The Garden are an electro-punk band from California who have released their new EP last week and are currently touring through Europe. I met up with the twin brothers Wyatt (vocals, bass) and Fletcher (drums) before their show at Werk, Vienna.
Location: Vienna, Werk backstage
A conversation about touring, feminism and how to deal with Trump voters.
You released your new EP last week. Was the gig last night in Berlin the first time where you played those songs live?
Wyatt: No, we’ve been playing these songs for a few months, actually. But that was the first show in Europe where we played these songs.
How did the crowd respond to them?
Fletcher: Yeah, pretty good.
Your music and your lyrics are often very laconic, pointed and simplistic. Do you see your art as an unfiltered expression of yourself or do you rather see it as a stand-alone, separate „product“ you create?
Wyatt: For the most part, it has to represent myself, just to make it feel genuine. I don’t think I have enough imagination to make up stuff the whole time. It definitely comes from myself.
Fletcher: There’s enough going on in our lives and there’s a lot to talk about as far as actual life situations go. A lot of people think we just make up lyrics that don’t mean anything, but everything means something. Those people don’t look too deep into it and then they’re like „that doesn’t mean anything“. But everything definitely has a meaning to us. Sometimes it’s just more coded, I guess.
„My art has to represent myself to make it feel genuine.“ – Wyatt Shears
You spend a lot of time on the road, do you ever suffer from the infamous post-tour depression?
Wyatt: Not really, because we do it so much, so there’s always something else coming up. I think if I wasn’t gonna tour for two years I’d miss it, but we don’t –
Fletcher: I think „post-tour-depression“ maybe comes from people who don’t really have a lot going on at home. And then they want to go back on tour, because that’s their favourite thing. Also, if you have a job at home you’ll definitely miss the freedom of being on tour. Depending on what life you have back home makes it the most –
Yeah, but I guess it also has a lot to do with your personality. Personally, when I’m away for like even just three days or something, there’s always a very weird feeling to coming back home. It takes me a couple of days to readjust myself to –
Wyatt: Yeah, it definitely depends if you have fun or not. If I have a really good time on tour then I’m usually like „I wish it wasn’t over“, but a lot of the time touring just feels like work. So I’m kind of just okay with it being over.
Fletcher: Yeah, we like touring and travelling too if it’s not touring, but sometimes tours aren’t just as fun as the last one. Some tours suck more than the other tour. It just depends on the circumstances, I guess. There are tours where you do the same thing every day, you load in, load out, get to the venue…
Wyatt: Touring is not hard, but it’s routine. It’s the same thing every day. It gets a little bit boring.
Fletcher: It takes a lot of your energy up for sure. The drives are super long every day.
Wyatt: The most fun part is probably playing and then after that it’s sleeping and after that it’s maybe food.
Fletcher: Although, if you have friends on tour it becomes a whole different thing.
Do you have the time to check out the cities you play in?
Wyatt: Yeah, if you make time for yourself you can do it. We’ve been to these places a lot, especially on this tour already. I think every place we’re playing on this tour we’ve been to more than one time. We get to see more of what we’ve already seen.
You seem to have a high resilience when it comes to critique or opinions on your art that you didn’t particularly ask for. Are you really that balanced and thick-skinned or do you sometimes take mean or uninformed comments to heart?
Wyatt: It really just depends on the type of comment, if I feel that it was really thought out. At the end of the day it’s someone else’s opinion. The thing that would matter most is if someone that was close to me had something to say about it. As far as comments go a lot of the time it doesn’t really get too much under my skin, because I don’t know these people. I don’t know if they are having a bad day or not, so it’s not really my problem how they feel.
Fletcher: Yeah and we’re doing our own thing. So I mean people of course can have their own opinion, but at the end of the day it’s not their thing, it’s ours. It doesn’t really matter what they say, cause we’re not doing it for anybody else.
„People can have their own opinion, but at the end of the day it’s not their thing, it’s ours. It doesn’t really matter what they say, cause we’re not doing it for anybody else.“ – Fletcher Shears
One of the quintessential messages that I get from your music is a call and an appeal for confidence, tolerance and living your principals.
The United States and also various countries in Europe are currently turning away from all those qualities, away from a liberal society that embraces the rights of the individual towards a restrictive society that tries to wipe out any form of diversity. Do you notice, in your direct surroundings, that Donald Trump’s election has changed the way people in California and the US live together?
Fletcher: I think some people are looking at each other differently than they did before. If your neighbour finds out that you voted for Donald Trump and your neighbours are liberal then that might change the way you look at your neighbour, even if you love your neighbour and you don’t want it to. A lot of people are looking around because of … you know, Donald Trump, he’s not just a blank face president, he has a face and that face represents something, so if you vote for Donald Trump or you support Donald Trump then to a certain group of people you look different.
Wyatt: Those kind of people that are trying to overturn what’s been done, they were always there, but now they have a spokesperson that is the president of the United States. So now it’s way more relevant what’s happening around us. It’s a bummer, but everbody’s gonna have to figure it out.
Fletcher: He is giving a voice to the people who like the idea of moving backwards, but thinking they are moving forwards.
