Duo shakes up a sunday night
The Garden is a musical group from Orange County comprised of just two band members, Wyatt and Fletcher Shears, who are identical twins. The pair played at Denver’s Marquis Theater on April 8.
The duo strolled out on the stage, looking like the lost kids from Harmony Korine’s Gummo crossed with New York’s queer Club Kids from the late 80s and early 90s. They looked casual as they quietly sound-checked and tuned their instruments in their uncoordinated and mismatched garb. Without any warning, they suddenly dove into their set with a loud wail of Wyatt’s guitar. Fletcher took a running start and leaped over his drum set, landing in front of a mic that he began screaming into.
A pre-recorded drum track served as the undercurrent, until Fletcher flopped behind his drum kit and played out the ending with a thrashing solo. Wyatt and Fletcher alternated their pre-recorded parts on each song, since they don’t tour with any additional musicians. Instead, they pre-record each part and play, and sing, only selected parts of their music.
Sing may be an exaggeration, because The Garden deliver their lyrics in a monotonous, spoken (often mumbled) rush of words that blur into each other and almost serve as another layer of percussive rhythm. But despite the lack of melody, most of the crowd knew nearly every word of every song and chanted along with Wyatt and Fletcher.
The Garden began recording music in 2011 and in just seven years have amassed a prolific and impressive discography. Their most recent record, Mirror Might Steal Your Charm, was released just this past March and balances their trademark stripped-down punk sound with tracks like “A Message For Myself,” that feature more experimental electronic sounds. This song in particular employs the “Amen break,” a notoriously famous drum break often sampled in drum and bass music. Almost all of the electronic sampling and beatwork is recorded by Fletcher himself.
By the band’s fifth song, there were already audience members surfing the crowd, allowing their weight to be carried by the energy of the music (and other members of the audience). At one point, someone threw a plastic water bottle onto the stage. Wyatt swiftly bent down, scooped up the bottle, and punted it right back into the crowd, all while continuing to sing without missing a beat.
The band’s name encapsulates their ever-growing and changing sound. For this most recent album, The Garden adopted a “court jester” look, complete with white face paint and solid, primary-colored outfits. In one interview, the two go into detail about the performative aspect of playing music live.
“Jesters represent what we’re doing in a lot of ways,” Fletcher said. “[They] would traditionally perform for a large crowd of people and either entertain them or just make them laugh. We feel like that kind of fits the role of what we do on stage a lot of the time.” The Garden will continue to perform, ending their tour at Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington at the end of May.