Interview - Gardner Leonard

Gardner Leonard are a pop punk duo from the West Midlands, UK. Their duo consists of;

  • Rhiannon Leonard - Vocals
  • Daryl Gardner - Guitar / Drums / Bass

1. Your 2021 is going to be kick started with your debut album 'milquetoast' being released (15th January). What are some thoughts that are clouding your minds before sending this out?

Daryl: I just hope people like it! It’s been a really fun project from start-to-finish, and helped me, especially during this lockdown, have a creative outlet. I'm a metal musician though, and that's what people tend to expect from me, so I am admittedly nervous about the stylistic change! Not many people know that my 2nd favourite band is Motion City Soundtrack though, so yeah I hope listeners keep an open mind.

Rhiannon: A lot of nerves but mostly just really excited, it's been such a fun process!

2. What do you want listeners to take away from this record?

Rhiannon: I hope it makes people feel nostalgic, we were heavily inspired by early 00s emo and pop-punk, so for me it felt like a love letter to that era. Some of them are light and fun, but some really do come from the heart. 'Mine' is my empowerment anthem, it makes me feel powerful and I hope others who can relate to it feel the same way.

3. Lyrically, what inspired these songs? Looking at the title, milquetoast looks as though it leans into one (or both) of you personally. 

Daryl: Well this is when I’d like to say that ‘Milquetoast’ has a strong poetic meaning, but it doesn’t, it’s just a great word, and was the name I wanted to give to my solo album years ago. It means a ‘timid person’, which kind of suits my personality. I tend to hide behind my guitar, and let Rhiannon handle the lyrics…

Rhiannon: One crappy relationship in particular was definitely responsible for probably at least five of the songs. I had to tap into the past because I'm really happy now, and it's harder to write songs when you're happy! Most of the songs are written about personal experiences. The last two we wrote were Mine and Wish It Was Me. Mine absolutely drained me emotionally, so Wish It Was Me had to be light and fluffy because I was running on fumes. My mum thought it was about one of my ex-boyfriends, I was horrified that she thought I was pining after him still, but glad to know it sounded believable! But no, that one was just story-telling.

4. I honestly couldn't pick a favourite on the album, if I had to? Another Lie. What would yours be?

Rhiannon: I constantly flip between Mine, Conspiracy and 1234. But probably Mine, it was the most personal thing I've ever written but also the most cathartic.

Daryl: Mine, definitely. It was the last song we wrote, literally a couple of days before we entered the studio, and I just love the chord progression in the pre-chorus and how powerful Rhiannon’s lyrics are. I also do really enjoy Another Lie so I’m glad you enjoyed that as well!

5. How long were you working on this LP from start to finish?

Daryl: I started writing the music to this around June, although I did already have the instrumental for Your Ghost as it was originally going to be used for my previous band Grace the Skies. I’ve always dreamed of doing a project with a female vocalist, but just never got round to it, and when I sent the demos I had to Rhiannon, she absolutely smashed it, which inspired me to continue writing. My original plan was to have a different female vocalist on every track, but me and Rhiannon just worked so well together that we decided to become a duo. So yeah, went into the studio in October with my good friend Chris Dando, who helped craft the songs and worked wonders with vocal melodies, and it was finished by the end of November.

Rhiannon: It started out as a 5 track EP, but right when we were about to go into the studio Daryl had this mad wave of creativity where he was writing new music everyday, so he'd send me the music and I'd write the lyrics and try to send back a demo the same day. I think the final week we did about three songs!

6. Daryl, you did a huge project back in 2015,re-recording Metallica's St Anger which went viral! What was that like for you? And apart from GL, what have you been filling that time with?

Daryl: Yeah so the St. Anger re-recording was a real passion project for me. Metallica are my all-time favourite band, but funnily enough the first album I actually heard by them was St. Anger, and at the time I was listening to a lot of nu-metal and (attempting to) skateboard so I just loved how raw and heavy it was. Then I listened to their back catalogue and was like 'ohhhh so that’s why the fans hated it', but I always had the idea to remaster it to sound more like their other albums. Realising that remastering would be damn near impossible, I just decided to re-record the whole thing instead! I thought it would be a curiosity listen for many at best, but it far surpassed anything I could have imagined.

I took a break from music to focus on career, so apart from playing in a covers band occasionally, GL is the first project of original material I've made in about 6 years!

7. Rhiannon, you stated you were in an all girls emo band back in the mid-noughties. Is this what fueled your desire to keep making music? You also do some solo acoustic tracks, do you want to tell us some more about this and link us to some of the tracks?

Rhiannon: Oh absolutely, as awful as we were, I loved that band! I've been desperate to be in one ever since, so when this became a band rather than just featuring on a few tracks I was super excited. I have a Facebook/Soundcloud for my acoustic stuff (Rhiannon Leonard Music), there's not a lot on it given I wasn't able to gig last year, but I love doing it. 1234 (the final track on the album) is one of my songs that I've been playing acoustically for almost six years. The acoustic version is on my Soundcloud - it sounds like the baby version now compared to how it is on the album! 

8. Favourite album of 2020?

Daryl: Deftones - Ohms. Career best album. It’s just amazing how this late in their career they can reinvent themselves and sound so fresh, whilst still sounding like Deftones. Literally listened to that daily for months!

Rhiannon: Folklore, Taylor Swift. I've been in the spare room playing covers of basically the whole thing - it's an acoustic performer's dream! Also Fake It Flowers by beabadoobee is a very cool album.

9. We know that Daryl had mostly written this record, and that you knew each other from college. What made you get in touch with Rhiannon specifically? What's the rest of the story from that?

Daryl: Yeah so we actually hadn't seen each other or really spoken to each other for years before we started working on this album. I knew that Rhiannon did the singer-songwriter material and knew how talented she was, so she was one of the first vocalists I reached out to once I'd got the initial instrumentals, and as mentioned previously, we just seemed to work really well together so I scrapped the idea of multiple vocalists and we just became Gardner Leonard...

Rhiannon: Originally he just sent me demo tracks and I sent back lyrics and rough demos. Having someone send me fully-formed songs that just needed words and a melody was amazing, I've always found the lyrics the easiest part.

10. Who has the worst tattoo?

Rhiannon: I don't have any, but I often toy with the idea of getting some kind of dinosaur tattoo.

Daryl: I have a misspelt tattoo on my chest, and a burger on my side. So, I lose by default.

11. Leave a message for the readers!

Daryl: We hope you enjoy the album and it gives you the same nostalgic feeling it gives us. It will be available on all streaming services from the 15th January!

Rhiannon: Download Milquetoast and tell all your friends! Thank you for taking the time to interview us we really appreciate it!

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