Gardens & Villa - Chris Lynch on Their New Album, Advice for Young Musicians, and Overcoming Shyness | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Gardens & Villa - Chris Lynch on Their New Album, Advice for Young Musicians, and Overcoming Shyness

Just Say No to Gateway Gadgets

Mar 10, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Gardens & Villa‘s frontman, Chris Lynch, is crouched in the darkest corner of his band’s rehearsal space, a warehouse in Gardens & Villa’s hometown of Santa Barbara, California that looks more like a garage that’s used for storage. Lynch’s band members are busy sampling analog synth sounds into a MIDI controller so they can play all the sounds on their current album, Gardens & Villa’s second, Dunes, live, without having to transport the fragile synthesizer.

This was not a practice for the group’s 2011 self-titled debut. Produced by Richard Swift, Gardens & Villa doesn’t have the structure of its successor, or the three years of touring experience its creators have gained since its release. Dunes is a more pastoral, pop affair with the defined structure that goes with that style of songwriting. It was helmed by British producer Tim Goldsworthy, the joint owner of DFA Records who has also worked with Cut Copy, The Rapture, Hercules and Love Affair, and Massive Attack.

Now, one day post Dunes’ release, Lynch can’t stop smiling, grinning his way through recalling the trajectory of events that brought Gardens & Villa to this point while doing a serviceable rendition of a British accent whenever speaking about Goldsworthy.

Lily Moayeri (Under the Radar): What brought you and Tim Goldsworthy together?

Chris Lynch: He found this live video of us online on a blog called The Wild Honey Pie. We had done this soulful rendition of one of our songs. He said he watched it 100 times and he really wanted to make a record with us. He said we actually play live and that is so unique these days with most bands having computers and backing tracks.

Now you’re becoming one of those bands. The MIDI controller is the gateway gadget you know.

We’re not becoming one of those bands, I promise. Certain bands we look up to, like Little Dragon, play everything live. They’re bordering on electronic but they still play everything and they use MIDI controllers. Nothing we’re going to do is to a metronome, nothing’s tracked out. It’s all us playing everything. If we didn’t have the MIDI controllers, we wouldn’t be able to tour because we would have too much stuff to bring. It helps us condense all the sounds.

So the main reason Goldsworthy was drawn to you was that you could play live?

Yeah. He thought that we played really well together as a band. He started sending us records and we sent him records. We built this catalog of music that we were really excited about. He got us really into Ryuichi Sakamoto and some other stuff from the late ‘70s and the early ‘80s. He was right on with the vibe that we were trying to attain. We sent him 30 rough tracks that we sifted through and put Dunes together from. All the stuff was written before we recorded with him.

We were like, “We really like you, but we can’t afford you.” And he was like, “We’ll make it happen.” So we made it happen. We met in this middle ground and that’s part of why we went to Michigan to record. We couldn’t really afford to go to the U.K.

The first two days that we were with him he was like, “Set up, I want you to play through all the songs for me live.” We set up and we played 30 songs. He was like, “Hmm…no, yes, no.”

Why Michigan?

We’ve always had a weird, romantic interest in Detroit, just because it’s so run-down and kind of a ghost city. Especially for Californians, it was exotic for us. There’s burned out buildings and trash heaps covered in snow. The place we recorded was outside of Detroit. It’s called Benton Harbor.

Whose idea was it to go to this studio?

It was [Goldsworthy’s]. He had made a record there before. It’s a really nice studio: Key Club Recording Co. The main attraction to the studio is the soundboard, a really famous Flickinger. This guy custom-built this mixing board for Sly Stone in the ‘70s. There’s a little bit of Sly’s soul in that mixing board, and probably a lot of cocaine residue, and other fun things that are trapped in the board that he left that give it this weird, soul-y sound. The board was built during a critical moment in history where there are some early digital aspects of the board but it’s primarily analog. It’s a really weird fusion board that Sly had built because he was competing with another artist for who could have the best board, and he built this one.

Was it really different from the place you did the first album?

Yeah, really different. The first record was produced by Richard Swift and he’s an amazing guy too. We camped out in his backyard for two weeks, in tents. That was when we were younger and we were more hippie-prone. Three years on the road can change a lot.

Do you feel like you wrote songs differently this time or is the shift in your sound due to Goldsworthy and the studio setting?

I think we wrote differently. If you listen to our original EP that we made before the first record, it’s totally different than the first record. And I think the next record is going to be different too. We’re evolving. We don’t ascribe to any style. We don’t set out to write a song like this. It just happens and evolves until it’s done. That’s why Tim was so helpful to us because he helped us guide the songs and put it in a cohesive mass.

You have done reasonably well for not having been a band for very long. What advice would you give to musicians to get started?

One of the biggest things we’ve learned is no one is going to do it for you. No one is going to hold your hand. No one’s going to make you famous. The only way that happens anymore is a big blog over-hypes a brand new band. But that’s kind of like winning the lottery. For the most part you just have to do it yourself. Book your own tour. That’s what we did. We went on three tours by ourselves. We booked shitty tours in coffee shops and we slept on people’s floors, we slept in our cars.

We all quit our jobs and went for it because we believed in ourselves and we believed in the music. And even though our parents and everyone were like, “You’re making a stupid decision, you’re ruining your life and you’re going to be behind everyone else,” we were like, “We’re going to do this because we believe in it and take the leap.” I think that’s the biggest thing. There are a lot of musicians that just dabble and are waiting for something to give them a break. That break doesn’t usually come to you. You have to do it yourself. You have to go out and meet people and follow up with people and go to places where musicians hang out and become part of a scene. I feel like the scene is really important. There are a lot of burgeoning scenes in a lot of different cities. Plug into a scene.

There are hungry people trying to start PR firms. They’re super-DIY. There are promoters that are just getting started and new booking agents and all kinds of people that are also hungry and also want to do it for no money. That’s how we started out. We have a bunch of people that have been with us from the beginning. They quit their jobs too and we all didn’t make money for a really long time. It was almost like a suicidal adventure. But you have to believe in it enough to take that first jump.

You have to assert yourself too. You have to go up to people. I used to be really shy. I’m still a little shy with music sometimes, but I really worked on bringing our music to people and being confident in it. That’s really hard for a lot of artists, to gain that confidence. A lot of artists tend to be a little eccentric and insecure. That book, All You Need to Know About the Music Business, that’s what he says in the opening chapter. I’ve been backstage with Mick Jagger, and everyone, at every level, is thinking, “Nobody likes me anymore.” You just have to get over it.

You are still shy about presenting your music to the public?

Yeah. It’s hard to let go of it. Even yesterday, when our record was released, I felt like, “Ohhhhh…now everyone knows. It’s not just mine.” You’re exposing this creation. It’s kind of like giving birth. Or like making a sculpture and unveiling it. You never think that it’s quite done. You’re still holding on, thinking, “I can make it a little better.” And then you have to let go.


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