An interview with Gardens and Villa

In April, James Mercer and The Shins will lure an audience to cheer at the Mondavi Center. But before evoking nostalgia for the Garden State soundtrack, a band of a much different nature will take the stage. Gardens and Villa, a five-member, synth-heavy ensemble hailing from Santa Barbara, will open for The Shins. At its core, this is surf culture for the 21st century recalling an eclectic mix of ’60s and ’70s rock, but taken with flutes and synthesizers.

Gardens and Villa consists of Chris Lynch on vocals and flute, Shane McKillop on bass, Levi Hayden on drums, Adam Rasmussen on the synthesizer and Dusty Ineman on the keyboard. The Mondavi Center serves as a brief stop on Gardens and Villa’s way to Coachella. There, they’ll be opening for Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, a far cry from the quiet guitars of The Shins.

UC Davis looks to take part in laying claim to witnessing Gardens and Villa’s rise to ubiquity this April. As the opening act for The Shins, Gardens and Villa will be tasked with setting the mood for the entire concert. Given the tolerance of the student populace, Gardens and Villa can expect to be received with open arms and rousing cheers.

Indeed, these are exciting times for Gardens and Villa, whose name is taken from a street in Santa Barbara where the band used to tend to a garden. This wholesomeness has led to an orchestra of sound coming from the band, hazy and weightless. Lead vocalist Chris Lynch wields the quiver of flutes with great command, something fellow member Rasmussen describes as melding together with the synths, producing music that is altogether organic.

Adam Rasmussen, the man on the synthesizers, was kind enough to take a break from exploring San Francisco’s Pacific Beach to speak with Muse about the band’s upcoming ventures.

“San Francisco is crazy,” he says right off, and in the background the clamors of the big city have certainly taken Gardens and Villas and embraced them wholly.

Muse: So how are you guys doing this morning?
Rasmussen: Pretty good. San Francisco is, like, super misty. There’s lots of waves; it’s pretty cool.

What does your band name mean? Does being from Santa Barbara have anything to do with it?
It’s definitely a little bit about our environment and it can be a symbol for a lot of things. For us it was a question of, we took a property that was overgrown and kind of out of control as far as vegetation goes. We ripped it all out and put a garden in. We learned to grow our own food, which was getting into the idea of sharing vegetables and fruits; all this was on Villa Avenue. But we kind of view it as a symbol for regeneration.

Is that a flute I hear in the background? Flutes and synthesizers? How did you guys come to add that to your ensemble?
Yeah, absolutely. Chris is our lead vocal and he plays bansuri flutes, which are Indian flutes and they’re made out of wood. The flute wasn’t really something we were going to put in the band, but it was something Chris was really passionate about. He plays it really naturally and it feel right. We’ve always had keyboards in the band and I play synthesizers. We were really impressed on how they complemented each other. At certain moments they just kind of blend together to have something really synthetic and overly acoustic and at certain moments they all blend together into something magical. But thanks, man! It’s a really fun instrument.

OK, you guys are opening for The Shins playing at UC Davis in April. That’s big. How are you guys handling it?
We’re definitely excited, its been a long time since we’ve played with a band that has been that established. We’re over-the-moon excited.

In one word, describe your band. OK, two words… or you know what, use as many words as you like.
Gardens and Villa… hmm, I would say it’s kind of like an impressionist painting; rather than being abstract or realist we try to make these clashes in the sound.

Are you guys influenced by surf rock being from Santa Barbara?
Not modern surf rock, but definitely older stuff. Surf culture, but not necessarily surf genre. We draw our inspiration mostly from the early ’80s and the late ’70s.

What are you guys listening to right now?
I’m really digging the John Mouse; it has a little bit of an ’80s vibe. It’s really synth-heavy and the vocals have a ton of passion in them. The lyrics are really simple and vague; there is lots of color and imagery. It’s simplified sound and thoughtful.

Do you think we UC Davis Aggies will like Garden and Villas?
We want UC Davis to hear music with a new take on it. Is Sophia’s Thai Kitchen still there? Best food we had on the entire tour. The vibe that we got from Davis last time was a very chill vibe. [It’s] very open and receptive.

PETER AN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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