Last Friday marked the first major release by The Garden—Orange County natives and twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears, who've already become a dominating force in the punk scene at 21 years-old. Haha was released by Epitaph and Burger Records, and shows a more polished and matured version of everything the band has been doing the past three years. "I feel confident and proud about this album. I feel like this release has a progressive purpose," says Wyatt on a short break while touring through Asia. Brother Fletcher agrees, adding, "We're feeling really set about this. It represents growth for us in many ways."
The title track would be the ideal first song to show someone unfamiliar with the band. It has a simple yet peculiar riff, which is driven home through its 1:56 length, save for a short bridge near the end. The lyrics are abstract, and atop the single note bass guitar line is a heavily filtered organ, giving the song a slightly creepy feel. Like "Haha," the rest of the songs portray the bands usual conventions, but the most impressive effort, by an enormous margin, is the melancholy ballad, "Egg."
The structure is a traditional three-minute long verse-chorus, which is a refreshing contrast from their erratic, often less-than-two-minute rhapsodies. Wyatt's signature reverb laden bass tone is utilized to its fullest potential here as it shines through brilliantly underneath a bright piano holding up the rhythm section. Fletcher gets a chance to shine as well, as the song showcases his sporadic yet concise drum fills, and unique use of patterns, which we get in the form of inexplicable break beats in the songs climactic refrain. "The song was created on the spot in the studio while we were recording. It was just a light bulb idea," Wyatt says.
The Garden has a general attitude that can come across as guarded behind their eccentric and outlandish representation of themselves, highlighted in songs like "Everything Has a Face," or "We Be Grindin," but "Egg" has a discernible emotional investment that pays off in a huge way. Though vaguely cryptic, the lyrics paint a clear image of embracing change, which, when paired with the somber composition, set an inescapably nostalgic tone.
Even the music video (directed by Liza Mandelup) reflects a more artistically driven side of the band, while still exhibiting their quirky and endearing behavior. In between shots of the brothers being characteristically zany, we're presented with beautiful shots of a green river and floral backdrops, making for a remarkably well put together piece of eye candy and giving us an exciting sense of what the band is capable of producing in the future.
Over all, the album is a great example of what makes this band worthwhile; their ability to combine a punk rock aesthetic with an avant-garde sensibility. As far as what fans can take away from this album, their ambiguous nature gives their audience free range to decipher it as, "Whatever they want really, I don't think that's for us to decide," Fletcher says. "We'll just keep moving forward."
The Garden perform two record release shows at the Constellation Room on Oct. 18 at 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. $12, all ages. For more info and tickets, click here. See also: The 50 Best Things About the OC Music Scene The 50 Worst Things About the OC Music Scene The 25 Greatest OC Bands of All Time: The Complete List