The Garden Twins: the new Haute Punks for a new generation.
NOMINATED BY SOKO
INTERVIEW BY KATE LAWSON
The Garden are a lo-fi garage band from California, formed by identical twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears, who with their soundscape of razor-sharp aural attacks and violently scorched guitar noise, have brought all the boys, and girls to the (back) yard. With their Iggy Pop-like angular frames, nonchalant stares and gender-bending silhouettes fused with an androgynous take on style, they’re the stuff cross-dressing Tumblr heartthrob dreams are made of - which is why designer Hedi Slimane plucked them from obscurity and thrust them into an haute punk fashion whirlwind making them his catwalk and campaign muses. As creative soulmates, they embody all the radical and individualistic sensibilities of punk, fitting in is not their thing, inventing their own experimental genre is - which is how “Vada Vada” originated, a phrase translating their own unique and anti-commercial vision. Having played together for over a decade, The Garden emerged in 2011 and with a growing global audience, we met the twins in London on the heels of their UK Tour, to talk Saint Laurent, self-expression and keeping the punk spirit alive.
How did it all start music-wise for you both?
Wyatt: We’ve been recording music for years and we both have our own musical side projects - I’ve been writing as Enjoy since 2010 and he’s been in Puzzle since 2012, then we started The Garden in 2011 as another creative experiment.
It’s not true then that as the stereotype goes, twins do everything together?
Wyatt: Not always, we like to have our own separate projects and play our own shows and put out our own records.
Fletcher: We do things all the time alone but we also like to be together! The Garden is just something we work on as a joint project, with us it’s really just one big experiment after another.
And you’ve invented your own genre or creative universe known as vada vada - what’s the definition of that?
Wyatt: It basically stands for creative freedom and not boxing yourself into a genre - being able to express yourselves without any rules of the music system or any other system surrounding us.
If Vada Vada is about your own freedom, what’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done?
Fletcher: I took out the trash in the rain a few months ago. I felt my adrenaline go way up.
Wyatt: Living in America can provide the perfect platform for some of my wildest days.
“Vada Vada basically stands for creative freedom and not boxing yourself into a genre. We’re just demonstrating a different way of thinking.”
What about other singers, artists or creatives who inspire you - who have also tried to sit outside of the system and do their own thing?
Wyatt: I don’t have any direct inspirations, but I like to take a little bit of something from something else, and make it my own. Like if I like a band or a piece of art, take a little bit from that, don’t copy it, but just add a little drop into the pot, and as we continue to evolve, that helps you to be different and not just another band in an existing genre. You’ll be your own thing, your own entity.
Fletcher: What he said! We’re still learning and evolving, we call it an experiment rather than a band. We’re just demonstrating a different way of thinking and being in a project together.
Moving into different mediums rather than just the music - is that how the collaboration with Saint Lau-rent came about?
Fletcher: We didn’t even know who Saint Laurent was and so we found out some more stuff about the label, and it was one of those things where you get an opportunity you’ve never had before.
Wyatt: The door was open saying come on in, and we decided to go for it.
“Hedi Slimane is an extreme professional, there’s no bullsh*t with him at all.”
Hedi (Slimane) has a great vision for discovering unseen talent and celebrating rawness and natural energy, while turning them into high-profile muses - what was that experience like with him?
Wyatt: Hedi is an extreme professional and as we continued to work with him, we began to learn why he’s so notorious in a good way, for what he does. He’s one of the best photographers and designers and he knows what he’s doing, there’s no bullsh*t with him at all.
Fletcher: He’s very patient and really on-point. It’s fun to watch him working because he’s not like other photographers where he’ll take loads of pictures - he just takes the good picture and he knows exactly when to take it. He’s quiet too, not running around the place telling people what to do like you might expect of someone at his level. He just does his thing which we admire.
Sticking with fashion - your wardrobe has become a talking point, in particular your fondness for cross-dressing. Is that just another phase within the experimental aspect of what you’re doing, or is it a de-liberate style statement?