Wyatt: It’s a tough thing to tackle, because the people who are reverting back to things like racism and stuff like that, they think that they’re a part of a new future, but really that’s going back in time, so it’s really touchy. Those people who think they are progressive are way back in time.
Fletcher: It’s hard to talk to somebody who is that disconnected to reality when they think you are disconnected. You can’t even really talk to them.
I think it’s really hard to get into other people’s mindsets, a bit.
Fletcher: Yeah, for the most parts I don’t try to. Even if I know somebody who is close to me I don’t try to, because if they believe in something like that that firmly there’s really no talking them out of it, unless they see something that is factual for themselves. Nothing I’m going to tell them is going to change them.
Well… On one hand I agree, it’s almost impossible to convince those people that … like I’m not saying that I’m in possession of the truth, no one is, but sometimes I kind of feel the urge to tell people that – like many of them are just so misinformed, and with stuff like Breitbart and everything, it’s so obvious that what they believe in isn’t real. And I think some people really want to believe that stuff and even if you tell them that their „facts“ aren’t real they wouldn’t even listen. Some people don’t know and some people don’t wanna know. I just think there’s some sort of responsibility that you have towards the world. You gotta tell people –
Fletcher: Yeah well, we write about it in our music.
Yeah, that’s what my question before was leading to – does this shift in politics ultimately change your art or the art of your friends?
Wyatt: A little bit, because it’s such a prominent thing right now. I definitely added some things on the EP that we put out that lead towards those kind of issues.
Fletcher: Yes and I speak about it online a lot. And yeah, we also put it on the EP and I also talk about in my side project as well. So yeah… slowly, but surely.
I don’t think that what I’m saying is groundbreaking. To me it just kind of makes sense.
It was Women’s Day yesterday! Judging by some of your lyrics I’m assuming you guys are feminists? What’s your response to people who say we don’t need feminism anymore or that we don’t need it at all?
Wyatt: They probably don’t really understand it, to be honest. I really respect feminism, but I don’t think I do enough to say I’m a feminist. Being a feminist is something really great, so I don’t think I deserve to be called that.
I think that feminism is really important. But I think a lot of people get misconceptions about what it’s about. They’re getting really threatened and they end up not liking it. But if you go back to the roots of feminism and make sure you know what it is and the definition behind it… It’s a really good thing and it’s much needed, especially today.
Fletcher: It’s just like Black Lives Matter, people get threatened by it, when in reality there is nothing to be threatened about.
Yes, but that shows you exactly how much it’s needed. When I was younger I didn’t know much about feminism, but later on I really got into the matter, I read articles, books and when you understand all its historical roots and how they reach into the present… Like even the word „feminism“ can provoke such an outrage in people, I mean that alone is an indicator that we still need feminism, because –
Fletcher: Yeah I think people take it as a threat, because they don’t know what it is. They think it’s a hate group against men, people think Black Lives Matter is a hate group against white people, but in reality, they’re just misunderstanding.
That’s one thing yeah, but also I think that sometimes they know what it’s about and still don’t like it. Like I know men, who don’t see women as being on the same level as they are and there are actually a lot of men who think that way.
Wyatt: Yeah, I think if they wanted to understand it they could, but they choose not to.
Fletcher: Yeah, exactly.
And they’re happy when they find something that proves them in thinking that feminism is directed against men. They look out for things they can use against feminism, when in reality feminism is just about women wanting to –
Wyatt: Be equal!
Yeah and just have the same fucking rights as men have.
Fletcher: Yeah, this really shouldn’t be an issue, but for some reason it is. It’s one of the things I still don’t understand.
„I think a lot of people get misconceptions about what feminism is about. They’re getting really threatened and they end up not liking it. But if you go back to the roots of feminism and make sure you know what it is and the definition behind it… It’s a really good thing and it’s much needed, especially today.“ – Wyatt Shears
Do you have a coordinated set that you play live or do you happen to improvise a lot?
Wyatt: When it comes to the order of the set, we try to keep it the same. When we go on a tour we’ll be like „okay, this is the set that we stick to.“ You can improvise upon that set, but as far as the set goes performancewise we do try to change it up. But usually, the order of the songs we keep the same. That way it’s right in our heads, it’s almost like studying for a test. You know that set and it’s a really good practice.
Fletcher: Yeah, if you memorize the set for instance, you don’t have to think about what song is coming next, you can think about doing something else to make the set more exciting and then you just improvise on top of it.
Are you nervous before you go on stage?
Wyatt: I wouldn’t say nervous for the crowd or for the show or anything, you get adrenaline, you’re ready to go on stage. The only thing I ever get nervous about are technical difficulties. I just really don’t like them. I was having some last night, my bass kept falling out and it just feels like such a waste of time, like „I drove seven hours here today and my bass is not even working“, it’s just so annoying.
And you also want to show the people the best of what you’re capable of.
Wyatt: Exactly!! And I’m like „It’s not always like this, fuuuck“! But that’s the only thing that makes me nervous, that I want our shows to sound good.
