The Los Angeles-based experimental rock band Gardens & Villa recorded much of its new album, “Music for Dogs,” in a live-in artists’ collective in Glassell Park.
Then its two primary members, Chris Lynch and Adam Rasmussen, and everyone else got evicted because they weren’t actually supposed to be living there. Some stayed and are still squatting while a lawsuit works its way through the courts. Other artists fled to equally ramshackle spaces.
For a while Lynch and Rasmussen were closer to gardens than to villas: They were sleeping in tents near the Los Angeles River. They’ve since moved their creative operations to a blank-slate warehouse space they’ve dubbed Space Command.
The compound is nestled in the Frogtown neighborhood, a curious little community that feels worlds away from the city even though it’s right in the middle. Between Riverside Drive and the L.A. River alongside Interstate 5, Space Command is a work-in-progress realm featuring work spaces, studios, businesses and rehearsal rooms. The project requires a lot of grunt work and the occasional lucky break.
“We obviously struggle to make rent every month, even though it’s cheap,” said singer Chris Lynch. “We all have to seriously scramble to pay. Now we found this horror film company that’s renting it out for the next few months, and that’s alleviating all this tension.”
Pop & Hiss is premiering Gardens & Villa’s new video (above) for its song “Everybody,” and got a tour of Space Command during a conversation about its creation. The band embarks on a tour in support of “Music for Dogs” in September, and will have a gig at the Roxy on Nov. On Monday morning, the band will perform during “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on KCRW-FM.
Los Angeles Times: How did you find this place?
Chris Lynch: The owner of the building is an artist herself. She was like, “I lived in Brooklyn for the last five years and I moved back to L.A.and I wanted to use my family’s money to build creative spaces for artists to work.” She found us at our old warehouse at this party, and told us, “I love what you guys have done here. I bought this building in Frogtown and I want you guys to do what you’ve done here.”
Adam Rasmussen: We’ve done this so many times, too. There was one three [spaces] ago where you’d walk in and be like, ‘Oh, it’s the back wall — but it was just the beginning. It was this labyrinth.
CL: People living in tiny little nooks way inside.
Where was that?
CL: That was in Santa Barbara.
That’s where you started?
CL: Yeah, almost a year and a half ago we moved to Los Angeles. And we’re glad that we did. It was time. We love it here — and we have a seven-year lease. And Frogtown’s probably going to be very different by the time we leave. It’s already changing rapidly, which is kind of a bummer. We love it the way that it is.
In what way is it changing? Money’s coming in?
CL: Yeah, there’s this place right down here that you can tell has millions of dollars in it.
AR (points out to the river): I imagine they’re going to be terracing this, so it’s like a park along the river.
CL: It’s really beautiful, because this is the one stretch of the river that they were never ever able to fully pour concrete across it. It kept breaking up because the water table’s so deep. So they just left it soft — it’s a soft bottom. It’s the only stretch that’s totally soft-bottomed, so there’s a lot of fish and wildlife.
AR: The birds down here are out of control. So many different types. And when the freight goes by the whole ground shakes. You can hear it on the microphones.
You shot footage of the video for “Everybody” at the space in Glassell Park. How did the clip come about?
CL: The video was made by our friend David Del Sur. He’s one of our closest friends, and he plays in a couple of bands — the Flowers of Evil and another called Sea Suit. We’ve known him for years. He directed and produced a video for our first record. He contacted us, said “I love you guys and I’ll do it for free.” He put it together and it was one of our favorite videos. Him and Steven [S.L Perlin], who lives next to us, work on everything together.
They made this mini-doc that we put out about a month ago, and a lot of the footage was taken around the same time as the new video. It’s from the studio when we were recording at the old warehouse. Pretty much every time we were recording they would show up with a Super-8, one of them with the lights, the other with the camera. They’re two of our closest friends. We all had a lot of conversations — all of us kind of agree with our takes on what the record means and the context of the record.
What were those conversations?
Well, a lot of it is an exploration of modern life, and specifically technology. Not necessarily putting it down or saying ‘You stupid people,’ we’re saying, ‘We are part of this. We are doing this. I check my phone every 30 seconds. I have phantom vibrations all the time.’ It’s more playful — and all of our conclusions were sort of a DIY answer to everything.
You have to create your own meaning. You have to build your stuff. You have to make your own connections in person, and break away from this false community that doesn’t necessarily bring you happiness if you get too deep into it. Which we all got really deep into it. And there was a certain point where we had to break from it.
Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit