Below, you can read our interview with Crosby Collins and Lucas Ihnat of Butterfly Garden and listen to their album This Was Gonna Last. Check out our full music review of This Was Gonna Last here.
Q: How did the members of Butterfly Garden meet and begin performing together?
Crosby: Kieran and I are brothers, so I’ve known him since he came home from the hospital. The two of us met Lucas around 7 years ago when we joined Lakehouse Music Academy, a music school in Asbury Park, NJ. The three of us were placed into a 50s cover band called the Time Warpers. Eventually, that band dissolved, and the three of us formed a new one. Lots of other kids joined and left the band through the years: singers, pianists, and guitarists. A few years ago, the lineup stabilized. Only Kieran, Lucas, and me were left. We needed a new bass player, and that’s when Matt joined! Since then, Butterfly Garden has been what it is today.
Q: Can you tell us how you decided on the name “Butterfly Garden”?
Crosby: This question is a hard one to answer. When we’re asked in person, it’s met with awkward glances between the four of us. I’ll get a pit in my stomach. My face will turn red. It’d be easy to lie and say “Oh, well Lucas is a gardener, and Matt’s favorite insect is a butterfly, so the name was pretty natural.” But there’s an uncomfortable truth.
Lucas, Kieran, and I cycled through several bands together before Butterfly Garden was formed. I’ve known Kieran since he was born. The two of us met Lucas when we joined the Time Warpers, a 50s cover band at Lakehouse, at around 11 years old. After about a year of playing Richie Valens and Chuck Berry, the three of us had become good friends, and we moved on to form a new band: Four-Sided Triangle. Not the most clever name. We eventually changed our moniker to Schlüsselkinder, a funny German word I picked up from “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead (means “latch key kid”). Although no one could pronounce it, we stuck with Schlüsselkinder for another two years or so. Singers, keyboardists, and guitarists came and went from our band, and as the group changed, we decided our name should too. So, we started brainstorming.
My mom was reading a pretty messed up book at the time. When conversation lulled at dinner, she would fill Kieran and me in on the story. The back cover reads:
“Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden. In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious ‘butterflies’—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.”
Eventually, the Garden is discovered, and one of the survivors helps the FBI in a case against the sadistic kidnapper guy. I’m not sure what happens after that.
Kieran and I told Lucas about the book, and soon, it became a sort of inside joke in our group. That’s the part I don’t like to admit. We were immature kids, and I guess talking about a messed-up book was exciting at an age where we weren’t supposed to know bad stuff. Its premise crept into the band name discussion, and eventually, we decided to name our band after Dot Hutchinson’s horror novel “Butterfly Garden.”
I haven’t fully explained that story to more than a few people. For years, Lucas, Kieran, and I felt queasy about the name. Matt did too when he joined us along the way. On the surface, it was too flowery, and at a deeper level, it was kinda fucked up. Years later, none of us think it’s a big deal. We love Butterfly Garden—even if it’s awkward to explain.
Q: Despite all your years of performing, “This Was Gonna Last” is actually your first official album. What made you finally want to pull the trigger and get into the studio?
Crosby: Matt, Lucas, Kieran, and I played together for a while before we were comfortable writing songs. For years, we only did covers. Lucas and I were super into Radiohead, so we learned a lot of their music: “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”, “Just,” “Weird Fishes,” and “My Iron Lung” come to mind. We drew a decent number of songs from The Strokes, Black Sabbath, and Weezer, too.
When Lucas and I got a little older, we started writing our own music. The first original Butterfly Garden ever performed was a song called “Paradigm.” I wrote it. It was a super melodramatic tune in drop D about a girl I met at summer camp when I was 13-—definitely not Spotify-worthy material. I was too timid to sing my own lyrics back then, so Taylor, our lead singer at the time (shoutout to her by the way!), sang them for me. Taylor left the band a few months after the debut of “Paradigm,” forcing Lucas and me to fill her shoes as vocalists. My singing was pretty rough at first, but as time went on, our vocals improved. As we wrote more songs, our lyrics improved. Our riffs and song arrangements improved.
