They are brothers, they are twins, they are sometimes goth, they are sometimes glam, and more often than not, they are unabashedly honest. They are Wyatt and Fletcher Shears of Orange County based neo-punk band The Garden. Songs such as the recently released and subtly sinister "Get Me My Blade" are able to coexist within the same musical universe as previously released tracks like "Life as a Hanger" - a song about just that, a hanger. Growing up around punk rock, Wyatt and Fletcher were already making music in the fifth grade and have progressed onwards, following their creativity to some strange, occasionally humorous, and consistently entertaining places within their unorthodox world. Using just drums (Fletcher) and bass (Wyatt) the band churn out music with a penchant towards the unconventional. Their songs are quick and memorable, but listen closely and you will find that the subject matter can vary anywhere from paperclips, to an apple, to a gorilla.
The Garden are known for putting on high energy sweaty shows and, as with their songs, there is no pretension. Whether they fight on stage or end up jumping into the audience, they do whatever feels natural to them. Their 6 song album Rules was recently released, following the aptly titled The Life and Times of a Paperclip. While the brothers Shears are uncensored in their authenticity and play hard punk rock, they were also chosen by Hedi Slimane to be the faces of Saint Laurent's Fall menswear campaign.
I spoke with Wyatt and Fletcher on a sweltering Southern California afternoon, where under the shade of a tree, we sat on the cool grass and talked about various musical projects, walking the runway in Paris, and Baby Gap.
J.L. Sirisuk: Did you grow up here?
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, we actually used to live right behind that building [points to a nearby building]. In the neighborhoods, but pretty much right there.
Sirisuk: When did you start doing music? When you were kids?
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, pretty much.
Fletcher Shears: We started playing in bands in the fifth grade.
Wyatt Shears: We started officially taking it a little more seriously in the fifth grade. Last year [laughs]. I'm just kidding.
Sirisuk : [laughs] And what kind of music were you making back then?
Wyatt Shears: Just really, really, really basic, basic as you can think punk.
Sirisuk: Who were you listening to?
Wyatt Shears: In like fourth/fifth grade? Adolescents, Shattered Faith, T.S.O.L. I think Black Flag was on the horizon maybe, but I wasn't quite into them yet. But just the basic Orange County punk bands because my dad is in Orange County punk bands and that's how we found it. Unfortunately, I'd have to mention D.I. probably, even though D.I. sucks now. I can put that on record if you want.
Fletcher Shears: It was cool when we were little.
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, they were cool when I was in the fifth grade.
Fletcher Shears: Definitely not cool now.
Sirisuk: Some bands go out there and it feels like they just want to get through the songs. With the two of you, there seems to be some performance going on as well. Are there people throughout your lives who you've enjoyed watching perform?
Fletcher Shears: To be perfectly honest, I don't really think so [laughs]. I'd like to say 'yeah' but I just don't really have any influences when it comes to the way I perform at all.
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, when it comes to the way I perform now. But early on I looked at musicians, not even for inspiration. I guess I just wanted to see what the best guy in the world could do, or something like that. Like a Victor Wooten type of bass player, you know.
Fletcher Shears: There's a certain point when you realize that means nothing.
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, not to me at least. But when it came to performance, like the fighting and stuff, that just came from us talking at Chipotle probably, with burritos in the hands, mouths half full, you know. We just kind of thought of everything ourselves, it didn't really come from anything.
Sirisuk: It's just really organic.
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, I guess so. Maybe cartoons.
Wyatt Shears: That's about it.
Sirisuk: Which cartoons?
Wyatt Shears: YuYu Hakusho. It's an anime. I don't really know. To be honest, it was just like 'what can we do to spice it up?' or 'what can we do to keep them on their feet?'
Fletcher Shears: Most of it is just improvised.
Wyatt Shears: To be perfectly honest, we don't even like to go to shows anymore. I don't want to sound like a dick.
Fletcher Shears: There's no way you're going to be able to say that without sounding like a dick.
Wyatt Shears: I'm going sound like a dick, but to me most of it is kind of boring. For me at least, I like to get involved in the show. Physically, I'm not trying to be like 'whoa performance artist' or anything like that, but for me it has to have the whole package for some reason. I know I probably sound like such a snob, but I like some stuff for sure and I like listening to really basic stuff. It's not like I'm looking for something avant-garde or anything. I guess when it comes to live shows and local music, I look for something really interesting or else it's just like 'is this another surf jam, I'll pass.'
Sirisuk: You're just engaged in what's going on in the show at that moment.
Wyatt Shears: I feel like it's easy to tell if someone put a lot of time and thought into it, you know. And not just lyrics and riffs, but almost like a concept behind it.
Fletcher Shears: We don't try to mold it, we don't try to make it something else, it's just that's what comes out. Take it for what it is, and if you don't like it then there's really no point in analyzing it because there's not much to even analyze in the first place.
Wyatt Shears: It's not deep, you know.
