It’s common for a “new” desert band to seemingly pop up out of nowhere … even though that band has actually been making music for a while.
Such is the case with Garb, which has been around since 2017. The band picked up several shows in recent months and has released some new music ahead of stiff as a feather, Garb’s sophomore album due Sept. 9. The band—made up of Carrick O’Dowd (vocals/guitar), Nick Sacro (drums), Nic Lara (guitar) and Lindsay Clark (bass)—adds emocore vocals and melodies to a mix of garage rock and shoegaze instrumentation. Check out the two latest singles, “life-alert” and “a lot / pictures.”
During a recent interview with O’Dowd, he discussed his music history.
“I’ve been involved in music and the music scene around the Coachella Valley since 2014,” said O’Dowd. “I was in a band before Garb called Safety Net. We were a post-hardcore band, and we loved the do-it-yourself ethic.
“During that time of playing music, I wasn’t in the best headspace, per se. I had a lot of fun with that project, but after that, I ended up going to rehab and went through treatment. After I got help, I thought I had lost all my capability of songwriting. My parents are supportive, and they love me, but they didn’t like the music I made before, because it was a little too heavy and a little too grungy; it wasn’t something that they could listen to. I definitely wanted to keep the same sort of ethos of what we did as Safety Net, but make it a little bit more radio-friendly, and a little more pop-friendly. It took me a year after I had time under my belt with sobriety, and I just started recording songs in my bedroom; 2017 was when I started recording as Garb.”
Listen to Garb’s discography in sequential order, and you can hear the band’s growth in terms of both production and writing style. Then there’s the fact that what started off as O’Dowd’s personal project has now morphed into a full-fledged band.
“I put a small, little three-song thing out, but I deleted it because it was recorded really bad,” O’Dowd said. “Then, I was working at Guitar Center. I acquired some gear, and I recorded my first album, Terminal. Around that time, a few friends of mine heard it; one of them was Carlyn Park. She was in our band for a time; she is also in the band Waxy, and she approached me and offered to help me out, so I started jamming with her. The other person was Nick Sacro; he and I were in a band together in 2015 called Slow Paradise; that’s how he and I became friends.
“(Garb) started off as a three-piece, and we had just been playing the Terminal stuff. Nick and I ended up getting really close, and we went along a different path with our lineup, and we got really close with Lindsay Clark from Host Family. She took over the role of bassist. We also got close with Nic Lara, who has his own project called Marni, and I always loved everything he did. … Garb, in its current form, was like a supergroup in a way. Me and Nick Sacro started to write this new record, and then it started to fully become a band.”
Many bands start locally and then work their way toward out-of-town gigs. In contrast, Garb is trying to spread its music in multiple places at the same time.
“We are based in the Coachella Valley, but most of the shows that we do play, and other bands that we associate with, are based in the L.A. area,” O’Dowd said. “The tightest band connection we have out here is with Host Family, and we don’t sound anything like them. Our genre, if you were to label it, would be like slow-core space rock, or emo-indie rock sort of stuff. There’s not anyone out here doing that. … But that’s not to say that the desert and other people here haven’t had an influence on my songwriting and my sound over time.”
O’Dowd admitted that he’s had problems finding like-minded musicians here in the desert.
“I’ve had multiple people over the years hit me up and be like, ‘Hey, I’d love to jam sometime,’ but for me, because I’m so fucking weird, I don’t like jamming with people; I like to make friends with people, and see if we vibe,” O’Dowd said. “I think every person that I ended up making music with and being in a band with is some sort of divine thing, where we just happened to both be really good friends and really good musicians. … Being in the desert, while there are music-lovers out here, it’s very niche. It’s almost like the real hardcore music lovers out here hold on to desert rock so hard that sometimes, it’s hard to get a kickstart in the desert.
“… To help us progress, Nick and I make a conscious effort to go and support other bands out in L.A. at least twice a month. (Thanks to) those meaningful connections that we’ve gained with other people out there, they want to listen to what we’re doing. We’re not successful by any means, but if you do want to succeed in music, and you’re a desert-based artist, playing shows outside of the desert is something you have to do, because then when you do come home, and when you do play in the desert, people will want to hear you. We just played at The Alibi, and we packed it out on a Tuesday; like, 80 people showed up.”
While O’Dowd mentioned that Garb’s unique sound can be isolating, he still sees it as a positive.
“We love that no one else is doing what we’re doing here,” he said. “I don’t necessarily want to play a show with other musicians that sound like us. I love a hodgepodge of different genres and different artists on one bill.”
Most of Garb’s songs are down-tempo and emotional; O’Dowd’s said he is indeed reflective in his writing.
“The No Business EP came to me because I went through a pretty sad breakup,” said O’Dowd. “I made a promise to myself that I’d never write about girls or write about love, because those are the two most cliche things you read about music. In 2019, I had to let myself feel that way. That’s what literally every album is about—something that’s happening in my life. … My music is very much a diary and a journal of what’s going on.”
That said, O’Dowd straddles the line between reflective and vague.
“The song ‘Headstand’ on Terminal, if you read the lyrics, it’s literally about me being psychiatrically treated. I was stuck in a hospital for 15 days, and I was just doing headstands on my bed the whole time,” he said. “There’s some literal stuff, and then there’s some stuff that I intentionally keep a little vague, just because I don’t want to discuss the most intimate details. … Sometimes I do need to let it out in a specific way, and with this new album, there are some serious things that I get across pretty cryptically.”
Even though Garb’s second album isn’t out yet, work is already under way on the third, which will feature more input from Sacro.
“The new stuff we’re writing is in its early stages, and it’s been completely collaborative,” O’Dowd said. “He’s definitely helped the writing process with a lot of drum stuff and stylistic choices. Something that we pride ourselves on, especially in our live show, is the dynamics of our music, and that’s something he definitely helped focus us on. As far as the writing process, after stiff as a feather, it’s a much more of a collaborative process between the two of us, because we’re so incredibly close. We feel some sort of connection when it comes to music.”