The band name of Gardens & Villa is fairly intuitive once you know the story behind it, though it promises nothing for conventionality.
The Daily Cardinal had a chance to speak with front man Chris Lynch and extra percussionist Dusty Ineman after their show with Fanfarlo at the High Noon Saloon in March where they offered an explanation for their musical namesake.
“It comes from a house in [Santa Barbara, Calif.],” Lynch said. “Four of us in the band lived on Villa Street and uh, there was a period where like, our previous band broke up and we all kind of like, left and then we came back to the same house and we ripped out our whole yard and planted a garden.
“Some of our neighbors copied what we did and they got chickens and we started a little neighborhood garden thing. So we named our band after it, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
He said they grew everything from bok choy to asparagus, and even had orange, lemon and avocado trees. That is, except for Dusty, who worked at, and lived on, an avocado ranch at the time.
“Keeping the garden tradition,” Ineman chimed in.
Their sound is almost as eclectic as the contents of the soil at that house on Villa. On the self-titled album’s opener “Black Hills,” Lynch’s pure voice sails over trancey, repetitious, gritty keyboard chords, while “Space Time” boasts a more new-age, beach-rock sound complete with just a hint of angst, Lynch’s vocals crackling and straining on each forceful croon.
Then there’s “Orange Blossom,” another album highlight, which comes off a bit like a funky, Passion Pit/Neon Indian love child, soaring falsetto, lo-fi reverb and all. Yet their sound still maintains unique attributes as Lynch enters in with one of his wooden flutes that he wears in a quiver on his back during concerts.
Yes, a quiver. Like for arrows, except this one holds instruments of the woodwind variety.
“The quiver was…my friend actually recently made it for me and uh, if I didn’t have the quiver I’d probably have a bag or something,” Lynch said. “We incorporated the flutes like, two years ago into the music when we recorded our record. It’s actually a Bonsari Indian [one]…it’s not the same thing as a regular flute.”
He said he learned how to use the instrument when he lived in Portland, Oregon a couple years back and was playing music with a Bonsari flautist.
“I played guitar and he played the bamboo flute and I just liked the way it sounded and he taught me,” he said. Simple as that.
This California hiatus ended up being good for the band in terms of flute skills, but luckily Lynch soon returned to his home in Santa Barbara where the genial men of the group came together.
“We’ve been playing for like two and a half years as Gardens & Villa,” Lynch said.
“Three of us were in this band together that broke up, and then Dusty and Shane McKillop, the two other guys, played in a band in Santa Barbara where I was from.
“It’s a small city. It’s kind of like Madison—actually it’s smaller than Madison. Santa Barbara’s like 100,000. So, small.”
Perhaps this likening to Madison is part of the reason the band was so excited to play at one of our humble, Midwest venues. Lynch and Ineman offered a quick back-and-forth banter to explain why our city in particular is a great stop for a band on the road.
“We’ve wanted to be here for a long time,” Lynch said. “Yeah, we just hear really good things about Madison. It’s a progressive town. A lot of bands like it because there’s really good food here. Other cities in the region it’s hard to find good food except Chicago, obviously. Like if you’re looking for like alternate vegan or organic … some of us have like dietary needs.”
“I eat meat,” Ineman said, as Lynch also quickly clarified, “I’m not vegan.”
Ineman: “But if there’s a vegan restaurant we’ll go to it.”
Lynch: “There’s just a lot of options here.”
Kind of like how there are a lot of options for free musical enjoyment at the Memorial Union Terrace this summer, thanks to WUD Music committee.
The five-man musical outfit that is Gardens & Villa will make their second trip to Madison Friday, June 22 at the Terrace on the tails of successful appearances at Coachella and Sasquatch music festivals. They are also excellent additions to this summer’s Terrace roster, which is fit to bust with talented up-and-comers.
So on the 22nd, grab a pitcher and one of those shiny new blue Union chairs and settle in for a Lake Mendota sunset followed by Gardens & Villa at 9:30 p.m. We may not have the climate to grow avocados, but if there’s one thing Madison does right, it’s music.