back to Motown and beyond. I know the purist's argument that the artist's original form of expression for their song shouldn't be tainted or tampered with, but it gets tough nowadays because remixes are such a crucial element to any thriving band. I have no problem with people having so much interest in our music that they're willing to spend the hours putting their spin on a jam. It's flattering really.
Do you have a personal favorite track from the upcoming album?
"Orange Blossom" is a crowning achievement for me, personally. The song came about so organically and I love playing it every night on stage. It's a chance for the entire band to get weird and sexy, and it's such an ice breaker for any crowd. It's one of those songs that subliminally infiltrates you, and before you realize it you're hearing keyboard whammy bar dips, enveloped bass and trancy flute hooks. I'm proud of how unique that song is. Also "Thorn Castles" is a song that we wrote entirely in the studio when we were up with Swift. We decided it would be a good challenge to see if we could write a song in a day and record it on the spot, and we were able to with that song. It makes me feel good to hear it and play it live and I love how short it is. It get's the point across then sneaks off before you even notice it's over.
In your video for "Black Hills," why are you guys chasing the kid? I can only assume the band is the hooligan(s) in the video? Did E.T. mean a lot to you in your childhood?
Yes, we are the hooligans chasing the little bastard. I'm not sure if it's all E.T. that meant alot to us, or the combination of all the classics like The Goonies, Stand By Me, The Sandlot, etc. We weren't too worried about trying to portray a message or get deep with it. We just wanted an excuse to dress up and drink beer with switchblades in our pockets.
Don't miss Gardens & Villa on tour (see dates below).
30 Atlanta GA – Masquerade: Hell Stage ^
01 Houston TX – Warehouse Live ^
02 Austin TX – Emo’s ^
03 Dallas TX – The Loft ^
05 Tucson AZ – Club Congress ^
06 San Diego CA – House of Blues ^
07 Los Angeles CA – El Rey ^
08 Tempe AZ – The Sail Inn *
09 Tucson AZ – Club Congress *
10 San Diego CA – Casbah *
13 Santa Barbara CA - SOhO
14 Los Angeles CA – The Echo *
15 San Francisco CA – Café Du Nord *
16 Davis CA – Sophia’s *
17 Portland OR – Mississippi Studios *
19 Seattle WA – Tractor Tavern *
20 Boise ID – Neurolux *
21 Salt Lake City UT – Kilby Court *
23 Santa Fe NM – Corazon *
24 Oklahoma City OK – The Conservatory *
26 Chicago IL – The Empty Bottle #
27 Cleveland OH – Happy Dog #
28 Washington DC – Black Cat Backstage #
29 Philadelphia PA – Voyeur Nightclub #
30 New York NY – Mercury Lounge #
31 Allston MA – Great Scott *
01 Montreal QC – Casa del Popolo *
02 Toronto ON – The Drake
03 Pontiac MI – Vernors Room at the Crofoot
05 St. Louis MO – The Gramophone
06 Kansas City KS – Kansas Speedway
08 Wichita KS – Rock Island Live
09 Fort Worth TX – Lola’s Saloon Sixth
10 Austin TX – The Mohawk
30 Costa Mesa CA - MESA
^ w/ Foster the People
* w/ Generationals
# w/ Craft Spells