Although they only have an album and an EP under their belt, Gardens has to be one of the best bands out there. We caught up with them a few months after the release of their debut album, Death in the Family, and talked about the future, member departures, and the realities of being musicians.
How did you all meet? What sparked the idea to create Gardens?
We all met at some point during high school. When we met, we were all in different bands, but we talked a lot about starting a band during or after college. By the end of college, our paths reconvened again, and we decided to make it happen. The inspiration behind starting the band was the fact that we couldn’t really picture ourselves doing anything else.
While growing up, who or what influenced you to begin playing/singing?
I think we all started getting into music in middle school. I know Jackson’s brother got him into a lot of indie rock like Wilco and The Pixies. I think Jordan and I both independently wanted to start playing guitar because of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. I also remember getting Green Day’s Dookie in seventh grade, and that was probably the first time I distinctly thought playing guitar and singing was really cool.
Why did you decide to go in the musical direction that you did?
It’s still a little hard for us to say definitively what genre we are, as well as what musical direction we’ve been moving in. In a lot of ways, it was affected by all of us being able to find a meeting point for our individual influences. As a songwriter, I’m really influenced by Noah Gundersen and Andy Hull. Jackson draws a lot from Modest Mouse, and Nine Inch Nails has always been one of Jordan’s favorite bands. Those are just a couple of examples, but we all come from pretty different places musically. Luckily, we’ve found a way to create something we’re proud of as a result.
Your debut album, Death In The Family, was released in November. Are there skills you learned while making your EP that you then applied to this record?
We had only been a band for about six months when we made the decision to write and record a full-length album, so at that point everything was still a learning process. Honestly, it’s still a learning process. I think we mostly learned how to communicate with each other during the making of Death In The Family. Our EP was very bare bones writing-wise, but the full-length was much more of a collaborative experience. We are all pretty passive and non-confrontational people, so learning how to say things to each other and understand where each person was coming from took some time.
What was the writing process for the album? Did you have any challenges regarding songwriting or gathering inspiration?
After we put out the EP, I came to the guys with my idea for Death In The Family. I’ve lost a lot of close family members in the last ten years or so. As such, the inspiration for the album was finally making myself process all of things I’ve swept under the rug for the last decade. On one hand, it made writing easier because I knew exactly what the album was going to be about, but, on the other hand, it made things difficult because every song was a heavy, cathartic process.
How would you describe your local music scene? Is there anything you dislike or would change about it?
The local scene in Chicago is pretty interesting. In a lot of other cities that we’ve been to, people come to shows just because they hear there are shows happening, and that’s something that doesn’t seem to really happen here. For the first year or so of us being a band, we booked all of our “local” shows in the city. But the reality is that that’s not really local for us because we’re from the suburbs. We’ve been trying to play a lot more suburban shows, and I think the response has been a lot better.
What are some goals you’d like to accomplish this year?
Our main goal is to tour as much as possible. For most of this year, we’ve just had a lot of band expenses to cover, and it’s held us back from touring to a certain degree. But we’ll be on the road for a good chunk of the summer, and we’re all excited about it. Other than that, we’ve been in talks about doing a split this summer. We also want to start writing for another release.
You’re currently on tour with Sleep On It. Do you have jobs waiting for you at home? If so, how do you balance out touring while still maintaining your jobs?
We all have jobs to supplement the band, and it’s a tricky thing. I think, for any band, there’s a point where each member has to decide whether they care more about having a steady job or about touring and committing to the band. We’re all at the point where we’ve committed to the band, but we still need jobs to be able to pay for touring. But, with that being said, touring comes first. If that means having to find new jobs each time we get home, then that’s just life for us now.
Your drummer recently left the band. How has this affected Gardens, especially with the current tour?
Aaron left towards the end of January of this year, just before our tour with Great Dane. For us, it wasn’t sudden or unexpected. We knew with plenty of time to prepare that we were going to need to part ways. Aaron decided to go to graduate school in the fall, and pursuing that as well as the band wasn’t really a possibility. He was our best friend, and we miss him so much. We’ve had our good friend Jake Newling from Tiny Kingdoms and Flight Plan filling in since January. He is one of the most talented guys we know, and we’re extremely grateful to him for basically keeping our band glued together for the time being. We have a friend, Josh Suaverdez, who’s going to be moving here in June to join the band full-time, and we’re very excited to start playing and writing with him.
THERE’S A POINT WHERE EACH MEMBER HAS TO DECIDE WHETHER THEY CARE MORE ABOUT HAVING A STEADY JOB OR ABOUT TOURING AND COMMITTING TO THE BAND.
What are some struggles you’ve faced as a band?
The biggest struggle so far was probably Aaron leaving the band. It was really hard on all of us, and it still kind of is, actually. We love that he’s pursuing what he wants to do and we support him one hundred percent, but there’s still that selfish side that wishes he could’ve stayed. He was with us from day one, and it was hard to imagine pursuing this with anyone else for a while. Other than that, I’d say money is the biggest struggle—which is the case for most bands. There’s so much that we want to do, and a lot of times we just can’t because of money.
What do your friends and families think about your musical endeavors?
Our families are generally pretty supportive about us pursuing the band. It seems like they all understand that we wouldn’t be happy if we weren’t doing this. There’s still a hint of “maybe you should get a real job and be a person” once in a while, but, overall, they are a huge support to us. Our friends are pretty supportive as well. Some of them have been coming to shows all along, which means a lot to us.
Is there anything you can tell us about the future of Gardens?
One highlight is that our new drummer, Josh, is going to be joining us in June. We’re also planning to tour the East Coast toward the end of June, and the West Coast in July. We’re hoping to do a split with some friends this summer as well, but that’s still in the works.
INTERVIEW: LINDSY CARR
PHOTOS: PENELOPE MARTINEZ