The Garden is one of those bands that people either hate or love. And for most people, loving the band is a slow process: It grows in them, slowly. Similarly, the band’s name came about because they thought of cultivating something special. They knew their creative process was to change over time and grow, thus ensuring their originality was left untouched.
The Garden consists of twin brothers Wyatt (bass) and Fletcher (drums) Shears, who started the band in early 2011 in Orange County California. Nevertheless, they played together years before, jamming in their house and with friends. This explains the dynamic and explosive chemistry they have in their live performances. But also, this explains their shared connection, based on the love of playing music.
Their early musical influence was their dad, who was in punk bands in his early days, and seems to have passed his passion down to the two of them. Besides that, some notable bands that influenced The Garden are The Minutemen, Fatboy Slim and Killing Joke. These three are important because they provide the core foundation for the band’s sound.
The Minutemen was a 1980s punk band from LA. This band was notorious for playing under-a-minute songs accompanied by their aggressive style. The album “Paranoid Time” was their most influential because you can hear the same short song format and abrupt stops throughout the tracks. Their influence gave The Garden more intensity, as the listener is used to a continuous sound in punk rock music.
So, adding stops during noisy bass and drum riffs creates violence and inertia at the same time, and for some reason, the listener is captivated and hypnotized. You can hear this attribute in the early EPs and their first full-length, “The Life and Times of a Paperclip.” This ended up being a core element of their style, something they cultivated since the early years.
Fatboy Slim is responsible for the electronic sounds that were incorporated in albums such as “Haha” and “U Want the Scoop.” He combines big beat electronica, acid house, nu-funk and other elements to his music. But the most important aspect is the rapid beats combined with industrial sounds that would become a huge part of The Garden’s signature sound. In songs like “All Smiles Over Here,” you can hear a nice combination of punk rock and electronic music, and in albums like “Mirror Might Steal Your Charm” and “Kiss My Super Bowl Ring,” the electronic element is prevalent.
Killing Joke influences The Garden’s intimidating sound. If you ever listen to Killing Joke’s self-titled album you will understand the implications. This album, by far, makes the listener uncomfortable and it has to do with the heavy drum and bass combination. The resulting sound is a blend of metal, death core and rock, but the most important aspect of discomfort is the nihilistic and absurdist approach of the album.
This sound is instrumental for the maturity of The Garden and you start to see a clear serious sign in their album “Haha.” This album combines punk rock, electronic and heavy sounds that make the Garden a noncommercial band. And going deeper into this sound, we have the album “Mirror Might Steal Your Charm,” a manifestation of the band’s growth. The listener can grasp a confidence with their sound. Their newest album, “Kiss My Super Bowl Ring,” combines heavy metal sounds with guitar, which is uncommon for them since they typically only use bass, drums and synthesizers.
All the above said, a good indication that a band is good is when their life performance sounds better than the album. And The Garden creates something special when they play live.
Their concerts are notorious for having an active crowd. You usually see a mosh pit forming, crowd surfing and people jumping on stage; the energy in their live concerts is infectious. And of course, all of this is taken to greater levels by the emotional pyrotechnics of Wyatt and Fletcher. They are physically energized so that they embody the music they play. They jump around, free style dance, rap, scream, but they keep control of the energy.
That said, with the recent pandemic going on, The Garden has been doing Instagram concerts. It is interesting to see how virtual concerts will play in the future, but their concert was very well received by the fans. Of course, there is a detachment from the audience and replacing live concerts cannot be in the conversation, but still, it is a nice, but different experience.
People either hate or love The Garden. But it is more complicated than that since The Garden plays a role in the listener’s psyche as well. The listener is transported into a world full of expression. Creativity is collapsing with the real and that is unsettling at the beginning. And for those who make it to the other side, they are strange; as Nietzsche said, “Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
Nevertheless, The Garden’s music is a tour de force for individuality and creativity in times where bands are trying to sound like everyone else. People that listen to The Garden are drawn to their music because they probably never heard anything quite like it. And that is the beauty of it all. The Garden is true to themselves and they are guided by the spirit of music and not popularity.