It was relatively recently that Lucas and I came into our own with songwriting. “This Was Gonna Last” is a collection of the first 9 songs that we were comfortable sharing with the world. For the first few years, we were growing up and trying to figure out how to communicate our thoughts and feelings. We were learning how to write. Last year, we finally had a corpus of originals that were exciting and meaningful to us. At that point, it felt like a natural step to pull the trigger on an album.
Q: How long did “This Was Gonna Last” take to record? What was the process like?
Crosby: Recording the LP took 50 hours in total. The process was extremely rewarding, including the more tedious aspects of recording. We have each individually recorded in the studio a few times prior to us recording “This Was Gonna Last,” but the time we spent in the studio together was the first where we felt we were in fully creative control. We split the recording into three days, which were drum and bass, guitars, and vocals for six of the songs on the album. We spent another full day recording the three more striped down tunes on the album with just Crosby and Lucas.
Q: How does the band approach the songwriting process?
Crosby: Jake Ewald answered a similar question in Moshcam’s interview with Modern Baseball in 2017. He said:
“We both kind of go into hermit mode when we write and lock ourselves away a little bit and then come out reborn and show each other what we’ve done.”
Butterfly Garden’s process is essentially the same—with some exceptions. I wrote 17, Sirenita, and Bradley alone in my home studio. When I showed these songs to the guys, I had a specific vision for each part. I showed them the parts I wrote, and they added their own spin to the song. Working out tunes as a band was super fun. The creative input of all four members elevated these songs beyond what I initially envisioned.
Lucas wrote Attic and Mirror to Mirror alone, too. He brought finished versions of these songs to rehearsal, and we worked out the details as a group. The major exception to the hermit-mode writing rule was Waste of Time. Usually, Lucas and I finish songs independently, but Waste of Time was very much a collaborative effort. The process started when Lucas sent me a GarageBand demo of an early version of the song. We rehearsed the instrumental parts as a band, and eventually, on a redeye flight to New Jersey from Alaska, I wrote the lyrics for the song. Collaborating this way on Waste of Time was different and exciting.
Q: What was your first instrument? Do you still have/play it?
Crosby: My first ever instrument was a tiny half-scale nylon string guitar. Technically, it was Kieran’s guitar first. He got it from our uncle on his 6th birthday. I don’t remember Kieran ever playing it, but he did (as far as I remember) use it to chase me around the house. Eventually, once I became a guitarist, Kieran gave me his little guitar, and I never stopped playing it! It sits in my room as I type this. I use it to write songs. I travel with it: I just took it to Barcelona last week. It’s a lovely little instrument, and I’ll never abandon it.
My first electric guitar was a knock-off Statocaster made by a company called Jay Turser. I still have that one too! I don’t play it much, but I don’t have the heart to sell it.
Lucas: My first instrument was also a tiny half-scale nylon string guitar that I got for my 6th birthday from my godmother. It sat in my closet until I was ten, and I began listening to more guitar-centric music, and my interest was sparked. I still have the guitar to this day, but it’s way too small for me to play, and it still resides in my closet. I also don’t have the heart to sell it, since it was the beginning of my musical journey. My first electric guitar was an Epiphone Les Paul from Costco that came with an amp. For a $100 guitar, it plays quite well to this day, and I use it to practice occasionally, and on the occasional home demo when I want a humbucker sound.
Q: Perhaps in some unspecified amount of time, your musical career explodes in the best of ways. What does that look like for you?
Crosby: It’s hard to say. Matt, Lucas, and I are leaving home for college in the fall. By then, Kieran will be a junior in high school. The four of us will be scattered across the east coast—maybe scattered across the country. So I’m not sure how we would move forward if Butterfly Garden suddenly blew up,
With that said, it’s always been a dream of mine to go on tour. If I had a serious opportunity to do so, I’d definitely consider taking time off school. I love this band, and even if touring isn’t possible as our paths diverge, it would be pretty awesome to blow up one day. And we’re still going to play after three of us move away. We’re planning on playing shows when we come back for break, and we’re currently working on a new project. (Maybe it’ll drop this summer? Stay tuned!) I’m looking forward to the future. There’s a lot of uncertainty for now, but I’m excited to see where this journey leads.
