Vacant Gardens are a dream-pop noise duo comprised of singer-songwriter Jem Fanvu and multi-instrumentalist Glenn Donaldson (Jewelled Antler, The Reds, Pinks & Purples etc) they collaborate on some heavily fuzzed-out folk songs for lonely afternoons. Vacant Gardens embraces opposing forces, the dark and the light, noise, melody, building blissful songs inside near industrial level grey noise clouds. They only started last year in August. Glenn lives in San Francisco and Jem lives in Los Angeles.
I managed to track down Jem and Glenn and ask them some questions about the track Shorebirds and the forthcoming album Under the Bloom. Glenn kindly answered my questions about what the band was up to at the moment.
- There is not much information about yourselves, what is your story?
We met like ten years ago making music in San Francisco. I’ve always been a fan of her voice. I was mixing a record she sang on that never came out, and I had it in the back my head that I wanted to make a record with her. I think we talked about it a couple times just in passing, but for some reason a few months ago, we started writing songs together. The album was written and recorded in a matter of weeks and is now coming out on vinyl in record time.
- Tell us about the new album Vacant Gardens, what can we expect?
Heavenly vocal moves, lots of fuzz, catchy slow jams. It’s good for late afternoon tea or lonely sad road trips to visit old lovers.
- What are your biggest influences to make music? Vacant Gardens has a Heaven or Las Vegas Cocteau Twins feel but with a slash of post-rock in there too, how do you see Vacant Gardens?
We are definitely involved in some 80s-90s 4AD worship. Cocteau Twins are one of the greatest ever. That is too much to live up to. Basically, I wanted to make a folk record that was drenched in fuzz and atmosphere and had some heavy beats. I like the idea of Jem’s voice soaring over some grey noise clouds. I’m into the 90s Bristol scene big time, bands like Flying Saucer Attack and Movietone, also noise rock like Skullflower, Ramleh, Loop. I’d also throw in Opal and Codeine for bands I enjoy and think about. Some current local bands here in San Francisco, April Magazine and Blades of Joy probably also influenced me. But the main thing was working with Jem and her approach, getting inspired by her melodies.
- What are you up to after the release of Vacant Gardens, what’s next?
Hopefully, more recording and maybe a couple west coast shows this year.
Thanks to Glenn and Jem and their album is an absolute banger, check it out.
There are some mixed reviews about this EP but I would say that it is solid, it is on its own, you can’t say that it was influenced by anyone. Although I would say that there is some Mark Gardener vocal style in Drowning Inside and the in the lyrics ‘paralysed’ is used in the lyrics so I would say there is some influence by Ride.
AllMusic stated that was a ‘venial Middle Eastern meets spaghetti western background quaver of the fantastic Further Away.’ But I think that it sounds very standard 90s indie fare, this is not a negative comment as it is head and shoulders above the indie stalwart, Spartacus, by The Farm.
Revolver : Crimson
Don’t Ever Leave
Le Jardin de Heavenly is the second, and most critically acclaimed, album by twee pop band Heavenly. The album was released on Sarah Records in the United Kingdom and K Records in the United States. Beat Happening and K Records founder Calvin Johnson adds his croaky vocals on the track C is the Heavenly Option, which strangely reminds me of the Haysi Fantayzee track John Wayne Is Big Leggy. The version I have is the K Records release which has an additional two tracks. It is much more polished than their Talulah Gosh days laced with bittersweet melodies, perfect harmonies, and fuzzy guitars. It has the addition of keyboard player and vocalist Cathy Rogers which makes the sound more robust almost makes the transition from twee to indiepop.
Heavenly : Le Jardin de Heavenly
Orange Corduroy Dress
C Is The Heavenly Option
And The Birds Aren’t Singing
Sort Of Mine
So Little Deserve
I’m Not Scared Of You
After the debut album, the Drop Nineteens went through cataclysmic line-up changes and from listenable indie also-rans they suddenly became a grunge outfit not entirely unlike their fellow Boston counterparts The Pixies. A different line up meant a different sound Greg Ackell and bassist Steve Zimmerman were the only member leftover from Delaware the other 3 had long gone. The dreamy washes of Delaware were nowhere to be seen and National Coma sounds very raw in comparison.
Drop Nineteens : National Coma
All Swimmers Are Brothers
My Hotel Deb
The fourth studio album by the Happy Mondays was the ‘fly in the ointment’ of a glorious career and managed to bankrupt the already desperate Factory Records. The album was a commercial disaster and a critical flop reviewed by the Melody Maker in just two words “No thanks”.
It is the darkest Mondays album and some reviews draw a parallel with another Factory hit Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures as a bleak last album. When this album came out I was 16 and Shaun Ryder was 30 years old, and all the youthful hopefulness of Pills, Thrills, and Bellyaches that was only released two years previously. It seems that all the Rave On! had come to an end.
The recording of the album was always remembered for the rock n’ roll excesses. Shaun dropped his supply of methadone at Manchester airport before leaving for Barbados and ended up smoking 25 rocks of crack a day during the recording period. Bez drove across the plantation near the studio and flipped a jeep and broke his arm. When they ran out of money, they sold Eddy Grant’s furniture to buy more drugs. This then led to Shaun Ryder rather infamously holding the master tapes hostage for more cash, even though the songs were still very much incomplete. (He got £50).
The lyrics are really weird and make no sense. The Theme from Netto had no meaning until I went to University in 1994, because I was from Bournemouth I had no idea what Netto’s was. My roommate was from Wolverhampton and he told me that it was a supermarket which was like a warehouse not unlike a Kwiksave. I am sorry that I do not have another non-UK centric comparison.
Yes, Please! is an album with darker content than the euphoric Pills, Thrills, and Bellyaches and Ryder revisited the party atmosphere in his outings as Black Grape. It does not make Yes, Please! a bad album it just came out at the wrong time.
Happy Mondays – Yes, Please!
Monkey In The Family
Sunshine And Love
Cut ‘Em Loose Bruce
Theme From Netto
This is a semi-legitimate live CD from Italy that was released in 1992. The sound is passable audience recordings made from their European tour of 1991. Although Miki Berenyi recently said, “Audio is pretty bad, and sounds like a pub.” The set is made up of songs from Spooky, Mad Love, and Scar. The performance is very true to the originals and in the absence of any official live recordings, it has its place in the collection of any Lush fan. It seems strange that no live recordings were used on the 5 disc extravaganza Chorus.
Lush – Kaleidoscopic Harmonies
Sweetness And Light
Leaves Me Cold
I listened to Hup the other day and it brought back loads of memories. It was something very different when it can out in 1989. The others were on the Madchester bandwagon, or it was the darker Echo and the Bunnymen and Jesus and Marychain.
It is an album stuck in a time warp, the Wonder Stuff being mostly remembered for their releases in the 90s, such and Welcome to the Cheap Seats, Size of a Cow and the alliance with Vic Reeves in Dizzy. This is more of a forgotten classic. At the time Miles Hunt was a self-centered, egotistical and generally a bit of an idiot, I think that this probably did not win them any extra fans. Incidentally, I met Miles a few years ago and he was really great.
Don’t Let Me Down, Gently is a highlight, Golden Green is a folksy jig that was on the Radio 1 playlist in 1989 for quite some time, and the poptastic Piece Of Sky. If only Miles would have not been so bolshie and quick to slag off anyone and everyone.
The Wonder Stuff : Hup!
30 Years In The Bathroom
Radio Ass Kiss
Let’s Be Other People
Piece Of Sky
Can’t Shape Up
Don’t Let Me Down, Gently
Good Night Though
Them, Big Oak Trees