Gardens & Villa Band Interview: Naturally Mystical (w/ Lyrical Analysis)

In summer 2010, Gardens & Villa took a short break from their hometown of Santa Barbara and headed north to Cottage Grove, Oregon. Surrounded by lush forest and the flawless Pacific Northwest summer, they set about recording their self-titled debut with musician and labelmate Richard Swift. On their off time, they soaked in their idyllic surroundings, communing with nature, bathing in local rivers, eating wild blackberries, and hiking and exploring as much as they could.

“To me, a born-and-raised Californian, the forest of Oregon has a heavenly, Garden of Eden, sacred feel,” explains vocalist and guitarist Christopher Lynch. “It was a major force behind ‘Black Hills’ and some of the other tracks.”

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Gardens & Villa Lyrics

In the Lyrical Analysis section below, snippets of song lyrics are paired with explanations from Gardens & Villa vocalist and guitarist Christopher Lynch or literary and philosophical quotes. The quotes are intended to supplement one’s understanding of the ideas and themes presented on the record, but they reflect our interpretations and were not supplied by the band.

1. Black Hills
2. Cruise Ship
3. Thorn Castles
4. Orange Blossom
5. Spacetime
6. Chemtails
7. Star Fire Power
8. Sunday Morning
9. Carrizo Plain
10. Neon Dove


1. Black Hills

“Up on the mountain, we climb.
See as the seas rise, so high.
We will be baptized, just like before.”

“Jumping in the water [has] many correlated meanings: wading into the river of communion with the dead saints; letting go of your desire to control… As John Lennon said, “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.” On the banks of a river is where Siddhartha found enlightenment. And the Tao is described as The Watercourse Way. Rivers and water are such powerful images!!”
– Christopher Lynch, Gardens & Villa


2. Cruise Ship

“This is how God made us to live.”

“The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing.”
Tao Te Ching


3. Thorn Castles

“When I was young, my mom said,
Oh-whoa-oh, magic.”

“Most of the songs were written over and throughout the year before the summer of 2010, when we recorded it. However, a few of them were not finished until hours before we recorded. For some of these, I had to go off and walk through the forest in the morning to gather my ideas and finish the lyrics. One of them, ‘Thorn Castles,’ was written and recorded on the spot as if it were being dictated to us from our collective subconscious.”
– Christopher Lynch, Gardens & Villa

“The moment that one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious and awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”
Henry Miller


4. Orange Blossom

“Orange blossom, pheromones take me home.”

“Orange Blossom” was… written using a peculiar method.. We had been jammin’ the instrumental version for a little while, and we recorded a version of it with me singing gibberish over the top. We used to call the song ‘Prince’s Blanket’ because it reminded us of Prince. [We] Iistened back to the gibberish that I sang over the top. Streaming from somewhere in my head, I listened to the sounds. It was during this experience that the blossoms of our backyard orange tree filled my nose with a scent that reminded me of love (I grew up in a place that had thousands of orange trees, so the smell is very sentimental to me) – [of] a new, blossoming love that I was falling into. Mixed with reflections on a particular evening that was spent nights before, the song fell together very quickly and confidently. It was inspired.”
– Christopher Lynch, Gardens & Villa


5. Spacetime

“When she speaks of space and time, she is always at the nick of time.”

“Time is an illusion. But so are most things that we live by. I think maybe coincidences that happen around time happen because you are tapping into a more cosmic side of yourself that exists outside of time… Is this something you can train your mind to develop and use? I think so.”
– Christopher Lynch, Gardens & Villa

“…The unconscious has no time. There is no trouble about time in the unconscious. Part of our psyche is not in time and not in space. They are only an illusion, time and space, and so in a certain part of our psyche time does not exist at all.”
Carl Jung


6. Chemtrails

“Dandelions flying high, through the marmalade sky.”

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson


7. Star Fire Power

“In time you will find, you will find, you will find, flaming tongues, flaming eyes, flaming hearts, flaming eyes.”

“Cherubim and seraphim, getting in verbal fights, lust, betrayal, passion. Trying to communicate but not being able to understand or explain. The dynamic personality changes of a powerful relationship that you know is going to burn up.”
– Christopher Lynch, Gardens & Villa


8. Sunday Morning

“It’s Sunday morning, and we’re sitting happily,
Playing guitar, talking about adventures to start.”

“I was… observing people around us and reflecting on our joblessness. Feeling detached from the rest of society. There are a lot of us that feel this way. For most it is scary and depressing — but for us, it is part of our artistic journey. Sometimes you have to let go of the world around you to be present and artistically in-tune.”
– Christopher Lynch, Gardens & Villa


9. Carrizo Plain

“You and I are intertwined.”

