Things are looking up for Santa Barbara natives Gardens & Villa in 2015. The self-proclaimed “galactic fever” band is headed out on a West Coast tour this April, as well as dropping an album this summer. Their voyage begins at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Thursday, April 2. In anticipation of the band’s plans, I chatted with frontman Chris Lynch about the group’s forthcoming album, life on the road, and his possible future in pickling.
Can you tell us a little about your new record? Are you doing anything new with sound or recording this time around? A little birdie told me that you wrote and recorded almost completely in your home and workspace in Los Angeles. The new record was almost entirely written and recorded around a living/working warehouse space in northeast Los Angeles. We did a lot of new stuff on this one; it’s kind of our “have fun and don’t give a funk” record. Last time we faced quite a bit of pressure from people, mostly the record label, to be a certain kind of band and make dancy music. This time we said, “Funk that,” and we set out to create the record we always wanted to make. That was our mantra, and I think that is truly what we ended up with.
Do you know when it’s going to be out? Is there a title yet? Or an overarching theme? Our new record should be ready around August; we just finished it. The album isn’t titled yet, but the overarching themes of this one are voyeurism, observation, paranoia, summertime blues, and modern life in the networked infinity. We kinda went back to the template of our first record on this one; it’s more minimal, and it has more space. The songs we wrote for this album are better than anything we’ve written before — we’ve gotten wiser, and we’ve had more time to work on our craft.
How would you describe your sound on this one? It’s sort of a smorgasbord of everything we are obsessed with from the ’70s and early ’80s — Devo, Ziggy, Television, and early Eno — although somehow it came out sounding pretty contemporary. Although there’s still quite a bit of synth woven into this album, this one has less emphasis on synth and more on guitar. Adam [Rasmussen] played loads of piano on this one. It was what he was raised on and what he’s most comfortable with. I guess our music comes in waves: Like, if you make a fancy synth record, then you want to feel more badass, so you make a guitar song. If you want to feel more sophisticated, you add piano, and the music just keeps moving with no fixed agenda. We’ve never had a “You have to play this instrument” conversation. It’s all been pretty natural. Adam and I wrote most of this one, but [keyboardist] Dustin [Ineman] and [bassist] Shane [McKillop] had some really nice moments where they kinda saved the day.
What originally drew you to songwriting? I’ve been really into music my whole life, so I started writing shitty punk songs when I was 12. I think I’m still in that phase, but now I’m surrounded by really talented people who can create really complex arrangements, and I just try and keep up. Everything on this planet inspires me to write lyrics, though — even the bad stuff. It’s something I feel I have to do all the time. You practice and vent and express and just keep writing as much down as you can, and once in a while, you find that your brain has some gold in there.
Are you excited to be back in Santa Barbara now that you’ve moved to Los Angeles? We’re always excited to play in Santa Barbara! It was my treasured home for 10 years, and it will always have a chain of love around me. I tear up a bit thinking about all the good times I spent there. I feared living in L.A. my whole life—it’s just such a mess, and the traffic is mind-bending—but I really think that things are changing in L.A. for the better right now, and I like being a part of that. It can really become whatever you want to make it, and it’s not too far away from Santa Barbara.
What are the best and worst parts of a long tour? The best: weird food, eating at funny places, free booze, coffee, good crowds, scenery, traveling all the time, getting to see old friends that live all over the place, and playing music every night. The worst: weird food, eating at funny places, free booze (if you drink it all the time), bad crowds, crappy scenery, traveling all the time, having to talk to people you don’t really want to talk to, losing touch with home and friends, fatigue, bad hotels with bed bugs.
What would you do if you weren’t making music? I think I would have made a good smuggler, or maybe a shoemaker or carpet salesman — something having to do with fine fabrics and fast talking and negotiating. I’d like living on the edge of the law. Sometimes I daydream about land and building my own future house or farm, or selling homemade lip balm and pickles. [Laughs.] I think that’s what I’ll try and do when all my music’s said and done … that is, if I’m not completely destitute and owing tons of money to record labels! Fingers crossed.
Gardens & Villa headline SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Thursday, April 2, at 9 p.m. with openers Dante Elephante and DJ Darla Bea. For tickets and info, call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.