From flipping disks at Orange County label Burger Records to zipping down high-fashion runways, twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears of the Garden intend to get down to the meat of what they are.
Not only do they rip through songs — the shortest of which is 25 seconds — but they are so prolific that they seem to have the capacity to create an endless supply of material. When factoring in their solo projects, Enjoy and Puzzle, they’ve put out a total of 17 releases (so far) this year.
While their music could be categorized under genres such as neo-punk, garage rock and, most recently, trap, they dismiss readily defined labels in favor of their own catch-all anti-label, called Vada Vada. “(Our music is) a mix of so many different things that why not just call it one thing that we made up?” Wyatt said. Vada Vada is an arbitrarily coined term that is devoid of any one meaning — the emptiness of which allows them to apply it to various aspects of themselves, including a dance style and their group of friends. “We’re not going to create boundaries for ourselves,” Wyatt said.
The Garden’s setup is minimalist, with Wyatt on bass and Fletcher on drums. They chalk up this preference for simplicity to their experiences at shows when they were younger. “Together, we would just go in the pit at guitar breaks,” Fletcher said. The focus on bass and drums created a sound that was more “bad-ass,” as they put it. “It would always just make it feel like almost a jungle vibe,” Wyatt said. They’ve distilled that formula into their own music, which also happens to be mosh-friendly.
Their live show is rife with peculiar onstage antics that include various dances like the paperclip, which looks like extreme bunny-hopping, as seen in their video for “What We Are.” The boys would even fight each other. “We had our most violent fight right here (at Brick and Mortar in San Francisco) last time,” Fletcher said. He recalled that he threw a microphone “spear-style” at Wyatt’s face during the band’s previous show. Then the whole crowd got silent while Wyatt was on the ground trying to breathe. “We really got hurt last time,” Wyatt said.
Although the fighting has taken less prominence in their recent shows, they keep performances fresh by adjusting their sets to newer songs. “We’ve been trying to get people to grind at our shows lately,” said Fletcher, in reference to their song, “We Be Grindin’.” At the time of our interview, the boys had yet to witness any grinding firsthand. “I heard the first show we played (that song), there were some kids trying to grind (on the floor) … after they got pushed by the pit,” he said. “But I want to see it for my own eyes.”
Their music features an intersection between meaning and meaninglessness in subject matter. A lot of their songs feature the personification of inanimate objects, like a paperclip, grass and an apple. “When we play ‘(The Life and Times of a) Paperclip,’ I laugh every time, because it’s a silly song if you really think about it, you know,” Fletcher said. “The drumbeats are kind of silly.” Fittingly, a smirk was visible on his face while they played the song at Brick and Mortar.
They straddle the line, however, between seriousness and silliness. “Even though a lot of the songs are silly, I also take myself serious enough to where I wouldn’t want to make a whole joke out of something,” Fletcher said. He likens the idea of making a comedy album to being the class clown, in which you can’t be anything but funny — which is a box they wouldn’t want to put themselves in.
Wyatt has cultivated a bass sound so weird that its raspy echoes of distortion could be mistaken for the low notes of a guitar. He plays a Short Scale Hohner Telecaster that he bought at a vintage store in Downtown Fullerton called Out of Vogue, and he turns most of the bass down on his amp while turning up the treble. “It has that exact sound that I want,” Wyatt said.
The boys’ senses of fashion are also distinctive — featuring turtlenecks, high-waisted pants and pins of anime characters that run the gamut from Sailor Mercury to Psyduck. Fletcher has a flare for androgyny, often donning red lipstick and crop tops.
The irony of their shared day job is that they work in the stockroom of the Banana Republic at South Coast Plaza while their faces are plastered on high-fashion ads in the same mall.
After being discovered at one of their shows by Hedi Slimane, Saint Laurent’s creative director, they’ve strutted down Parisian runways and mugged for ad campaigns. “We’re in magazines that we don’t know about,” Wyatt said. Their YSL ads are featured around the world in places like Beverly Hills, Japan and Paris.
But while the trajectory of their success is picking up, the boys are quick to deny that their work is the making of a career. “It’s just something that’s happening,” Wyatt said. “We’re choosing to pursue it.” Still, they’re developing both a sound and a name for themselves. “(The Garden is) constantly changing,” Fletcher said. “And if we wanna get corny, it’s constantly growing.”