A five-piece folk and indie sound is creeping splendidly out of Ewing, New Jersey—the home base of Ornamental. The project began as frontwoman Lucia Gardiner’s lyrical baby and after recording “Blur” in the fall of 2018 in drummer-to-be Jarret Wenzel’s home studio and performing a few gigs, Gardiner gathered a few more members that are now the creators of Ornamental’s dreamy, ambient tunes; Luis Vera (bass/backing vocals), Evan Whitenack (guitar), Jarrett Wenzel (drums/backing vocals), and John Carone (keyboard).
Gardiner’s nostalgic voice is like the lost memories populating a drawer of forgotten summers, moments we’ve buried deep under the aching bones of our subconscious. Gardiner is telling us about her dreams and reminding us of our own—all the faces we can’t remember anymore (and are probably better off forgetting). All the while realizing that our dreams are tangible and within reach. This is the essence of their sound. I was able to get in touch with the band for a Q&A about their new single “Urban Legends,” their music-making process, and Lucia’s love for graveyards and blueberries.
How did you all come together to form Ornamental?
LG: I wanted to start a project for a while. Luis [Vera, bass] and I had worked on a few things for a bit, same with Evan [Whitenack, guitar] and I, but it wasn’t really until the summer of 2019 that we started working as a full band and developing our sound as more of a unit. This is really when Ornamental started to become more than just some songs I wrote in my bedroom and more of its own thing.
Lucia is the principal songwriter, and the band writes its material in the studio. Do you write separately and piece it together later or work more as a whole?
EW: Lucia writes the chord progressions and lyrics then sends it to the rest of the band. We each independently work on our parts, then we bring it together in the studio, so we get a sound that fuses all of our influences into one piece.
I love that. Everyone gets a place in the process and the outcome.
EW: It works really well for us. Everyone gets to put their own flair on the recording.
Lucia, you mentioned your upbringing as an influence for many of your lyrics. Where did you grow up, and what aspects of your roots crop up in your songs?
LG: I was raised in Sweetwater, NJ. It’s a very small, rural town—acres of woods, right on the perimeter of Hammonton’s farmlands and fields of blueberries. I think nature plays a big role in my songs because it’s something I feel I’m familiar with but curious about at the same time. My hometown haunts my dreams a lot. Sometimes, these thoughts of running through the trees and laying in the graveyard create lasting images in my mind that end up being expressed through song.
Your notable shows include opening for Faye Webster and Molly Ringworm. Describe those shows/experiences.
LG: It was great to be a part of something so intimate with some close friends and a role model. I had performed by myself that night, so I remember being really nervous! I even had to go back to my dorm for an outfit change, because I somehow ripped my pants! [Laughing] Anyway, I’ve played a few shows now with Molly Ringworm, and they are always great. It would be amazing to play again with Faye.
Despite the circumstances of this year, you’ve managed to release a new single, “Urban Legends.” How did the band find ways to focus?
LV & JW: [unison] La Croix.
EW: We were actually working on “Urban Legends” before the pandemic and played it live a few times, which helped us get a feel for the song. Then one weekend in September we met up at Jarrett’s [Wenzel, drums] house to record the song. It was really fun to focus on getting the song done in those two days. We’re happy with how it turned out.
Lucia, lyrically, what was the inspiration for “Urban Legends?”
LG: I wanted to write a more upbeat song, and when I wrote it I was just starting a relationship. I was inspired by how different it felt from [my] previous experiences. The song is about the excitement of starting something new, feeling relieved and safe to be authentic. It’s about being comfortable to do my own thing while being with someone, and of course too, my roots and the symbols of nature that resonate with me consistently. I’m very inspired by pagan imagery!
Is “Urban Legends” the overall theme of your upcoming EP?
LG: That’s hard to say. . . in a way, yes. Visually, totally. We’ve all joked a few times that the EP is so “green”—natural—much like the cover for “Urban Legends.” A lot of the songs we’re working on are much more stripped down and folk. I’m excited to see how we make those different sounds work and blend together. At heart, I’m very influenced by folk music and I want to bring some of those ties together. Ornamental isn’t just me now, so the biggest struggle is being authentic to myself and to the sound I want to convey.
How does 2021 look for Ornamental? Any shows planned ahead?
EW: Right now the only thing we’ve got planned is to get some songs recorded. Jarrett engineers all our recordings in his home studio, so it’s a nice, easy environment to work in.
Catch Ornamental on Instagram, Spotify, Bandcamp, and Apple Music. Be sure to give their new single, “Urban Legends” a listen. And for more news on New Jersey artists, enjoy these articles: 10 New Jersey Musicians on the Rise and 7 New Jersey Musicians You Should Be Listening To.