Fletcher: I think the last time one of my looks was purposefully curated was probably when my Mum dressed me! I do give thought into what I wear obviously, but I’m not trying to say anything in particular about myself. I love vintage and thrift stores because that’s where I find the stuff that fits me the best and I can make it my own. I dress in mens clothes all the time, but I also hit the women’s section in stores because it just looks better, fits better and they have better patterns!
Wyatt: We don’t think about whether we’re wearing women’s or mens clothing, we don’t think ‘oh this is androgynous or sexy’ - we just think this is cool, we like it and it looks good so I’ll wear it. You know people are like, ‘oh you dress in women’s clothing’ and yeah I do, but unless it’s a dress, you can’t really tell sometimes, like it’s just a turtle neck or something!
“We don’t think about whether we’re wearing women’s or men's clothing, we don’t think ‘oh this is androgynous or sexy’ - we just think this is cool.”
Does it annoy you at all that your looks and modeling have propelled you into the spotlight more so than the music - do you think people really understand your creative vision?
Wyatt: It’s all about looking at your surroundings and being something unique in your surroundings, being yourself. We’ve made videos where we walk around shopping malls dressed in big costumes, and it’s not meant for the shock factor, we’re just trying to demonstrate something can be itself in its own habitat, and not try to blend in. Of course people are going to stare at it and make their own mind up about it, but it’s actually just something minding its own business going through life, which is what we’re about.
Fletcher: There’s also a lot of genre placement in music, you know people saying this is what rock is, this is what rap is - but for us personally Vada Vada is our way of saying, hey this is what we want it to be, this is what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, because we can do it that way. Hopefully people understand and see that.
As your popularity has grown, how are you dealing with the new found attention, especially from fans?
Fletcher: Well at our live shows, we’ll go to the merchandising booth afterwards and say hi and thanks for coming, and there could be over 100 kids there which is overwhelming, but they came out to see us, so it’s right to go out and say thanks and not hide backstage.
Wyatt: It’s funny, at this level, when you see other bands hiding and not wanting attention, they’re just fooling everyone, putting on a front like it’s such a hard life. Really they love and want the attention though, because it’s really the easiest job in the world, so just shut up and take it all in!
Fans like to give their idols gifts too - what are the best or weirdest things you’ve received so far?
Wyatt: We got an awesome drawing of us both by a fan from the Netherlands which was super cool.
Fletcher: We get bracelets and pink pens with teddy bears on top of them!
“There’s also a lot of genre placement in music, you know people saying this is what rock is, this is what rap is - but for us personally Vada Vada is our way of saying.”
For the fans and us - tell us something we don’t already know about the garden?
Wyatt: Hmm, that’s hard… I don’t really want to tell anybody anything about myself! But I guess if I have to say one thing, it’s that I see myself as an honest person. When I’m in The Garden I’m coming from the most honest point within myself.
Fletcher: I feel the same, I don’t like to say too much, and I think if at any point in time we became contrived, then we won’t be doing this anymore. We are just being ourselves and a lot of people don’t get that - they just see drums, guitars and modeling pictures, and to them, that’s superficial. But we’re just being who we are and doing what we do, there’s nothing more to know.
Wyatt: If you can get past the smokescreen then you’ll really enjoy what we’re doing. It’s hard to think of anything else we want people to know other than that.
But what about the obvious question everyone asks about being twins then - who is the good one and the evil one?
Wyatt: The definition of good and the definition of evil can be pretty interesting things. Malevolence is usually coursing through my veins, while on the outside sometimes I feel like I'm glowing.
Ok, let’s make you think even harder! If you could choose a piece of art which really symbolises your individual spirit and attitude, not as twins - what would it be?
Fletcher: I am who I am and that’s all I know.
Wyatt: Any art that has evolved without boundaries really, flowing in its own way, that’s where I would place myself.
So what’s next?
Wyatt: Well our album is set for release this Summer and we’ll be back in the UK for The Great Escape festival and some more European live dates of our own too. Vada Vada!
See more: The Garden’s 10 favorite tracks.