ABOVE: THE GARDEN’S WYATT (LEFT) AND FLETCHER SHEARS. IMAGE COURTESY OF HEDI SLIMANE
The Garden is a lo-fi noise band from Orange, California with only two members: 19-year-old twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears, who look like the androgynous love children of Lou Reed or Iggy Pop, and who happen to be the latest muses of Saint Laurent Paris’ creative director, Hedi Slimane. On a recent trip to Paris, the boys modeled in Saint Laurent Paris’ Summer 2014 menswear runway show, then performed a show at the O’Mantra nightclub, which Slimane documented in all its sweaty, sexy, punk, glory on his online photo diary.
The irony of The Garden’s involvement with one of the top fashion labels in the world is the decidedly anti-commercial quality of their music. Since starting the band in 2011, the Shears brothers have released three albums, crashing through songs that rarely breach the one-minute mark, in an upbeat parade of punk experiments—kind of like a Gang of Four take on The Ramones’ structure, with sonic nods to Deerhoof or early Liars rounding out the palette. The Life and Times of a Paperclip, the duo’s latest LP and first on Los Angeles-based garage label Burger Records, comes out July 23 and traces the dull and abstract narratives of inanimate objects.
The high-profile modeling gigs combined with the niche following of Burger records has left The Garden with a devout L.A. fan base and growing global audience (they’ll also be putting out a 7″ single, Rules, with Japanese label Big Love later this summer). On the heels of their recent trip to Paris, and on the verge of releasing their new LP, the brothers of The Garden took a minute to explain to us how they ended up in this haute punk whirlwind, and why they’re still hungry for the “other half of the sandwich” that is their metaphorical satisfaction.
RYANN DONNELLY: In the process of setting up this interview, you mentioned that your schedules were really crazy. What’s been going on?
FLETCHER SHEARS: I can’t talk about everything. Some of the stuff we have to keep quiet, but there’s a lot of stuff, musically, that we’ve been trying to work out. We’re about to leave again out of the country, and we have two albums coming out.
DONNELLY: Is the stuff you can’t talk about also music-related?
FLETCHER SHEARS: Uh, no, it’s modeling stuff.
DONNELLY: Before we get into talking about the new record, can you tell us how two 19-year-olds from Orange, California have ended up working with Hedi Slimane?
FLETCHER SHEARS: We were just playing a show at the Echoplex in LA, and I guess there was a friend of a Saint Laurent Paris representative there. They were looking for guys in bands for Fashion Week. I got an e-mail after the show that night, just asking, “Hey, you wanna come to Paris—free trip and everything?” We didn’t know if it was real, because at the time we didn’t even know what Yves Saint Laurent was. We did some research and we were like, “Oh shit, this is the real deal.” We met Hedi the first day we were in Paris, and it was very, very overwhelming, but also very magical at the same time.
DONNELLY: So, you’ve been modeling for Saint Laurent Paris, and your personal style is a really striking mix—some vintage, some women’s clothes. Is fashion important to you?
FLETCHER SHEARS: We just wear what we like, as cheesy as that sounds. That just happens to be what we like to wear.
DONNELLY: Fletcher, you wear a lot of women’s clothes in your videos. Is that how you dress off-camera as well?
FLETCHER SHEARS: I wear women’s clothing on a daily basis. Not just for the videos! I started wearing women’s clothing in 2010, but more consistently in 2012. It’s nothing complicated. I just like the way they look on me.
DONNELLY: Do you make an effort to look different from each other, because you’re twins?
FLETCHER SHEARS: Nah, not really at all. To be honest, we don’t even really think about it. At one point we wondered what Wyatt’s hair would look like black, so we dyed it black, and ended up having to keep it that way for modeling reasons. So, he’s kind of stuck with it like that for now. [laughs] Our hair color is one of the main things that sets up apart, but it wasn’t purposeful.
DONNELLY: Your new LP is called The Life and Times of a Paperclip. What is that title about?
