The ethereal, ambient noise of the girl-fronted rock band Garden Echo sounds as if it could be from a country other than our own. Their music hums like they may have cross-pollinated from the UK, but the dreamy songs are created right here in San Diego.
DiscoverSD recently sat down with Alexia Villarino, Andrew Moberly and Sara Swanson of Garden Echo at James Coffee Co. in Little Italy to discuss their success in San Diego, goals for the future and motives behind starting a band.
DSD: How did Garden Echo first get together?
Sara: Alexia and I have been friends since high school, but we didn’t think of starting a musical project until a few years ago, when we went to a London Grammar and High as a Kite show, and we were super inspired by it. We were both a part of musical projects that we weren’t super fulfilled by creatively. We grew up listening to folk and folky female singers, and that’s kind of the box we were put into, so it’s cool that both lead singers of these bands were strong, powerful vocalists. After that, we started experimenting in my garage at the end of 2014. We wanted to be bigger and felt limited by what we were doing, so we both knew him (Andrew) as a legendary guitar player here in San Diego.
Andrew: Yeah, I said no for a while, and then they finally showed me a song that showed their sound, and I said yes.
Sara: We jammed and experimented for about a year, trying to find our sound and our connection as a band, and we played our first show together last August.
DSD: Has San Diego been a good place for you guys to grow as a band, versus a larger city?
Sara: I think it’s tempting to move to L.A. but it’s so close that we can commute really easily. It’s been nice. San Diego has been like our testing ground where we can kind of experiment in a way. The bands here are supportive and friendly, which isn’t something you’d find in L.A. or New York unless you’re like, BFFs with them. We all show up to each other’s shows.
DSD: Have you guys been working on anything new since your 2015 EP, “Quiet Voices?”
Andrew: We are re-releasing our first EP soon, actually.
DSD: Why are you re-releasing it?
Sara: Well, when we first dropped our EP, it was not really intentional. We needed songs to book shows, and it was more just a collection of rough demos. So, we thought, if we want it to be like an official release that’s out there, then it needed to be redone. We also have a second EP that we will release after that.
Alexia: Hopefully that EP will come out later this year.
DSD: What does the new EP sound like?
Sara: We have been playing shows for about a year now, so I feel like the live aspect has gone into the writing a bit more. When we released that first EP, we hadn’t been playing live at all, so it’s different. Hopefully there’s a lot more thought behind it.
DSD: What was the recording process like on both of these EPs?
Andrew: We record it all ourselves, and it was fun sometimes, but really hard. We record at my house in my bedroom.
Sara: It’s a bedroom studio for the first EP. A lot of trial and error, but that’s kind of what we wanted to do so we could learn how to do the co-producing ourselves because that’s something that we want to do forever. So, learning as much as we can about production, what sounds good, what mics to use and all that is important to us. Being limited in our equipment and everything shaped who we are.
Andrew: It may have been way overdone if we had more to work off of.
DSD: What’s your favorite venue to play in San Diego?
Andrew: The Casbah is awesome.
Sara: Yeah, the Casbah is really great.
Alexia: I like Soda Bar. The setup is kind of weird, but the sound is usually really good in there and a lot of people have told us that it is good sound in there, too.
DSD: What’s the most challenging part about being a band and just starting from scratch?
Andrew: The creative process is really hard with three people.
Sara: Yeah, I feel like we are a bit different from other bands because it is very collaborative, and it’s equally collaborative. There’s not one main person who is leading it, which is really cool but is also really difficult.
Alexia: It seems like there’s a lot of compromise that we have to deal with.
Sara: At the end, it’s usually something we are all happy about, but getting there can be hard.
DSD: How would you describe the sound of your music?
Alexia: Atmospheric and ambient. Kind of angst-y, maybe. Moody.
Andrew: Yeah, there’s like, electronic parts to it and ambient parts to it.
Sara: Good for night driving. Definitely moody and our own emotions influence it a lot.
DSD: Do you have any plans to tour?
Sara: We recently signed with a management team, so we are super excited about that. Once we get our live show where we want it to be and release our new music, then we will definitely start talking about it. We would love to tour. We would love to tour the UK.
DSD: You guys seem to have an affinity for the UK. Where does that come from?
Sara: We really do and honestly, I think it’s because of the music we listen to. Daughter, The XX, Wolf Alice, Boxer Rebellion. European bands as well, like Sigur Ros, James Blake, London Grammar, My Bloody Valentine and Mura Mesa.
DSD: What local bands do you listen to?
Alexia: I like The Gloomies.
Sara: I like this band called Other Bodies, they’re super vibey and super dreamy.
Andrew: I like Chill Pill, he’s great. Only seen him once, but I loved it.
DSD: What’s Garden Echo’s goal as a band?
Alexia: Ultimately to make music that we really love but also hopefully to do it as a full-time career. To be able to quit our temporary jobs and just make music.
DSD: Does it scare you to follow the unconventional path of becoming a musician?
Alexia: Ah, I go into black holes all the time!
Andrew: I think it is exciting more than it’s scary.
Sara: Yeah, it’s exciting. It’s a really cool community to be a part of, and you’re surrounded by people who are equally as passionate about it, so it really keeps you going. I feel like it’s an honor to pursue something like that and be a part of something like that.
The Casbah, Aug. 23