Q: You get to collaborate with anyone of your choosing. Who is it?
Crosby: I’ll say Denzel Curry. I’m a huge fan of his music, and his talent amazes me anytime I watch a video of him freestyling or playing a live show. Plus, a Butterfly Garden x Denzel EP would go pretty hard. Love that guy.
Q: Your favorite album of all time? (Yup, you gotta choose one.)
Crosby: Ahh shit you’re making me choose one? For nostalgia’s sake, I’ll say “You’re Gonna Miss It All” by Modern Baseball. I love everything about this record: the awkwardness in the lyrics, the production, the guitars, and the band behind it. Modern Baseball is a huge inspiration for me.
Lucas: This is such a tough choice for me, but my gut tells me “Is This It” by the Strokes. This album has zero skips on it, and every song on the album is classic. I could recite all of the lyrics on the entire album, and I at one point learned nearly every song off this album. It was extremely influential on my early songs, and to this day I aim for the raw energy that this album has.
Q: Your favorite song of all time? (Again, only one!)
Crosby: Damn this one is even harder. It’s impossible to feel certain about a single choice. Since I have to pick one, I’ll say “Today” by The Smashing Pumpkins. It’s a super emotional song, and it makes me feel super nostalgic whenever I listen. I love the guitar sounds. I love Billy Corgan’s vocals. I love the lyrics. I don’t listen to this one much anymore. But when I do, it’s a visceral experience.
Lucas: This is arguably harder than the question before, so I had to really think about this one. I looked at my Apple Music replay and for the past three years, “Reelin In The Years” has consistently been in the top five. As an avid Steely Dan fan, I wouldn’t say it’s their most impressive song, but it holds such a special place in my heart and brings back memories of getting my license and driving around Sandy Hook with the windows down. Such a classic song.
Q: Any shout-outs you wanna make?
Crosby: Huge shoutout to Evan Rudenjack! Evan produced, mixed, and mastered our record, and he’s been our band instructor since we were little kids. His feedback was extremely helpful throughout the songwriting process. (That lead guitar riff at the end of 17 was his idea) and navigating the studio without Evan would’ve been unimaginable. His knowledge of studio equipment and audio engineering added an amazing level of polish to our LP. We can’t thank him enough. He’s uncle Evan, as Kieran once said. He’s the best. Shout out to Jon Leidersdorff, owner of Lakehouse Recording Studios as well, he has mentored us over the years and is an incredible person and industry veteran.
Also, shoutout to our family and friends for supporting us through this process and for showing us love at our live shows! None of this would have been possible without you. You guys are the best.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Crosby: I wrote this in response to one of the preliminary interview questions. I think it sums up our project pretty well, so I’ll include it here:
It’s hard to distill “This Was Gonna Last” down to a single clear-cut message. The album is the culmination of years of personal experiences: awkward tension at parties, being put down and abandoned, feelings of complete infatuation and love, and withdrawal from someone you care about. About half of these experiences are Lucas’s, and about half are mine. We each sing our own lyrics exclusively.
The first working title of the album was “Sweet and Sour.” It’s a bad title for more than a few reasons (it makes me think of chicken, it sounds like a bad Olivia Rodrigo spin-off album, etc). But at a basic level, it represents a theme throughout our work. Half of the songs on the LP are strongly related to awkwardness, indifference, and abandonment. The others are anthems of love, hope, passion, and nostalgia. Lucas and I have experienced both ends of this emotional spectrum. All of us do. Life’s ups and downs, its peaks and valleys, are a universal human experience.
Looking back on these nine songs, I remember how my experiences (good and bad) have shaped me, just as they shaped our music. Life is full of love and pain. I’ve felt both. Through it all, I’ve learned that it’s most important to hold love for yourself.
(Want to be interviewed by The Ark of Music? Click HERE.)