Gardenback’s sound commands a fusing of the genre palette, leaving us to sit and absorb a swell and disperse of wasteland tones, jittery riffs that never waste a note and voices that float with ironic sensibility, and then ground us with a sense of pre-apocalyptic urgency that falls heavy on the band’s amalgamated consciousness.
I talk to them about how preconceptions of genre disrupt an otherwise pure intention of serving the song. We also discuss how humans will express themselves after swallowing and digesting what has happened to us. Could it be by developing a dual ego? A social media constructed self, too slippery to spot in anything but a selfie (which their songs warn us of); Maybe through intense dancing, maybe intense anger. Whatever happens, Gardenback are here to translate what we see into wry post-punk spectres that drip into the brain and help us to remember that we’re still here…
You have been really busy! With your release of the ‘Word of Mouth‘ EP, the ‘Modern Living‘ EP cassette and your ‘Motorway‘ single release! What does it feel like to be a musician in lockdown, and how have you been able to release this much stuff when everything feels so stagnant?
Ellis: I’ve found as it’s gotten harder because we really bounce off each other a lot when it comes to making music and it comes to writing songs and stuff. And we’ve never been that band where one of us just writes a song and brings it in. So it’s been quite isolating.
Neil: We do rely heavily on collaborating and being in the same room bouncing ideas off each other. So to do things remotely is really difficult. We’ve been lucky because recorded an EP just before lockdown. And then we did have a backlog of songs, so it was just a case of getting them out of and dusting them off.
What music/art/films/books are moving you these days?
Jacob: I’ve been trying to listen to things that are more upbeat. I feel the claustrophobia of lockdown, so I’ve been trying to listen to stuff that would stop that. It’s not necessarily inspiring me, but that’s what’s helping me cope. I’m really looking forward to the new Adam Curtis doctrine documentary, which is apparently him calmly explaining why everyone’s gone mad.
E: I think the last book I read was Dracula, I found myself watching a lot of Horror.
J: As you say that in the current situation some of those horrors are almost utopian compared to the horror of sitting in your flat.
E: Yeah, there’s an ever-present danger. You sort of wake up and forget about it and then you’ll see something on the news you’re like oh yeah, there’s this constant threat of death you can’t really control.
N: I think a lot of people have thought this is a bit of a dead time into music. But I think that’s completely wrong. I think I’ve tried to continue to listen to new artists and I think there’s been so many really good albums which have come out over the last year. For example, Billy Nomates, Fiona Apple’s album, Anna B Savage and Perfume Genius! It’s constant, people really shouldn’t forget that.
I suppose over the last 10 years you have quite a big collection of different songs and unreleased gems. How has your music changed over time?
E: We’ve been re-listening to stuff that was written seven years ago. Quite often when we record something, it’s a 20 minute improvisation and then we’ll find a snippet of it that we like. But we’ve always been eclectic in what we produce.
J: We have had ideas that have been very cohesive over time. Obviously, things have like changed as our music tastes have developed as well, which has been a nice journey for all of us.
E: When we first met we recorded this EP in my bedroom and we gave it out to people around college and we had folded paper CD cases and hand-drawn logos. It’s nice because it never feels like we have given up on a song. It never feels like they’re completely dead but on a backburner ready to surprise us.
In other interviews, your music has been labelled as punk, garage and psych. Would you say this amalgamation is an apt representation of your music?
N: Yeah, I think we’ve got elements all of those. But I’d say that the central thing is that music is always just a song. We’re just there to serve the song, whatever kind of song it is, and however it comes out. We’ve always just made the song and if it’s when psychedelic rock is big at that time then it’s pure coincidence; It’s never been an intentional thing.
J: Yeah, we constantly reinvent as we go on. And there is not a lot intentionality in that, and you might call it a really inefficient way of writing music, but we think it’s cool.
You have quite abstract imagery (‘Modern Living‘) and quite direct imagery, signaling a certain culprit (‘No Filter’), but both seem to fault the way that humans connect in modern society; how they use materialism, mass consumption, and social media. Is this the message that you want your music to communicate?
E: On Social Media, it feels like there are dual egos of people, I find that really interesting because it raises the fundamental question of who people actually are. I’d love to be able to say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to use any social media’, but that makes you feel even more isolated. I find it interesting, like, everyone is so connected, but it feels lonely in a lot of ways.
I know due to lockdown, the scene is quite dormant, but what direction do you see the Manchester music scene going towards?
E: I think it’s gonna go one of two ways. There’s so much anger from musicians, you could get this really galvanised, politically charged music. Maybe we will go back to happier music where people will like, want to want to forget about the miserable year that they’ve had and just dance.
J: When things open, people may almost gorge themselves with music. If you like where you have these upbeat songs which are intended to dance to, you can alleviate your depression or your anger.
N: I’ve just missed the Manchester music scene as well. For years, we were on the periphery of it and just trying to find our way into the community of hanging out with bands and going into The Rose and Monkey. Once we’re allowed to properly gather again there might be a kind of 1969 summer of love.
E: I think it’s hard to properly identify a direction in Manchester, because there’s so much there’s such a nice diversity of different bands, even within the spectrum of guitar music. When you say you’re a band from Manchester you’re instantly up against New Order, The Smiths, Joy Division, and Happy Mondays. It’s easy for bands to get drawn into the trap of imitating these sounds. I feel as though people don’t need to do it because Factory Records was never about looking at what was popular. It was about being brave and doing something out of the ordinary that hadn’t been done before.
What’s next for Gardenback?
E: Hopefully gigs! In the next 12 months. I really miss the gigs. I think we’re getting a bit weirder, we’re going to try and get some more stuff out, whether that be studio recording, DIY or both.
J: It also depends on how our momentum transfers across the other side of the pandemic, and what people are going to be able to afford.
E: (Jokingly) We’ll have to cut down on Neil’s laser budget, and reel back on the pyrotechnics that Neil said he wouldn’t step on stage without.
N: Part of the reason why we have been able to release so much, is we had the interest of, Rare Vitamin Records, and Sour Grapes Records, it’s really nice to have affirmation from them, and support from friends!