Gardens & Villa first caught our attention here at PopGun for one pretty simple reason: they make good pop music, and we really dig it! Recent signees the the very awesome Secretly Canadian, Gardens & Villa racked up lots of love since last fall for their oh-so-easy to like grooves “Black Hills” and “Orange Blossom”. Now with a self-title debut slated for July 5th, the West Coast quintet is bracing itself for the very big summer ahead.
Bassist and vocalist Shane McKillop was nice enough to answer a few questions about their home-base in Santa Barbara, label mate/ major influence Richard Swift, and staring down the barrel of an immense US tour. Enjoy!
So you guys are based in Santa Barbara, are there any artists or groups out there that you vibe off of or do you feel more like a singular outfit?
Santa Barbara is a very small city. Although the scene has slowly started to gain speed as far as original indie music lately, we feel there’s always been a sense of detachment as far as how we find our inspiration to create our music. There are groups in Santa Barbara who are mostly friends of ours that are really great.
Bands like Wetlands, Cruise Ship, Little Owl, Alixandra Fidel, Omar Velasco and Nate Salman are turning out some really good music around town and we always share shows or hop on to each other’s sets. I think there’s definitely a growing sense of unity as far as taking ideas from our friends and putting into our own style, but usually our inspiration comes from our record collections or past influences that are hard wired.
Secretly Canadian seems like a really great fit for you guys (not to mention they always have a solid line-up)! How did that relationship begin?
When we first heard that we had confirmed a slot to record our record with [Richard] Swift we were trying to stay focused on the task at hand, but there was always a question of “who’s going to put this record out?”. We had a couple of ideas but Secretly Canadian was at the top of our list.
We have huge band crushes on Yeasayer, Here We Go Magic, Jens Lekman, Damien Jurado, and Swift’s catalog. We thought it was out of the question that Swift would be willing to send our music over to the SC office. However, within a month of finishing the record we were already talking to the label about working together. For us it’s a pipe dream come true.
You have a full-length release right around the corner–I’ve read Richard Swift produced the record, what kind of influence or expertise did he bring to the table?
Our record’s coming out on July 5th, and yes Richard Swift was manning the boards. It was an amazing experience for all of us. Before we went up to Oregon to record with Richard we had barely spoken on the phone. We had never met in person. We were fans of his production skills and his music beforehand but we basically had no idea what we were getting into.
The very first day of tracking we maybe talked together for about 20 minutes before we had set up the mics and started recording. Within the first day we had finished 3 full songs live to tape which was an experience none of us had ever had before. I think without even knowing Swift personally before we went up there was this underlying sense of trust that we had in his vision. He was able to see further down the road and add his little touches of magic to each song that we never would have thought of.
That’s the ultimate experience a band can have working with a producer. It’s someone who can sense an overall aesthetic that you wouldn’t be able to see and capture the ideas to it’s optimum potential. He was an overall pursuer of vibe. The song had to have a good vibe and we would keep going until we got it. Swift is an amazing musician and his production skills are growing exponentially. People are starting to realize his grace and style with music and we were honored to get two weeks of his time and walk away with a full record. We owe a lot to the Swift. He’s the man.
Your video for “Black Hills” is really rad–did you come up with the concept or did you have a super creative director (um and where did you find that awesome little kid)?!
Again, we owe a lot to Swift. We had a few ideas of our own but we wanted to see if there was someone else out there with a more far out idea. We had so much fun recording with Swift that once we saw all of the videos he’s done for himself and more recently Damien Jurado, we knew that Swift had to direct a video for us. He works with his friend Lance Troxel and together they make a great team. Once he told us the concept that involved smoking crystals and bike chases, it sounded like too much fun. We took the day long drive from Santa Barbara all the way to Cottage Grove and had a blast for a few days filming it.
The little kid is Richard’s friend’s son. We had met him when we recorded the record and he was a big inspiration for our song “Thorncastles”. He’s such a cool kid and was so fun to work with. He really went for it and had fun with the shots. All the girls love him.
You guys are about to embark on a massive US tour from like June to the end of August–how are you preparing for the crazy summer ahead? You’ve got some great bills, have you ever been on the road that long before?
There’s really no way to prepare mentally for a tour this long; it’s our longest trek yet. We have never toured with other bands for more than a couple nights so we’re looking forward to building some new relationships with like-minded bands along the way. We’re getting to see cities we’ve never seen and play on some beautiful stages. It’s really a dream come true for all of us.
Our biggest additions that made the tour possible was getting a new trailer for all of our stuff (last tour we crammed all of our gear and sleeping bags and 6 people in one van) and our friend Dave to manage us and facilitate the craziness along the way. We definitely feel a little more relaxed all around and it shows on stage. We’re playing the best shows we ever have. Before we left we just made sure the van would run, the trailer would follow, and tried to have as many potluck dinners with our friends as possible before we left. We’re ready for the adventure.
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