The Garden It’s likely not everyone will understand the world of twin brothers Fletcher and Wyatt Shears, aka The Garden. It’s a world broadcast through social media, riddled with cryptic messages and populated by imaginary characters. But despite their onstage antics—not to mention Fletcher’s cross-dressing past—the Shears boys are really just a pair of ordinary Orange County twenty-somethings, with allAmerican smiles.
“I feel like a relatively normal person,” Fletcher Shears admits to Glamcult, “with certain attributes that makes me interested in doing certain things that some people may find out of the ordinary.” Though the Shears twins do do ordinary— like hacking into their friend’s mum’s Netflix account or reminiscing over growing up to surf CDs and scary stories— their fabricated reality does not. And yet The Garden’s all-encompassing “vada vada” universe (think neo-punk with yelping vocals) eludes many people’s understanding. It’s a reality that thrives on curiosity and humour as much as it does on uncertainty and anticipation. Through storytelling and unforgettable performances, this conceptual, magic-making duo uses the imaginary to their advantage. Though The Garden’s inventions surpass mere child’s play with an elaborate narrative and cultivated candour, their story starts with a children’s book series. Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, with its creepy, controversial illustrations by Stephen Gammell, inspired much of the storytelling, lyrics and atmosphere of The Garden. “It’s always been a mystery to a lot people, like, why did they have those books in the elementary school system?” Wyatt remembers. It is just as well what they did: they are “one of the secret things” Wyatt identifies with most of The Garden’s lyrics. “Those stories just give you a certain kind of tingle, like, ‘Ugh, that just sucks,’ but in a cool way,” he explains. Tales such as The Thing, Wyatt’s favourite, inspired him to pen his own renditions on looseleaf paper that were then safely stored in a notebook. “If I were to have to make my way into a haunted house or deal with an exorcism, I could never do that. It’s too close-up and personal for me,” he admits. And so The Garden prefer fabricating their own images—even characters—over participating in an unearthly reality.
Eight Foot Tall Man, Apple, Aunt J, Paperclip and The Face are just some of the characters that populate the Schwartz brothers’ garden. This motley crew is the inspiration for lyrics and visual material, including the graphics for their new tour T-shirt. The stippled illustration of a nose, pair of eyes and a half-grin is The Face, the mascot behind The Garden’s yet-to-be-released single Everything Has a Face. These characters can live in The Garden’s universe for an extended period of time—up to a few years, in the case of Aunt J, who makes a guest appearance in the twins’ 2014 music video for Crystal Clear but who premiered two years before in Fletcher’s YouTube video Glimpse #12. Initially dressed in a trash bag and wearing a mask, the budget version did not satisfy The Garden’s image of Aunt J. The twins volleyed between “a sluggish kind of blob” and “not a head, but more of, like, a spirit” for their perfect vision. But their followers understood The Garden’s intent either way; dedicated fans sent messages like “Aunt J’s following me” when they figured out her intent. The Garden will soon debut a new character to join Aunt J et al in The Garden: a jester. Referred to as “trickerish” during their performances, the twins are notorious for jumping around and doing somersaults on stage. “Sometimes we sort of feel like jesters,” Fletcher elabor ates, which led to The Garden furthering that idea in their music. Though this new mascot was primarily inspired by the twins’ desire to entertain the crowd, their bemusing online riddling provided another reason. Originally intended to delight their followers, their obscure messages—“finally buried”, “Support gravity, my people would”, “If you are walking down the road and you see a space worm in the distance trying to flag you down. Immediately turn around and escape his sight”—outwitted many. “I’m hoping maybe someday somebody
will scroll down our Twitter or Facebook or Instagram and realize what was actually going on,” Fletcher says. “I don’t think anybody paid attention or pays attention to that kind of stuff.” Of their most recent shows, two proved to be that perfect synchronicity between artist intent and audience participation, say the twins. In Montreal, a “certain vibe” and “certain magic” created “a friendly war zone,” as Fletcher calls it. That particular night it all came together: “We had a great connection with the crowd; they had a great connection with us and it was, like, BOOM!” But arousing a crowd’s reaction doesn’t always come that easily, Wyatt concedes: “There’ve been times when we’ve totally lifted it up and it’s almost like you’re down on the scoreboard and then you get the points and end up winning the game—” “—like a comeback,” Fletcher finishes his brother’s sentence. Those challenging nights make The Garden appreciate those shows where everything comes together all the more: “Everyone was very intrigued,” Fletcher says of their recent London performance, “and wondering what was going to happen next—as were we.” Thriving on unpredictability, like a fan who savours instead of frets over a tied football game’s last minutes, performing live is always thrilling for The Garden: “Like I always say,” Wyatt admits, “anything weird that’s going to come at us, let it come at us. It’s fun to kind of deal with it.” The raw experience The Garden hopes to effect in their performances can never be completely under their influence, a truth they unquestionably accept. “If you control too much, you lose that magic,” Fletcher elaborates, and Wyatt quickly agrees. The Garden also recognizes the need to relinquish their authority when participating in another artist’s vision or project. “The way we play music is our control, our ideas, our energy from our
creation,” Fletcher explains. However, when The Garden began modelling for Saint Laurent’s A/W13 runway and campaign, they found it was exactly the opposite. “You’re just a piece of their puzzle,” Fletcher remarks. The opportunity presented to the twins by Hedi Slimane, current creative director of the Parisian fashion house and music obsessive, offered an experience like no other. Walking the runway in Paris, Wyatt says, “slaps you across the face and just kind of makes you feel cool”, with its electrified atmosphere and surreal setting. The Garden did not garner the attention of Slimane or rally audiences in Montreal and London from merely reading scary stories as kids. Their father, who was in OC punk bands Final Conflict and Shattered Faith, played ’70s and ’80s punk music, and surf CDs on the pre-school run. Groups such as Earth, Wind & Fire, The Prodigy, Elo and Killing Joke all left their nostalgic mark—especially so in the case of the latter, Killing Joke. “It’s not a band I listen to every single day because I’ve listened to it so much already in my life,” Fletcher admits of the Notting Hill post-punk band’s pervading influence. Admired by both Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke produced distinct albums every time. “That’s inspiring in a way, the fact that they can still keep their fan base and progress as a band, but have that same Killing Joke sound. That’s something I envy and hope to maybe someday accomplish,” Fletcher reveals. If The Garden play their cards right, and even imagine a couple of their own, the twins’ music, performances and, of course, universe will surely expand. www.thegardentwins.com