Recently returned to town from European and American tours, Gardens & Villa is a Santa Barbara indie rock band on a pretty atmospheric rise, and their rich yet lo-fi-leaning sound would make the perfect pairing for a silent film about God, Satan, and alchemy. As such, in a first ever collaboration between the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (sbiff.org and the New Noise Music Foundation (newnoisesb.org), the band will be performing a live score to a restored version of the film Faust, F.W. Murnau’s 1926 silent German classic about a man who sells his soul to the devil.
Gardens & Villa’s multi-instrumentalist Dusty Ineman answered a few questions over email on an iPhone while the band was driving back to from Portland, where they’ve been working on a new album.
How did this Faust event come about?
It was our friend Jeff [Theimer] from New Noise who had been playing around with the idea and eventually asked us if we would be into it. As we are all pretty huge fans of gothic/psychedelic demons and wizards, we couldn’t help but be pumped on it. But seriously, this is our first film scoring experience ever and we’ve wanted to do something like this since we were young lads. We are stoked.
Had you seen the movie before, or had experience with alchemists, devils, or archangels?
None of us had any previous experience with that particular film. But we have see other silent films from roughly the same era — The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari comes to mind. I think we may have picked up a hitch-hiking alchemist in Oregon once. He was wearing coke-bottle glasses — dead giveaway. And definitely a few devils, as you don’t have to look too far to find them — just come see us perform Faust this weekend. As for archangels, I’m pretty sure Adam [Rasmussen, his bandmate] is one. He has gold hair and a godly beard, plays synth, etc.
How’d you work out the score?
The process has been pretty tedious as we have not listened to the original score at all. We wanted to create our score from scratch. It was mostly Shane [McKillop] and Adam who slaved over the film at first. They created a rough map/timeline and wrote some incredible themes. After that, we began rehearsing and filling in the gaps. It will be completely original and performed live. As you could imagine, it’s a pretty big undertaking and doesn’t happen very much these days, which makes us all the more excited. There will not really be any lyrics. But there will be tremendous “tra la la”s and “dee dee dee”s.
Did your recent European tour give you any insights?
Since we were touring Europe during the late fall/winter, we got to see many old cathedrals and buildings during dark and cold days with zero tourists about. It was awesomely dreary and a little bit haunting, with gargoyles and cobblestones and whatnot. We listened to a lot of black metal in Scandinavia, so definitely a lot of insight.
Did the Faust stuff seep into new songs you’re writing or vice versa?
Both of them crept into bed with each other. Some of the stuff we wrote for Faust is so fun to play that we have no choice but to view it as fodder for potential songs. Cross-pollination is boss.
Is scoring silent movies a growth industry for indie bands?
I hope so! I think more people should make silent films in general. They force people to pay closer attention to the subtle changes in the set or the actors’ body language and facial expressions. That sometimes get lost in traditional film.
Gardens and Villa perform the score for the 1924 German silent film Faust on Saturday, February 4, 2012 at the Lobero Theatre in a joint New Noise Music Foundation-SBIFF production.