“A lot of ‘C.P.’ came from a certain experience I had with a certain someone at an actual place called Carrizo Plain… It was one of the most magical moments of my romantic life that I will never forget. The lyrics are interwoven with imagery from the experience and interpretations [and] reflections of passages from a book (which the person had given to me at the time) that I was reading.”
– Christopher Lynch, Gardens & Villa


10. Neon Dove

“Silhouette, step in the street light; your cosmic touch is all I need tonight.”

“‘Neon Dove’ comes from being in love with someone and mistaking them for God. Feeling the mysterious and extraordinary sensation which seems to burst forth from the earliest vibrations of the universe, the frequencies which make up all things. And also, letting go of that love (and God) repeatedly — physically (on tour) and in my mind. Detaching myself to silence the ongoing and confusing inner-dialogue that I can get overly concerned with. And then coming back to it (cosmic return <3) hoping that things are as strong as they were before. But usually, things are totally different."
– Christopher Lynch, Gardens & Villa

By the time Gardens & Villa returned to California, they had set down a record that attested to a level of musicianship above and beyond what anyone would expect from a band’s debut. Exploding with funky basslines, nostalgia-inducing synths, and endless amounts of soul, Gardens & Villa shimmers with ten tracks of easily palatable songs. Yet these are not “easy” pop songs with “easy” songwriting or ideas; there are few convenient concepts for listeners to latch onto immediately.

“The lyrics are mostly for me, and anyone who wants to dive deeply into my weird world… like how John Lennon used to tell everyone that all his lyrics were just gibberish,” explains Lynch, who goes back and forth regularly on the idea of “mystery versus transparency” in song lyrics. He cites Sigur Rós as a band for which mystery works; their Icelandic and sometimes language-defying lyrical content play a secondary role to their lush instrumentation and associated imagery.

“I like it when lyrics are not easy to make out or understand in the first couple listens,” continues Lynch, “because it opens up the listener more to the vibe and emotion of the melodies, vowel sounds, and diction.”

Gardens & Villa focus heavily on capturing these moods, and even the album’s press release expounds on logistics and musical comparisons rather than on lyrical content. Rest assured, though; such decisions are wholly intentional.

“There would not be enough room in a press release to sufficiently expound on or describe them,” Lynch supposes, making it clear that Gardens & Villa‘s shiny pop veneer betrays the depth of its content.

It is only when one really begins to deconstruct the lyrics that a fascinating underlying thread begins to reveal itself.

“A lot of my songwriting comes from a desire to open myself up to nature and the universe, experiences with love, my subconscious, childhood memories, imagination and various cocktails of each. I guess these are reflections of my larger life philosophies, but not in a concrete way.” – Christopher Lynch, Gardens & Villa

Discovering A Hidden Narrative

Take, for instance, the surprising nature of even the album’s most in-your-face dance tracks. “Thorn Castles” features an acoustic guitar, sunshine-laden melody, and bounce-in-your-step rhythm, but gives wide-eyed descriptions of magic and miracle. Over a disco beat, “Star Fire Power” relays hushed references to “shooting stars” and “fire power,” while “Spacetime” playfully explores the malleable nature of the space-time continuum. Even at their most flamboyant, Gardens & Villa explore unconventional themes that would never cross the minds of many.

“A lot of my songwriting comes from a desire to open myself up to nature and the universe, experiences with love, my subconscious, childhood memories, imagination and various cocktails of each,” reveals Lynch. “I guess these are reflections of my larger life philosophies, but not in a concrete way.”

In fact, none of the lyrics on Gardens & Villa are particularly concrete. Though Lynch is quick to say that though he does not follow any specific meta-narratives or doctrines, his curiosity of philosophical and spiritual ideas shines through. The entirety of Gardens & Villa is a cryptic blend of philosophy and memoir, with content converging from varying places and spaces.

“Sometimes [the songs were] sporadic creations, other times calculated, and sometimes directly inspired,” says Lynch. “All came with a different feel and color.”

Like the morning sun rising over the horizon, a progression of synth and scat singing slowly brings Gardens & Villa into sight. Opener “Black Hills” begins the journey with descriptions of mankind scaling mountaintops and witnessing the rising of the seas — only to eventually submerge themselves in water to be “baptized.” “Cruise Ship” follows, inviting listeners to take their wives and children onto the cruise ship because “that’s how God made us to live.”

