Mysterious forces beyond our comprehension are enveloping and accelerating the universe – the hypothetical “dark matter” that cosmologists believe makes up 85 percent of the entire cable.
Dark matter is also the title of the latest EP from galactically talented bassist Eva Gardner, who hung out at the Griffith Observatory in Hollywood as a teenager, marveling at both the constellations and all the possibilities that life had to offer.
The six-song EP has been orbiting Gardner’s muse in sketches and riffs for five years, and like many projects, it took the pandemic to free up the time and creative space to actually complete the follow-up to her 2019 solo debut. catch ghosts.
“I always had in mind to do another one,” she tells us. “The timing was just right; There was no work during the lockdown so I got a job.”
Gardner was also taking a music production course at the time, and set up a simple but effective home studio accordingly.
“It helped with the habit of writing songs and having to finish them because I needed materials to hand in at school. I have a pretty basic setup; a keyboard controller, my laptop, studio speakers and logic [Pro]with an Apogee Duet interface.”
To the Dark matter, Gardner played all the instruments – bass, guitar, keys and vocals, with programmed drums as placeholders. But no matter how carefully you mix it up and subtly dequantize the electronically generated kit, there’s no substitute for a live drummer. Step in front of Nathan Price, stick figure wearing indie pop punk outfit, broncho.
“I wanted a real person to play for the feel, and he’s from Oklahoma, where the studio was. We took over the drums and reworked some of the vocals. They have nice mics and a great collection of analog gear. We used some of the analog keyboards and stuff like that.”
Also appearing on the EP is guitarist Josh Berwanger, who had a major role in shaping the release. “I asked him to help me with the production just to get another ear — you know when you’re alone all the time it’s hard to have perspective. Some of the stuff started out as very skeletal ideas a few years ago, so I sent him 12 or 13 songs and we picked a few to work on.”
Dark matter is of course all around us; not just worldly concerns but family issues and the general experience of existing as a human being in these strange times. All of these things are reflected in the EP’s typically thoughtful lyrical content, which reflects the release’s careful sonic consideration of the low-end.
“I use my Fenders pretty much everywhere,” says the musician. “There’s also some keyboard bass underneath that fills out the stuff. Sometimes it’s just doubling it up to create a sub-vibe, or using those analog synths to fill out the frequencies. I think that brings more dynamism.”
Although Gardner is known for playing key bass, she sticks to electric bass guitar and adds another player in scheduled live performances. “There’s a lot of little keyboard lines, so if I have a keyboardist, we can see what’s happening and what sounds good,” she explains.
Gardner has always been in demand as a sessionist and touring, but the pandemic has put a stop to all of that. Prior to that, she toured with Pink for two years, joining the Pennsylvania singer’s band in 2007.
She also had high profile performances with Cher in 2014 Dressed to kill toured, worked with Veruca Salt on their 2005 shows in Australia and toured the UK with Tim Burgess. Elsewhere in her resume, Gardner worked with Moby’s band for his appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show and for three subsequent appearances in Los Angeles.
In 2001 she was an early member of the progressive metal/experimental rock band The Mars Volta, and the songs they recorded that year became the first demo the band released. Following the success of the songs, The Volta laid down the tracks that would eventually be released as 2002’s tremulant EP. However, Eva’s world was to be rocked by her father’s illness.
“I said, ‘Dad, I’ll stay here and I’ll be with you and the family.’ He was literally on his deathbed and he said to me, ‘No. You go out there and do that thing.’ Looking back now, that was exactly the moment he passed the torch to me. He was aware that it was my first tour and it was what I had always wanted to do.” Unfortunately, Kim passed away three days into this Mars Volta tour.
And yes, this is Kim Gardner, who was a key member of several British invasion bands in the 1960s, including The Birds, The Creation and Ashton, Gardner & Dyke. You’d think it was a given that Eva would take up bass, growing up in a household frequented by the likes of John Entwistle, but Kim wasn’t too keen on the idea at first.
Gardner recalls, “At first he said, ‘Don’t touch my basses.’ Second, I look back now and it was a lot of different things [he was worried about]. Knowing that the music industry is tough and that he knew the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, he didn’t want that for his little girl. It wasn’t until his best friend Andy Johns came over and gave me my first bass lesson that Dad said, ‘Okay, I think she’s serious’.”