FLETCHER SHEARS: It is about the life and times of an actual paperclip, and what it has to endure on a daily basis. We talk about the pains and hardships of other inanimate objects on the album, as well.
DONNELLY: Can you talk about the music scene in L.A.? You seem to have developed a strong fan base in just over a year.
WYATT SHEARS: We’re not from L.A. We’re actually from Orange, which is about an hour from L.A.
FLETCHER SHEARS: We play in L.A. pretty often, but Burger Records has helped a lot. We do our fair share by playing shows, and putting out music and music videos. But I didn’t even believe we had a “fan base” until the last few shows. After we got back from tour, things seemed a little bit different. And, it’s nice! It’s really nice, but how it grew, I have no clue.
WYATT SHEARS: I think the modeling has even helped us as a band. Right when we got back from the first modeling job we ever had, it was a little bit of a slap in the face about what’s happening.
DONNELLY: So, your audience hasn’t grown from a die-hard group of friends that support each other, which seems trademark of punk bands?
FLETCHER SHEARS: It has definitely come out of the blue. Most of the time, if we played a local show, it was not crowded. It was not crowded at all. [laughs] We didn’t even have that “die-hard” group of friends that would come support. Turnouts were not great for us in the beginning.
WYATT SHEARS: There was a lot of despair on our part.
FLETCHER SHEARS: Yeah, there were a lot of angry sets for a while.
WYATT SHEARS: We’d get frustrated because we played at least a year of shitty shows.
FLETCHER SHEARS: We definitely did the grunt work in the beginning—when it comes to nobody showing up at your show. [laughs]
DONNELLY: How and when did you start working with Burger Records?
WYATT SHEARS: Before The Garden.
FLETCHER SHEARS: We had a band called MHV that started in 2009, and Burger found us and wanted to put out a tape. Then, in 2011 we played our first show as The Garden, and they really liked us. That’s when the green [self-titled] tape came out on Burger, which was our first release.
DONNELLY: Your songs are all about one minute long. How much time do you spend writing or refining a song, typically?
FLETCHER SHEARS: To be perfectly honest, not much. It’s pretty cut and dried. What we record in the garage is what ends up going on the album.
DONNELLY: Is it important to you that writing is a somewhat experimental process?
FLETCHER SHEARS: Genre-wise, we don’t consider ourselves anything. It’s whatever. We continue to grow and evolve, and the music doesn’t stay the same. I guess it has a main core to it, but at the same time it keeps changing. The record we’re putting out in Japan doesn’t sound like anything we’ve done before. It should be surprising, but in a good way. It doesn’t sound punk, or experimental, or lo-fi, or anything like that. A few songs don’t even have bass and drums. It’s just a backing track with us singing on it—almost with like a house, hip-hop-esque feel to it.
DONNELLY: That still sounds pretty experimental. You’re still using music as more of a medium than a proficiency test. Are you guys trained musicians, or are you just making things that feel good to you?
WYATT SHEARS: The second one, for sure.
DONNELLY: [laughs] Cool.
FLETCHER SHEARS: Yeah, we never had lessons.
DONNELLY: What drew you to this kind of music?
WYATT SHEARS: Well, what we’re making right now isn’t satisfying us. We’re getting really frustrated, because we can’t figure out what sounds to make. We’re trying to switch it up, and almost getting nervous, because we’re not moving forward as much as we think we should. At this moment we’re at this halting point where we’re like, “Fuck. What the hell are we supposed to do.”
FLETCHER SHEARS: We’re not completely dissatisfied. It’s just not enough. It’s like eating half a sandwich when you…want to eat a whole sandwich. You want that other half to make it complete, and right now The Garden is not complete.
DONNELLY: Is adding more members or instruments something that you’re considering?
FLETCHER SHEARS: No, I think it’ll be us two, or I’m done.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A PAPERCLIP IS OUT JULY 23 ON BURGER RECORDS. THE GARDEN WILL PLAY JULY 20 AT THE SMELL IN LOS ANGELES. FOR MORE ON THE GARDEN, VISIT ITS FACEBOOK PAGE.