Fletcher Shears: It's just what comes out.
Wyatt Shears: I think a lot of people are like 'it's avant-garde.'
Fletcher Shears: Or 'I don't like it because this is what they're trying to do and they're missing what they're trying to do.' It's like 'no we're not trying to do anything. This is what's coming out.'
Sirisuk: You're just doing what comes naturally.
Wyatt Shears: Exactly. What feels funny or something to us. It's pretty dang rudimentary.
Fletcher Shears: If you don't like it, then that's cool. We really couldn't care less if you don't like it, to be honest.
Sirisuk: The Life and Times of a Paperclip - that's such a great title and it's a great image - just this little paper clip and it's life. So when you gave it that title did, you just think 'oh this is funny. A paperclip'
Fletcher Shears: It's kind of funny.
Wyatt Shears: We laugh about it still. It's funny that we put out an album and that it's being distributed and it just has such a goofy name. That's why we laugh about it. That's why we made it, because I thought about the life and times of a paperclip. Being a paperclip would suck because most of them get bent by kids or they just don't really get respected that much.
Fletcher Shears: Some are on the corner, on the ground for like a whole school year and don't get picked up.
Wyatt Shears: [laughs] Yeah, you see them on their desks and stuff.
Sirisuk: There's also a track about a hanger.
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, "Life of a Hanger." It's just the same thing.
Sirisuk: Different little objects, different little characters.
Wyatt Shears: Some people were like, 'maybe he's talking about being a model and having tried on different clothes.' No, it's literally talking about a white hanger. It sucks because you're always just hanging there, you have to hold up stuff all the time [laughs].
Fletcher Shears: [laughs]
Sirisuk: How long did it take you to record The Life and Times of a Paperclip? The whole process.
Wyatt Shears: Probably a week or less.
Fletcher Shears: It took a night to record.
Wyatt Shears: Not even a night. It probably took an hour or two to record. But it took a year and a half to be put out by the label.
Fletcher Shears: Almost more than a year and a half.
Wyatt Shears: Everything we've put out, except for Rules is newer than The Life and Times of a Paperclip. Life and Times is way before any of the tapes that we've put out, but it just took so long to get out that it looks like it's our new release.
Fletcher Shears: It's like freaking old.
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, it's way old. That's why it's kind of strange because the record got put out, and now we're supposed to play all the time, but we've been playing them for more than a year.
Fletcher Shears: We're bored of the songs, we've been playing them forever.
Wyatt Shears: Some of them are kind of fun to play.
Fletcher Shears: "What We Are" is still fun to play and "Trust" is still fun to play.
Wyatt Shears: Songs like "I'm a Woman" - I probably shouldn't tell anybody, but it's getting kind of boring [laughs].
Fletcher Shears: That song is boring as it is, in my opinion.
Sirisuk: Good video for that one.
Wyatt Shears: We don't even like the video.
[We all laugh]
Fletcher Shears: We like what we're doing now. In our eyes, The Garden is obviously pretty primitive, if you want to think about it that way. We have these solo projects called Enjoy and Puzzle and it's almost like that outlet. We know at this point we are technically not allowed to make a bunch of Garden records, so now we have to wait until we make the next one. So, I guess it almost comes out in Puzzle and Enjoy. We can just do whatever we want with those projects, so we'll just make a bunch of albums. I just made three Puzzle albums in the last month, so it's like I almost need to create.
Sirisuk: So you can release those on your own?
Fletcher Shears: Yeah, I have a Puzzle record coming out, he [Wyatt] has an Enjoy record coming out. It's not crazy popular, but we love it. We love doing The Garden, it's our number one thing but now we wait until somebody says 'make the next album.'
Sirisuk: Have you been working on ideas for the next Garden project?
Wyatt Shears: It's already done. The next one and the next one after that are pretty much done. It's just that we can only put them out so fast.
Fletcher Shears: We can't really put them out yet.
Wyatt Shears: We kind of consider The Garden like a factory.
Fletcher Shears: [laughs] We don't think of it like that.
Wyatt Shears: It's like ding song ding song ding song. Not because we want to get them done that fast.
Sirisuk: It's just the way you work, it's the way creativity is. You can't plan when it's gonna happen.
Fletcher Shears: Yeah, it all just happens really fast for us.
Wyatt Shears: When we know we're on a roll, we're on a roll, and when we're on a roll we usually make at least 10 songs.
Fletcher Shears: And when we're not on a roll, it still comes out pretty dang fast and it's not stuff we don't like, it's everything. We like it all, you know. It comes out fast and we still like it. It's not like 'oh I don't like it, we rushed it.' We usually don't like it if we take too much time on it.
Sirisuk: I noticed the tracks aren't very long.
Wyatt Shears: I think it's kind of time to break out of the comfort zone and get a little bit longer.
Fletcher Shears: Yeah.
Wyatt Shears: Make the lyrics a little bit more in depth.