While these lyrics can certainly be taken at face value — and may even recall the band’s experiences bathing in frigid rivers — they are, more importantly, symbolic. The album’s many references to water parallel with well-known ideologies and parables. Just as Siddhartha found enlightenment at the banks of a river; just as one is baptized to be saved; just as John Lennon sings, “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream” — so are Gardens & Villa doing. They are not floating down a river in a literal sense, but in a whimsical sense; they are taking a plunge into life’s flow, by living to the fullest and by pursuing their passions. And, in the opening tracks of the album, they are boldly inviting listeners to do the same.

Ancient as well as personal wisdom abounds on Gardens & Villa, and there are certainly profound lessons shared. By their very nature, though, the emotions, memories, and concepts the band attempts to document are difficult to distill into words.

“The album document[s] a love story… and a period of growth, but not overtly,” explains Lynch.

Towards the end of the record, Lynch speaks less of abstract concepts and begins to recall memories with poetic jargon. In “Carizzo Plain,” the line, “You and I are intertwined,” seems to describe two yin and yang halves cosmically woven up into one another. “Neon Dove,” the album’s last track, references a lover’s “cosmic touch” and symbolic return. Together, the tracks offer a satisfying, romantic conclusion to a record that seems to document an epic adventure — one which all began because the band decided to swim in life’s waters. From there, all things became enlightened; they experienced the magic of the universe in its limitless forms and learned the benefits of accepting circumstances both positive and negative.

Finding Answers Within

Despite how remarkably cohesive the album’s narrative thread is, its track sequence was chosen mostly “for [its] sonic relationships.” Its lyrical continuity was not even considered, and it is only over time that the power of its narrative has become evident.

“More and more, as I become familiar with it, I feel like there may indeed be a strong flow and story within the lyrics as well — maybe corresponding to the sounds and vibe,” muses Lynch. “Anyway, it was not completely intentional… but maybe subconsciously [and] sonically-driven.”

The record’s lyrical and musical cohesion becomes less of a surprise when one considers Gardens & Villa’s relationship to their collective subconscious. Decision-making is an exercise highly rooted in the band members’ intuitions, and Gardens & Villa seem to live by the philosophies they celebrate in their music. In “Star Fire Power,” Lynch repeats the word “intuition” like a mantra, only to conclude that following it leads to fruition.

“Intuition plays a major part in creating songs, vocal melodies, business choices, lyrics, pretty much everything,” says Lynch. “Vibe is maybe the most important thing to us when it comes to music-making and decisions.”

Rather than relying exclusively on cold, hard logic, Gardens & Villa have opted to place their trust in these more elusive creatures. Luckily, their instincts have led them to a satisfying and fruitful place, indeed.

“I believe that in my mind there is a constant oscillation between feelings and reason and things that appear as truths and others as falsehood. It is like a sea with waves and wind and calm and sun and kelp. Perspectives change and objects change color,” says Lynch. “Your intuition can be like a boat that you can navigate with. I think it will usually take you where are supposed to be.”

Q&A

What do you think about the resurgence of psychedelic music and imagery? Do you think it has impacts for the near future?
I think the return of psychedelia could be a natural step in the development of 21st century culture. We are curiously exploring our minds and our connection to nature/the universe. In a way, the ’60s began a cultural movement which yearns to fill a void which science and modern Christianity (and their ongoing war) have created (in America). We are extremely spiritual beings who have inherited a spiritually dead culture. I think that through trial and error we are in the process of building and synthesizing a new myth which could help guide us through the new paradigm. My biggest hope is that we rediscover and use the wisdom of the ancients. Everything has been done and thought of before — and if not in actual traditions and texts, it is all around us in patterns and sounds and miracles.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to those wishing to pursue a fulfilling life?
Spend lots of time gardening. Seriously.

Ω

“Natures of your kind, with strong, delicate senses, the soul-oriented, the dreamers, poets, lovers are almost always superior to us creatures of the mind. You take your being from your mothers. You live fully; you were endowed with the strength of love, the ability to feel. Whereas we creatures of reason, we don’t live fully; we live in an arid land even though we often seem to guide and rule you. Yours is the plenitude of life, the sap of the fruit, the garden of passion, the beautiful landscape of art. Your home is the earth; ours is the word of ideas. You are in danger of drowning in the world of the senses; ours is the danger of suffocating in an airless void. You are an artist; I am a thinker. You sleep at the mother’s breast; I wake in the desert. For me the sun shines; for you the moon and the stars.”
Hermann Hesse, Narcisuss And Goldmund

www.gardensandvilla.com + gardensandvilla.bandcamp.com

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