the garden are hedi slimane's new punk pin-ups
Raised on a steady diet of punk rock, The Garden are the visionary and forward thinking Los Angeles twin two-piece with high cheekbones, fast tunes and androgynous style.
Photography Alex Aristei
Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane is a master of casting, scouring social media and gigs for the most beautiful rocker boys and girls. So when he cherry-picked identical teenage twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears of California punk band The Garden for his 2013 campaign, the music and fashion worlds took notice. Yet it isn't merely the twins' high cheekbones, fast tunes, and androgynous style that's set them on the rise. It's the Shears' ability to break from the establishment and create their own, unapologetic rhythm that attracted Slimane, along with their scores of fans.
Born, bred, and still residing in Orange, California, the twins were raised on a steady diet of punk thanks to their dad, a former member of early 80s hardcore bands Shattered Faith and Final Conflict. Shears senior also exposed the twins to genres far outside the Southern California scene: "a lot of old school UK punk, Orange County and LA punk too, or certain avant garde electronic stuff. Sometimes a little rockabilly thrown in there too. It was a real mix," Wyatt says.
This rich and diverse musical upbringing is easily discernable in The Garden's constantly evolving sound. Earlier efforts rapidly rip through tracks in a matter of seconds, literally (the pair's fantastic 16-track debut, The Life and Times of a Paperclip, clocks in at roughly 19 minutes.) Yet their most recent releases, a series of three 7" singles, reveal yet another facet of their daring, dynamic sound. "I think these three records were a big statement for us, to show that once again, we're changing and trying to push at our own boundaries. They have a lot more electronics on them. If you're a fan of The Garden and have listened to everything we've put out and you hear this, you'll understand it's definitely different from our stuff in the past," Wyatt says.
It's this constant flux that makes The Garden's sound so difficult to pin down, part punk but not in a way that's been done before. For the Shears' themselves, they call it Vada Vada: "Vada Vada is something that we made up two years ago, it's our name for our group of friends. We classify ourselves under that. We also use it to describe the genre of our music. We never know what to say when people ask, so we'll just say Vada Vada," Wyatt says. "It's also like a dance - a dance that grants you the opportunity to do whatever you want. It's like our version of punk, in a way. It's the freedom to do whatever you want and not label yourself," Fletcher added.
For Slimane, this non-labeling coincided perfectly with his rebranding of Saint Laurent: "We were scouted in a way," explained Wyatt, "We were playing a show with The Abigails in Los Angeles, and some guy named Patrick was in the crowd and saw us. He contacted some people, and from there, we got an email from Saint Laurent inviting us to come take part in the runway for the autumn/winter 13 show in Paris. So we looked it over, looked it over, and looked it over again because we had no idea what Saint Laurent was or if it was even real. We ended up accepting, and met Hedi; the rest is history."
In addition to walking in the show, the twins fronted the autumn/winter 13 campaign, which entailed a photoshoot, series of illustrations, and video. Slimane was so pleased, he invited the pair back to the spring/summer 14 runway the next season - a slick, high-waisted homage to rockabilly glam - apt influences for the androgynous Fletcher. "I started wearing women's clothing around 2009 or 10, but I've been wearing it more consistently since 2012," he explained nonchalantly. "I'm inspired by a lot of the stuff that Mykki Blanco was wearing about a year ago, I thought that was really cool. When Marilyn Manson was sort of doing his glam thing a while back the stuff he wore then was really cool. But other than that, there isn't anyone super specific I look to for inspiration. I tend to focus more on doing my own thing."
Whether their thrift store digging leads Wyatt to cropped jackets - "I got this really cool one with palm trees and monkeys all over it, it was fucking awesome!" - or Fletcher to his favorite women's lace shirt - "It basically feels like a piece of paper right now, it's all stale! But it goes on every tour, it gets worn at so many shows, and still looks good," it's all kosher in the VadaVerse.
"Even since the beginning, we always observed our surroundings and made the choice to do something a little different to what was going on around us," Wyatt says. "We do what we feel, we're not really trying to be a copycat of an artist or even something that we've done before. We're trying to push boundaries, but if not, that's cool too."
"And it comes from the most genuine part of us, no lie," Fletcher says, "We're not ever trying to be X or be the next Y. When we go in to record, it's never with the mentality that we're trying to make it sound a little bit like this or a little bit like that, it just sounds exactly how we want it to. We basically always go into it with a blank mind, no ideas. We try to come up with everything on the spot or in the moment, so it's pretty genuine."
Despite their growing notoriety, The Garden are most content with the little things: "To have people find what we're doing interesting and mean something makes me pretty happy," Wyatt explains "But then again, just lying around in my room for days at a time just watching the TV shows I like and just doing puzzles makes me really happy, too."
Text Emily Manning
Photography Alex Aristei