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Lime Garden want their music to help fans escape existential dread

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Lime Garden don’t believe there should be a hierarchy between artists and audiences. So convinced are they of this that the entire band regularly get stuck in dancing with the crowd at the end of their live shows. They’re also easily excited: “I don’t understand how people aren’t,” says the band’s animated drummer Annabel Whittle, citing her love of festival buggies and the refrigerated chocolate left for them in their dressing rooms. We’re speaking at Standon Calling festival, where the band have defied the July heatwave and performed a bouncy set on The Independent’s Laundry Meadows stage. “We’re hysterical like puppies, the whole thing is like a giant lads holiday,” says vocalist Chloe Howard with a laugh. Indeed, the four-piece Brighton band have so much energy, at times it feels difficult to keep up. But if you can, it pays off.

Lime Garden (formerly LIME), came into being when Whittle, Howard, Leila Deeley (guitar) and Tippi Morgan (bass) moved in together in Brighton, having met via a Facebook group in 2018. It took them a while to find the “indie-slinky-wonk-pop” sound they’ve become known for. For starters, Morgan didn’t actually know how to play bass. After being “backed into a corner in the kitchen”, she was performing onstage with the rest of the band just a week later. At first, they incorporated a “mish-mash of different influences” – from Eighties ballads to country music – into their songs. In 2019, after taking interest in the bands emerging from London’s DIY scene, they began to refine that sound – even if they still explain it in different ways to different people. “If it’s a geezer in the pub, we just say indie” explains Howard. “And if it’s my nan, it’s rock’n’roll,” Whittle chips in.

“The coolest thing is just seeing [other] bands make music that they want to make,” Deeley says. “We’re four best mates and it’s about what we want to do. I don’t think that will ever change.” Relatability is key, and so they set about capturing the despair and frustration of their generation. “The longing to fit in / But not knowing which box to sit in/ The desire to be heard/ With nothing to say in the first place,” Howard sings amid the bubbling synths and deep bass grooves of “Marbles”. Her seductive murmur has a sinister edge that matches the song’s lyrical anxieties. Their “happy-sad” sound truly comes into full force on the Gorillaz-influenced “Clockwork”, where ticking kick-drums and crashing hi-hats drive the coming-of-age lyrics.

“We admire bands who change their sound from album to album. That’s something we want to do,” says Howard. They joke that the addition of the “electronic stuff” which balances out the “heavier angst” is simply owed to them “understanding how to use [the equipment]”. The majority of Lime Garden’s six songs address the monotony of the everyday, but they don’t want to bum their listeners out too much. Existential lyrics are countered by fizz-popping melodies; loops that give you the sense of being stuck in a house of mirrors. It’s not so much depressing as disorientating – and you can dance to it.

“I’m sick and I’m tired / Need to find a way to get back up and wired,” Howard sings on “Sick & Tired”. The song was conceived when Deeley, who was struggling with feelings of isolation during lockdown, wanted to build a loop that “carries on forever”. Whittle added chirpy bossa nova rhythms on the synths, and the song transformed: “It made it sound like we were coming to terms with [being sad], blossoming in and out of the changing mood,” Deeley tells me. At this exact moment, a pack of pugs (Standon is a very dog-friendly festival) come bounding into the artist’s backstage area where we are sitting, all demanding cuddles. Everyone’s mood is lifted considerably.

Once the band have had their dog fix (one golden retriever decides to stay and hang out with us), they settle back into their beanbag chairs. Talk turns to their forthcoming headline tour in November. Despite a string of early successes – festival bookings and support slots for indie rockers IDLES, the band are feeling that Monday dread. “You have to gig enough to be close to doing it full-time, but you still have to somehow pay your rent,” bassist Tippi Morgan says. “I think a lot of musicians would universally agree that dealing with the extreme highs of life and then going back to working jobs that we don’t really care about can make you feel quite s***,” says Howard, explaining how the “consistent” extremes of going from the highs of a live performance to the lows of life amplifies that sense of dread: “I think we all struggle to cope with it.”

“We use the band as a form of escapism.” Howard suggests. “There’s so much out there that angers us, but at this point I think it’s nice to make space for people to kind of get away from that – just to have fun and just enjoy themselves.” The band are keen to continue building their fan community, inspired by the inclusivity they see from acts such as Florence + The Machine, who has a book club, and Sports Team’s fan Whatsapp group. “I just love when I hear a band and there’s this whole world around them,” says Deeley. “There are bands that are huge but you feel very close to them.”

Lime Garden’s Leila Deeley playing at Tramlines festival 2022

(Daniel Thompson)

This is particularly important to Lime Garden as a group of young women. They’re excited by the wave of female and non-binary artists arriving on the scene: “Bring it on,’’ says Howard, recalling a Wolf Alice gig that inspired her to form her own band. “It was totally mind-blowing,” she says of frontwoman Ellie Rowsell. “I’d never seen a woman do that [before]. It was so powerful and inspiring. It’s cool to think that we can even give a tiny bit of that to somebody else.”

Lime Garden’s new single “Marbles” is out now. They tour the UK from 7 November.

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