Golden Gardens is an Ambient/Shoegaze/Dreampop duo whose members are located in opposite corners of the United States. Gregg Alexander Joseph Neville can be found basking in the Florida sunshine while Aubrey Rachel Violet Bramble spends her days singing in the rain in Seattle.
One day, I came across their Bandcamp page, loved what I heard, and asked them for a song. A request they speedily granted, and “Elizabeta” ended up as the last song on Vibrato 11.03 – filling a hole created when another artists became ill and could not finish his song. As if saving my bacon wasn’t enough, I had the audacity to ask them for an interview as well. I must be more charming in print than I am in person because they said “yes”. So, without further preamble:
NWs: Let me begin by thanking the two of you for giving this interview.
Aubrey: Our pleasure!
NWs: So, where in England are you from, Gregg? When and why did you come to the States, and how does it compare with where you grew up?
Gregg: I’m from Cliviger, a small village outside of Burnley in Lancashire, England. I was actually born in Manchester, then I lived in a town called Bacup for a few years, but the majority of my life there was spent in Cliviger. It was a very rural area, and I’m much more comfortable in the semi-urban area of Florida I’m currently in. I moved here with my parents when I was thirteen.
NWs: Aubrey, Seattle born and bred? I know you’ve traveled; any favorite foreign parts of the world?
Aubrey: I was actually born in Pennsylvania and spent my adolescent years first in New Jersey and then Florida. I moved to New York City for film school and, after that, I moved to London for awhile. I spent some time in the UK and Europe, working and traveling, then it was back to New York and Florida (again). I’ve been in Seattle almost two years. I would have to say that Paris and the Umbria region of Italy are my favorite foreign parts of the world thus far.
NWs: Where did the name Golden Gardens come from; how did it became the name of your band?
Aubrey: I was really inspired by the Lewis Carroll poem, “All in the Golden Afternoon” and the mental imagery it conjured in my head – a lazy afternoon lying in sun-drenched tall grasses alongside a sparkling body of water, which I think is a picture our music could paint. There is a park here in Seattle with that same name, and in the late Spring and Summer these giant, colorful poppies bloom there – with Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains in the distant background, it’s magical. It just seemed fitting – dreamy and fairy tale-like, like our sound.
NWs: Yeah, I can see that. How did the two of you meet? When did you decide to start making music together?
Aubrey: When I was living in Tampa, Florida, I used to curate art/music/film events. I met Gregg just before producing my first event in early 2006.
Gregg: I actually knew her husband somewhat loosely through an internet messageboard. I had an Industrial Noise project at the time and received an offer to play at one of the art shows that she was curating. This continued for a few events. I later moved to Northeast Pennsylvania for a couple of years and went dark on music for a while before I returned to Tampa and started playing bass for a few local bands. The project that became Golden Gardens arose from demos I was kicking around. I couldn’t find the right people to work with in Tampa, so I shot out a plea for collaborators on Twitter. Aubrey responded and the project developed from there.
Aubrey: In Tampa, I performed as one-half of a Cabaret/Performance Art duo and when I moved to Seattle, I really missed working on new material. My partner and I found that we could still make magic happen despite the country-wide gulf separating us by utilizing email and home recording studios. So, when Gregg posted his plea for a vocalist, I volunteered myself as a long-distance collaborator, and, lucky for me, he was into it. As a longtime fan of Dream Pop and Shoegaze bands, I’d always wanted to do something in those genres.
NWs: Do you consider yourselves Shoegazers? Dream/Bliss Poppers? Who are your influences?
Aubrey: I feel like “dreamgaze” is a good representation of our sound. I am influenced by fairy tales and mythology, lyrics-wise. Vocally/musically, I’d say I draw a lot of inspiration from bands like Cranes and Cocteau Twins, as well as composers like Max Richter and Angelo Badalamenti.
Gregg: “Dreamgaze” definitely does a good job of describing us. We’re very heavily based in Dream Pop, but with a lot of influence from Shoegaze bands. As far as influences go, like Aubrey said, Angelo Badalamenti is a huge influence, along with Cocteau Twins and Slowdive; ’80s Goth Rock and Post-Punk also influences a big part of our sound.
NWs: I’ve interviewed a couple of duos, but you guys are the first with such a clear-cut division of labor: Gregg does the music, and Aubrey does the words – writing and singing. What is your writing process like; how does a new Golden Gardens song come into being?
Aubrey: It’s actually not that clear-cut, but rather very collaborative. Since we are currently in two different cities (Gregg in school in Florida, and me here in Seattle), he will write and record an instrumental demo and then email it to me. I will listen to it, make suggestions/start work on vocal melodies and send it back. He’ll make some adjustments/additions and send it back again. I’ll finish the vocals, then we’ll master it and move on to the next track. We’re usually on the same page mood-wise, which makes the process pretty seamless in my opinion. Gregg brings ideas to the table that I would not think of, and vice-versa; I think the ideas work together alchemically.
Gregg: Golden Gardens songs normally start with a guitar or a keyboard part and build from there. Sometimes songs will appear fully-formed, sometimes they take days, weeks, or months to become whole. I have insane amounts of 5-second guitar ideas sitting on my hard drive, waiting for inclusion in something new.
NWs: Have you performed live? Are there any plans for a tour – one that includes a show in Portland, say?
Aubrey: We actually have yet to have a proper Golden Gardens show! We are working to organize one in Seattle in April to coincide with the release of our second EP. We have also been kicking around the idea of doing a small, West Coast tour in late 2011, which would definitely include a Portland date.
NWs: That’s what I like to hear. What is your live set-up like?
Aubrey: For now, we plan to keep our live set-up a duo by incorporating computers alongside select live instruments. We want to keep it intimate.
NWs: What are your plans for Golden Gardens in the immediate future, any new releases in the works?
Aubrey: We are about halfway finished with our second EP, which will be a sort of “Through the Looking Glass” dark twin to Somnambulist. The techniques involved and overall sound is inherently Golden Gardens, but the tracks are a bit more lush and edgy. We are very excited. We are also currently compiling an album of Somnambulist remixes that we plan to offer as a free download to those who have purchased the EP.
NWs: Lush and edgy, eh; that sounds very promising. If it comes out as another limited edition EP, be sure to save the 23rd for me.
I’d like to thank Gregg and Aubrey for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’d like to know more about Golden Gardens, or listen to their debut EP before purchasing it, here are some useful links: bandcamp | facebook | tumblr | web site
My Rating: ✭✭✭✭✩
iPod Songs: “Paresseux”, “Elizabeta”, “The High Priestess” and
Actually, I’d rather not pick out individual songs; I enjoy listening to the EP as a whole. “Heartbeats” is a cover of a song by The Knife.
Somnambulist can be purchased for $7 here, or, if you have more time than money, you can purchase the songs one at a time for a total of $6. The CD version – limited to 50 copies – can be purchased here for $8.