Despite this, Kim’s basses were still taboo. “I borrowed Andy’s bass and loved it, but it wasn’t until I was about 14 that Dad let me borrow an old Carvin that he didn’t care about. He didn’t let me touch any of the fenders. Eventually he took me under his wing and we had some great father daughter nights where he showed me how to change the strings and do all that stuff.”
Kim, who appeared on The Birds with family friend and future Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, became his daughter’s de facto first roadie in the ’90s. At the time, Eva was attending a Catholic girls’ school, where she formed a band with peers called Entropy.
“I was doing a gig at Whiskey A-Go-Go and my dad’s friend worked at SIR Rental so he got us some amps. We did a lot of covers and that’s when I started writing songs for the band. We did Nirvana and The Monkees songs and our singer sounded just like Belinda Carlisle, so we did some go-gos stuff.”
One of her contemporaries and good friends was a band called Kara’s Flowers, better known these days as Maroon 5. Those early experiences, Gardner says, were crucial in helping her find her confidence and style — and Kim, too, was full and all on board .
“I would come up with fun stuff, and my dad and other musicians that hung out were influences,” she says. “They gave me a lot of encouragement, which always helps when you’re starting out as a kid. I look back and realize how grateful I am to have had these people in my life who supported me because not all of them were.
“I remember learning some basslines – The Monkees Song, Words – a kind of walking. My fingers were bleeding and blistering, but I was so determined to turn all those “nos” into “yes” that I made the effort — and if you do, you’ll feel better. You can achieve your goals.”
After graduating from UCLA with a degree in Ethnomusicology, which she describes as an inspiration to embrace music as a global vehicle for expression and tradition, she was presented with a huge opportunity through her friend Ikey Owens, a keyboardist.
“At The Drive-In had just broken up and Ikey called me and said, ‘Hey, I’m in a band with these two guys, Omar and Cedric, who want to start something new. Do you want to come in and play a little?’ And that was it. We met, we hung out, and next thing I’m in the rehearsal room in Long Beach and we’re writing songs. I remember band names coming to mind on the living room floor.”
This dub tape offshoot was The Mars Volta and was soon set for huge success. Eva would split from the band a year after her father’s death in 2001. In due course, their basslines were used for The Mars Volta’s debut album, Deloused in the crematorium, were played by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. He hardly changed a line – a big compliment.
Gardner’s career over the past two decades has seen many promising moments, including collaborating with a number of musicians who have been an integral part of her formative years as a fan.
“I was the boy in the front row at the Hollywood Palladium in 1994 and I sang all the songs to Veruca Salt,” Gardner recalls. “Fast forward to 2005 and I’m their bassist and I sing the songs too. You know you are on the right path when you meet all these wonderful people who guide you in these beautiful scenarios. It was my first tour of Australia and I got to be part of it.”
There’s also a story that tops that. “The first arenas I ever played in were the Manchester Evening News Arena and Wembley Arena – the opening for the Rolling Stones. Oh my god it was an amazing coming full circle moment.
“Dad opened for them in 1967 when he was with The Creation – it was Brian Jones’ last tour. So here’s Dad in ’67 and then here’s his little girl opening up for her. Seeing Dad’s best friend Ron Wood at the sound check was a very powerful moment for me.”
In fact, Ronnie Wood asked over the mic if Eva was Kim’s daughter. “He says, ‘All right, cutie!’ and we said, ‘Hello.’ It was just really cool; We have a picture with all the boys.”
There was also a moment when she might have gotten some special powers from a certain discarded cigarette. “Keith Richards had a cigarette behind his ear the whole time we did sound check, but he never smoked it,” says Gardner. “He left it on my amp and it had this sweat stain on it, his DNA. I was like, ‘Cool, so I smoke this?'” She sensibly avoided the opportunity.
Gardner is excited about her future; If she has her way, most of it will be spent on the go. “I love touring. That was the longest I’ve been home in 20 years. It’s not bad or good, it just is what it is. I move forward with grace and acceptance and devotion. Touring is my favorite pastime. I do it with pleasure.”
We may not know what makes up most of the universe we live in, but by the beard of Zeus, its soundtrack is in safe hands. And that’s ultimately the only thing that really counts.
- Dark matter (opens in new tab) is now available through Winter Rabbit Music.