by Elena Gritzan
Punk Jardins describe their sound as “Stuka dive-bomber music”, but it’s sometimes hard to know when to take their words at face value. They are full of jokes (“Where do you hope the band will take you?” “To Mars”) and bold statements (“I don’t think the idea of buying music is something that’s going to last longer than Generation Y”), but contrast that with an earnest desire to play music and carve out a place in Toronto’s music scene.
Bassist Tyler Bondy started his first punk band in grade 7. “We had this really good band and it was like the best thing in my life,” he says. “We would just go every Saturday or Sunday in the afternoon and just jam for a good like three hours in my friend’s basement.” Though, a bit of a scuffle after posting a less-than-complimentary song about a classmate on MySpace led to the band’s early demise. “We didn’t think anyone would listen to us! Also we were 13, so you know. Anyway, we got the cops called on us and we had to go over to the kid’s house and apologize to him and that kinda wrecked the band,” though his desire to spend hours basement-jamming lived on.
Guitarist and vocalist Walker Horsfall had a similar gravitation towards writing and playing music, starting a band with friends in grade 10 to complete an English project that called for creativity. “It was something about Shakespeare,” he says. “The song was called ‘Woe.’” They enjoyed playing together enough to continue writing songs, eventually playing some shows in his hometown of Mississauga.
The pair met at the University of Toronto. “I first saw Tyler and I was like, ‘aw, who’s this square?’” Horsfall recalls. “He just had a tray in his hand, he was all silent. It was like okay, this is Tyler.” Reflecting on his first encounter with Horsfall, Bondy says, “I think [my first impression] probably falls in line with everyone’s first impression of Walker. This dude with crazy long hair. He’s obviously like a psycho homeless person. And then you get to talk to him and it’s like, ‘okay, he’s not crazy!’” Though, Horsfall has since lost the long hair (“I want to be kind of a follicle epicurean,” he says. “I want to experience all of the things that hair can have to offer”).
They bonded over a shared taste in music; Bondy proclaimed a proclivity towards the Sex Pistols (or New Order, no one can quite remember), “and [Horsefall] was like, yeah, okay, we can jam.” Two years of playing music in each other’s residence rooms eventually morphed into the current Punk Jardins project.
The name comes from a 1911 issue of what is now the Globe & Mail that Horsfall was reading (he justifies this choice of leisure activity by declaring, “I’m so bored!”). “They had this article about some fellow who was convicted of murder,” he says. “17 year-old Scottish kid by the name of Edward Jardeen. It’s an old Victorian newspaper, so they called him Edward ‘Punk’ Jardeen. And there was like this big story in 1911 of Edward ‘Punk’ Jardeen. What’s he going to do next? How do we persecute him? Because he’s insane so we can’t kill him, but he killed that girl. And then Jardins just means more things than Jardeen. Because Punk Jardeen just sounds like some kind of canned meat.” And why name your band after a Victorian murderer? “Because it makes me laugh,” Horsfall says.
Currently the third member of the band is an old drum machine/recorder dubbed Nigel, bought by Bondy in 2004. “It’s hilariously out of date,” he says. To the point where the obsolete memory card puts a 1 GB cap on how many songs they can record and perform. A higher capacity for data storage would be nice, but what Punk Jardins really wants is a human drummer to replace their mechanistic third member. “It’s better having a drummer,” Horsfall explains. “It’s more live, it’s more raw. Believable. I much prefer live music insofar as you can make mistakes and it’s funny.”
Mistakes are important to the creative process as well, a fact acknowledged by Bondy: “The best discoveries are mistakes. The microwave, volcanized rubber.” “What I miss and what we haven’t been able to replicate with a drum machine is those four-hour jam sessions where you’re not actually playing songs,” Horsfall adds. “And in that process and in those mistakes, you discover, ‘oh, that was a good little riff you played two hours in.’” Know any drummers? Send them their way.
Horsfall brings up the challenge of being satisfied with one’s own creative output. “I’m never happy with anything I write,” he says. “My favourite song is always the one I haven’t written yet … It’s hard to get in your 10,000 hours of practice for creativity on its own. You can practice the guitar for 10,000 hours and you’ll be an expert at guitar. It’s more difficult to do that with the transliteration of my experiences into things that people would sing in the shower.” Yet they do feel like they’ve hit a place where they have something to share, and are hoping to start playing shows regularly in Toronto.
“My impression is that the Toronto music scene is a self-sustaining ecosystem and we’re an invasive species,” says Bondy. “But we’re not very good at it.” Having moved from playing school talent shows to their first show at the Aspetta café in Kensington Market, they hope to eventually work up to playing weekly shows and immersing themselves in a local scene.
“I’m excited to entrench ourselves within a small and active music community,” Horsfall says. “Find other people, other bands who are doing things that we are doing, things that we approve of, create a sound from that, create a little subculture from that … There are so many ways to do that, but I think that playing and going to shows and putting yourself on a plate initially is the best way to do it.”