Fletcher: We usually always have a sound guy with us in Europe. This is the first tour where we don’t. It’s a little more unnerving that way. We’re doing it this way in the US so we’re used to it though.
Is there a difference between the people in the music business you meet on tour in the US and in Europe?
Wyatt: I think a lot of people who work at venues don’t like their jobs. Sometimes they can be kind of cranky. But sometimes they can be really, really nice. I guess it just depends, but it’s actually the same everywhere.
Fletcher: We usually try to be nice to them.
Wyatt: If everybody is nice to each other it just makes the whole process so much easier.
Fletcher: Yeah, if you come in cranky and they are already cranky, then there’s one big pile of cranky people and that’s no fun. So yeah, if you come in with a good attitude and they’re cranky, maybe you can make their attitude better.
That applies to life in general actually.
Is the visual aspect of your music as important to you the music itself? Do you come up with the ideas to your videos yourself?
Wyatt: Yes. I think it is super important, because if we played the kind of music we do, but we had a really lame video it wouldn’t fully connect all the pieces together. It’s important that we make sure that our visual art is as good as our music. All our videos are stemming from our ideas, I wanted to keep control over that, so that the whole product makes sense.
Fletcher: Yeah, just like a video that coincides with a song. If the song is really whacky, usually the video is not going to be whacky. But when the song is more normal, or calm or whatever, then the video is probably going be more whacky. We usually try to offset the tune, so that it’s not a part of the same thing.
I watched a couple of interviews with you guys on YouTube and there was one where you (Fletcher) said something that struck me because it’s something I think about from time to time. You said that many of the places you play in are very westernized and that it’s easy to make your way through with the English language and so on.
And really, I think there is less and less difference between countries and cultures, especially in Western Europe.
Wyatt: I think there’s a difference.
Fletcher: There’s definitely a slow infiltration of… like if you go to Japan for instance and then you go to somewhere else in Asia that’s less put together and westernized then you could definitely see the difference of influences of Japan and Europe and the US and other countries that haven’t had that much influence. I think there are some places where you can totally see it. For us, since we’ve been coming to Europe it’s been kind of the same everywhere. We’ve been coming here for like four years now, it’s not changed a lot since we’ve been coming here.
But I like coming here. We were in the Czech Republic today, we’ve only played there once, we had lunch there, it was fun. There, it didn’t feel westernized.
Wyatt: Yeah, I think the first couple of times that we came to Europe I felt kind of a culture shock, cause it was definitely different. Of course, if you look at the McDonald’s or the Burger Kings, of course you gonna think of westernization, but you have to go to other places that aren’t as touristy. Like venues, local spots or whatever, then you see that things are different.
Yeah, I think the impacts of westernization vary and depend very much on the history of each country. But I think that cultures are vanishing a little. You see less and less things that are unique to the countries you go to. And for example, wherever you go to, also in Vienna, there’s this oversupply of food. You see food stalls where you can get Viennese sausages, Kebap, Burgers, Pizza and Asian Food. It’s like why does everyone want to have everything all the time?
Wyatt: Yeah, I know.
Fletcher: It definitely makes things slightly less special, I feel that for sure. I mean even places in the US, like so many people are moving to the coastal cities like New York and Los Angeles, so it makes these cities more… for instance in New York, the ratio of how many people are actually from New York and how many people just moved there… it’s cool, it’s cool that there’s a big mash-up of different kind of people, but also in a way… where are the real New Yorkers? I wanna get the real feeling of New York, you know? I mean that’s totally cool, it doesn’t bother me that much. In some cases, like when it comes to gentrification of a neighbourhood or a ghetto neighbourhood and then people start moving in, because it’s cool then there’s a problem with that, cause then you lose the culture of the actual neighbourhood. But in some places it works, in some places it doesn’t really. I definitely see what you are saying though.
Did you get to see Vienna some time?
Wyatt: I feel like every time we’re in Vienna I get here at night and I leave at night and I don’t see anything. I’ve been to Vienna maybe four times. Actually last time we were here it was cool.
When you played Arena?
Wyatt: Yeah. I got to hang around a while there. I liked it.
It’s a very industrial area tough.
Wyatt: Yeah, true.
Fletcher: I walked around there, there was nothing.
A gas station maybe.
Fletcher: We played Flex one time!
Yeah, that was a very cool gig!
Wyatt: Yeah, but again we got here at night and –
Fletcher: That was the time we probably got to do the least local thing. I think we went to dinner down the street… it’s close to this place right?
Sort of, yeah.
Fletcher: Yeah we went down the street to get some food. Austria is one of those countries that we haven’t really got to explore as much as we have other countries, because –
Wyatt: We always get here late!
Fletcher: And it’s always a long drive to get here.
But at least you get to drive alongside the Alps when you’re coming from the west.
Wyatt: Yeah I think we’ve done that before, coming from Switzerland or Italy. But today we came from Germany.
Fletcher: Yeah I don’t think you have to go through the Alps when you drive from the Czech Republic?
No, that’s mostly woods, I guess.
Wyatt: I slept through most of the drive anyway.
Hopefully you get to see the real Vienna next time!
Fletcher: Yeah, I would want to see that!