When California indie-popsters Gardens & Villa debuted in 2008, journalists pegged them as quasi-hippies with a penchant for sunny melodies and gardening. Lately, though, they've been flouting expectations with a slightly sinister sound that's been honed during a year and a half of touring. I spoke with bassist Shane McKillop about their eponymous 2011 LP and their creative process. And their green thumbs.
You've mentioned that your songs are tethered to Santa Barbara. How so?
Most of us...have lived in Santa Barbara for close to 10 years. Santa Barbara is a very insular community. Geographically, you're surrounded by the beautiful Los Padres mountains that dip into the Pacific Ocean. There's no urban sprawl. There are no endless fields of cows or wheat. It's a very encompassing landscape. You have beautiful weather, fresh vegetables and people perfecting the art of having a good time, all of the time. There are plenty of good times to be had, but there are also those times where you wonder, "Is this too much? What else is out there? Is it time to go?" To me, that exemplifies this band and comes out in our songs.
Tell me about your creative process. Are you telling a story with lyrics and melodies, or are you going for something more impressionistic?
We all chime in with ideas but try and allow [guitarist Chris Lynch and keyboardist Adam Rasmussen] to steer the ship for the final product. My passion and concept for the music is to make it very present and bumping with rhythms and beats and pulses that are undeniable in their intention. Chris usually writes in a more abstract way, floating over the top.
What aspect of your debut album, Gardens & Villa, makes you most proud?
We're proud of how real and raw it all sounds. It was just all of us in a room together recording live to tape with [Secretly Canadian labelmate] Richard Swift.
What's next for you guys? I've heard you like to garden...
Planting Japanese basil and writing songs that truly inspire us. And breathing.