Naturalistic Ethos

By Tamara Vallejos

Posted May 10, 2012 in Music

Photo by Luca Venter

Gardens and Villa takes the fruits and veggies of its labor on the road

A defining moment for Gardens and Villa, a five-piece based in Santa Barbara, happened before the band was even a band.

A few years back, inspired by the soul-searching stories presented in movies like Into the Wild and books like Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, vocalist and guitarist Chris Lynch headed on a six-month backpacking trip up the West Coast, hoping to figure himself out.

“It was a big moment for me,” he says. “I was pretty much alone for a long while so I learned to deal with myself. I went out without anything, really, but my instrument and used music to get by. Sometimes it was a shield, sometimes it was a way to be social.”

During a stint busking in Portland, Ore., the social aspect of his music helped Lynch pick up one of the pieces now part of Gardens and Villa’s dreamy, synth-injected, distinctly laid-back California sound: the flute. It might seem like a random instrument for a dude with a self-described “psychedelic, post-punk” background but Lynch was inspired.

“I was playing with this guy for a while and he carried around a briefcase full of all these different bamboo flutes in all these different keys, and I thought, ‘Oh that’s so weird, I’ve never seen flutes like these.’” They turned out to be bansuri flutes, an Indian woodwind that traces back to ancient times. Lynch’s busking buddy had spent four years in India learning to play, and passed along some of his knowledge to the California wanderer.

Then a couple other pieces fell into place: Lynch’s vocals (“I didn’t really pride myself as a vocalist until we started Gardens after the backpacking trip, which was kind of where I found my singing style and learned how to sing.”) and the naturalistic ethos that led to the group’s name.

“When I was in Portland, I was staying with a bunch of people that did a lot of urban gardening and it inspired me to get back to California, where [there’s] such nice weather and [you] can really grow stuff year-round,” he explains. So with a few newfound passions, Lynch headed back to Santa Barbara, moved with his bandmates (the current lineup includes: Adam Rasmussen on the synthesizer, Levi Hayden on drums, Shane McKillop on bass and Dusty Ineman on the keyboard) into a house on Villa Street, tore up the backyard and planted a thriving organic garden full of fruits and vegetables that nourished the band and inspired its name.

The gardening became such a part of Gardens and Villa’s identity, the guys took the fruits (and veggies) of their labor on the road.

“On our first tour, we brought vegetables from our garden and put them on our merch tables and were like, ‘If you buy a CD, you get one vegetable!’” Lynch laughs at the memory of healthy eating while on tour, because it’s so far gone from today’s reality.

“Now, a year and a half later, with the expense of touring, everything’s changed,” he says. “We find ourselves really struggling to eat healthy. At first, we said ‘Nothing but mom and pop grocery stores!’ and then ‘Nothing but grocery stores!’ and then ‘Nothing but mom and pop restaurants!’”

But all the instabilities while out on the road are worth it, Lynch says—even though the band misses the Santa Barbara home and garden it had to give up in favor of non-stop touring.

“All the people we’ve met, the other bands we’ve experienced, and the natural wonders of nation we’ve gotten to see—it’s just been an amazing experience.”

Gardens and Villa at UC Riverside, The Barn, 900 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 827-2276; Wed, May 16. 7:30pm. $10 non-students. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; Sat, May 19. 9pm. $10.



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