Fletcher Shears: It's not like we're not capable of making long songs. I mean, Enjoy has long songs, Puzzle has long songs. For The Garden we always thought it worked better when they were short. But we're gonna try twisting them around a little bit.
Sirisuk: I think it does work well, though, with the fast songs. They're like little images, little pictures.
Wyatt Shears: Little theme songs or something.
Fletcher Shears: It's just enough time for people to realize if they like it or not. Or just enough time for someone to be satisfied with it, or not satisfied with it and then that's it, they don't have to like it.
Sirisuk: You said you have two more records.
Wyatt Shears: Pretty much, I think it's about one and a half. We have the whole next album waiting.
Sirisuk: Are the other two much different?
Wyatt Shears: A little longer.
Fletcher Shears: And a little bit more intricate, I guess.
Wyatt Shears: A lot more like themed songs.
Fletcher Shears: They have more substance to them I guess.
Wyatt Shears: A little more distinct, and I put a different effect on my bass to where I've never done before so it kind of sounds pretty cool. Kind of twangy.
Fletcher Shears: Almost like a weird country vibe.
Wyatt Shears: Almost like a fucked up country sound.
Fletcher Shears: It's not like that at all, but that's what it reminds us of.
Sirisuk: What's next? What do you want to do with The Garden?
Wyatt Shears: In my eyes right now, keep going like we're going, any door that opens that seems like an opportunity, just take it. We're going day by day.
Fletcher Shears: We don't really have an overall plan to be honest. Just progression. That's what we like.
Wyatt Shears: Don't say the same music-wise, don't do the same performance wise.
Fletcher Shears: I would be extremely dissatisfied and extremely embarrassed if we made an album that sounded like the last one.
Wyatt Shears: So it's basically just at this point 'don't say the same.' We just have to keep evolving.
Fletcher Shears: But don't evolve and change your whole sound, just find a way to evolve where it's still you.
Wyatt Shears: A perfect example is a band like Killing Joke. They started out like your typical '80s kind of weird punk band, but then they evolved to sound like an industrial metal band.
Fletcher Shears: They went to punk from industrial to almost like metal.
Wyatt Shears: If you listen to their albums in progression it's just totally weird. I guess I could kind of gain inspiration from that, I guess. The progression on there is so cool and it's perfect because it's not a whole switch. They evolved perfectly in my eyes and now they're old men but they're playing even harder music than they did, but in a totally different sense.
Sirisuk: Do you plan on doing any more modeling?
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, for sure.
Fletcher Shears: If the opportunity arises we'll take it.
Sirisuk: How did it feel to be on the runway?
Fletcher Shears: It's fun, it's a little bit nerve wracking. I'm not gonna lie, I'm not gonna pretend I'm all comfortable. It's a little bit nerve wracking, but it's cool. It's fun.
Wyatt Shears: Yeah, I was pretty much fine until I saw the pyramid of cameras.
Fletcher Shears: At the very end of the runway there's just a giant pyramid of cameras. Everyone's behind the camera, it's like 'okay, that's what I'm walking towards.'
Wyatt Shears: That part is kind of like 'I don't wanna smile on accident or anything.'
Sirisuk: You're not supposed to smile?
Wyatt Shears: You can, I guess. There's not a rule.
Sirisuk: Sometimes women are taught to walk because they have to wear those heels. Did you have anyone teach you?
Wyatt Shears: They did a lot of practicing but not intense. They're like 'show me what you got.' Basically, if they like it you'll keep it like that and if they want improvement they'll tell you what to do. But that's pretty much it.
Fletcher Shears: I remember trying to hold my smile so many times, like when I would walk past Wyatt. Just because it was Wyatt walking past me, I would almost start smiling for some reason. But only if Wyatt walked past me. Luckily I didn't have to walk past him the first time, and the second time I was used to it, and I did walk past him so I was all good to go the second time. That's my story.
Sirisuk: Any favorite designers? You don't have to say Saint Laurent.
Fletcher Shears: I don't really know anything about fashion.
Wyatt Shears: We didn't really pay attention that much fashion-wise. We still don't, to be honest.
Fletcher Shears: All I know is that I wore the black trench coat the first time and I wore that leather jacket the second time [laughs]. That's all I know about it, really.
Wyatt Shears: I don't know. I can't think of anything.
Fletcher Shears: Maybe Baby Gap.
Sirisuk: Baby Gap is nice. Cute little shoes.
Wyatt Shears: [laughs] I was just about to say the shoes.
For more information on The Garden, including updated tour dates, please visit the group's Facebook page.
Urban Outfitters (Los Angeles)
Xroads (San Luis Obispo)
The Prospector (Long Beach)
w/ Cherry Glazerr
El Rey Theatre (Los Angeles)
w/ SKY FERREIRA
October 10th - October 26th
West Coast Tour
January 30th - February 22nd
The Garden - What We Are