If you’ve followed indie rock or punk music over the last 10 years, you’ve probably already heard of The Garden. The Orange County duo have churned out six spunky, energetic albums, which are defined by their clear-cut penchant for angular chaos, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, and complete disregard for genre.
Formed by twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears in 2011, The Garden slowly but surely amassed a devoted fanbase, playing countless shows and embarking on DIY tours across the United States. They’ve slept in cars, on park benches, and on peoples’ floors across Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Russia and the rest of the world. The blistering combination of their prolific live show and penchant for flashy visuals proved undeniable – with each coming tour, the venues grew bigger and the crowds wilder. “I think it’s helped us to have such a slow progression up to where we are now,” says Fletcher, reflecting on the band’s steady climb.
Since those early days, they’ve collaborated with musicians like 100 Gecs member Dylan Brady, Kero Kero Bonito bassist James Bulled, indie staple Mac DeMarco, and Carrot Top. They’ve modeled for brands such as Saint Laurent, Balenciaga & Hugo Boss, to name a few. Now, after four LP’s–three of which were released while under contract with Epitaph Records–their new album, Horseshit On Route 66, will be the first independent LP that The Garden has put out since 2013. The decision to leave Epitaph was one that was ultimately made by the band. “We are not interested in closing our doors to potential opportunities we haven’t experienced” explains Fletcher, “Joining up with Epitaph was something we tried out and ultimately were not interested in pursuing any longer. Progression is most important to us, if something is not working and not allowing us to move forward in the ways that we want, we switch angles.”
The 11-tracks that make up their latest, Horseshit On Route 66, are some of The Garden’s most fiery endeavors to date. Recorded in Downtown Los Angeles, the record pulls from the legacies of Southern California hardcore and UK punk, but continues to experiment with dissonant electronics and the drum & bass sound the duo is known for. Though plans to record in a ghost town and set up camp “somewhere haunted” were abandoned, that spirit is embodied in the record. “A good chunk of the songs were inspired by the “scary stories” we read as kids and our interest in the supernatural,” says Wyatt. The duo also cite children’s book illustrator Stephen Gammell as a major reference point, his drawings infused with the same underlying menace that their music evokes.
Opening with a sample of an old woman whispering, “Haunted House on Zillow” perfectly establishes an eerie atmosphere before the twins kick into absolute hyperdrive on searing tracks like “OC93” & “Puerta de Limosina”. Standout “Freight Yard” is carried by an addictive hook and an intricate jungle groove, while “Orange County Punk Rock Legend” pits sunny guitars and bit-crushed drums against a snarling vocal performance. “What Else Could I Be but a Jester” is a surreal fever dream comprised of breakneck beats and wobbly synths, while “Squished Face Slick Pig Living In A Smokey City” finds the band settling into a sludgy lockstep.
A faded portrait of the brothers in their traditional Jester-esque attire adorns the cover, an aesthetic choice that’s become synonymous with the visual universe of The Garden. With this new collection, Wyatt and Fletcher feel like they’re finally doing what they’ve been trying to accomplish artistically since they started the band all those years ago. Horseshit On Route 66 ushers in a new beginning for a group that has already established itself as an iconic and singular force.