AN INTERVIEW WITH MAX GARDENER
Max Gardener, a 19 year old musician hailing from the beautiful state of California, is the auditory embodiment of the ethereal. Gardener’s pairing of lazy, philosophical lyrics with pure synth pop instrumentals make for an effortless head nodding sound. We reached out to Gardener to talk about his latest release, Stirrings, among other things and here’s what hes got to say.
You proclaim your sound to be “bedroom theme music,” could you elaborate on that description and what it means to you?
Bedroom theme music was something I made up around the time that I started making music. It was just a way to try and seek out some unique essence of a sound, a label that at the time felt like it fit what I was doing and it was my own creation. I’m not entirely sure how it distinguishes itself from other genres. It was more of a rephrasing of say bedroom pop, with a little twist on occasion. It’s funny though, my dad has told me that when he thinks of bedroom theme music he thinks more in terms of Barry White, etc.
How has living in San Francisco, as well as participating in the local scene there, influenced your sound?
The San Francisco scene is great. Really friendly people that just want to get together and play great shows. Everyone pushes off of each other and you can see it in real time which is great. There’s so many great bands up here that I feel the need to just keep pushing myself to be a better songwriter as well as a performer. I think an interesting thing about San Francisco is that house music seems to be pretty popular up here, at least more than Long Beach. House music was fairly new to me when I moved up here, but it’s grown on me and I think elements of that sort of music will show up in the things I’ll be releasing in the coming future.
What do you think were some specific influences for you while writing Stirrings? Whether that be music, books, people, etc.
Some specific influences while making Stirrings would have to be Patti Smith (her music, books, poetry), Jim Morrison’s solo work as well as with the Doors, Henry Miller, etc. I also love to keep up with modern bands of course, but I felt like those three were a heavy influence on me and still are. I’ve been fairly obsessed with Porches lately too, that guy knows what’s goin’ on.
Since the release of your album Memory Lounge last winter, do you think you’ve changed or matured in your sound, whether that be instrumentally, lyrically, or production-wise?
Yeah definitely. I spent a long time on Stirrings and it never really ended up how I dreamed it would be, but I love it all the same. Now I feel like a lot has changed in my music. I’ve just grown tired of the same old love song verse-chorus-verse-chorus type stuff, but then again there are songs like that that are great. I think I’ve just gotten to the point where I just want to push my mind and see what weird things I can make out of it. My lyrics, I feel, are going in different directions all the time. Production is probably my main interest when growing as an artist, and I’ve been working a ton on creating these sort of vibrant soundscapes with minds of their own.
How does the songwriting process normally go for you? Are there any parts that you particularly like or focus on/put more time in for?
It all depends really. I used to feel pretty intense when it came to the recording process, but now that I’ve got more of a grip on the sound I want to have I haven’t been stressing as much. I’ve just been experimenting with instruments and structures and lyrics and everything, which I’m really excited about. I think the best thing for me is mixing. Mixing is where it all comes together and it’s exciting to try and make it all fit, it’s also where a lot of the impact of the song comes from, or at least I think so.
In a few songs on Stirrings, as well as in your older releases, you often sing of these dreamlike places that provide stability and/or comfort, why is that?
I’m not exactly sure why. I like the idea of an escape, a profound utopia of fantasies or something like that. It’s like food for the mind, giving it a place to wander rather than to surround itself with. I don’t know, I just love trying to create an escape. Music has always done that for me.
An artist, song, or album that makes you feel a heavy dose of nostalgia?
I think an artist that I could definitely relate to a feeling of nostalgia nowadays would be Beach Fossils. I listened to them so much in high school and whenever I listen to them now I just feel thrown back into those days. It’s a great feeling, but its always pretty strange.
What’s it like being a musician in the 21st century?
Being a musician in the 21st century, in my opinion, is pretty intimidating as well as seemingly challenging, but also really fun. I absolutely love making the music, and I couldn’t imagine not making it, but there’s a pretty harsh level of reality surrounding it all. Everyone makes music nowadays, so the challenge has become standing out among thousands of others that have access to a recording studio in their room just like you might. I like that challenge most of the time though, it can create a drive in you if you find the right way to channel all of that. Also, we’re all pretty lucky to be able to just wake up and record in our bedrooms if we so choose, it was a lot more complicated to get a record recorded and released a long time ago.
interview by LYDIA VELAZQUEZ
photo by MAGGIE WILDE