On their debut album ‘Do Hollywood’, The Lemon Twigs manage to do something that some bands strive their whole careers to accomplish, creating a truly distinctive body of work which has been universally critically adored. Signed to the prestigious 4AD Records, the young duo have garnered comparisons to The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Todd Rundgren, and more - but at the same time, create a sound which can’t be pinned down.
Made up of brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario (who are accompanied live by Megan Zeankowski on bass and Danny Ayala on keys), The Lemon Twigs are true multi-instrumentalists, whose live show is divided into two segments with the brothers swapping roles from frontman to drummer. Their unique live show has caught the attention of many - with the likes of Tame Impala’s Jay Watson, ‘Stranger Things’’ Joe Keery and the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner among their fans - and even more recently, Brian Wilson (who Brian was named after) tweeting the duo’s cover of ‘Wild Honey’ from when they were kids:
We spoke to The Lemon Twigs’ Brian D’Addario ahead of their upcoming appearance at Splendour In The Grass 2017, which also includes a free Sydney side-show…
CDM: You guys are heading to Australia for the first time ever, to play Splendour In The Grass, as well as a couple of sideshows. How would you describe your show to someone who’s never been before?
THE LEMON TWIGS - BRIAN D'ADDARIO: I guess, kind of diverse. Because we have my set, and then Michael’s set, and they’re two separate things - mine is more like we’re trying to play tight and trying to translate the songs as easily as we can. Michael’s show is more of a rock show. Because of that, it’s kind of more of a diverse show than maybe people are used to seeing, I guess.
CDM: The live show switch-up with you and Michael switching from lead to drums is a really innovative thing to do in a live show, it kinda makes it feel like two shows combined into one. Is there one part of the show that you prefer over the other, or do you find them equally important in The Lemon Twigs show?
BRIAN: Well, each part has its like perks, you know? I guess, when it’s the set where I’m in front, it’s kind of nice because you feel like you’re more in tune to what the audience is feeling and stuff. But when we switch, I have less responsibility as a drummer, and I can kind of let loose and enjoy myself more.
CDM: It’s rad that you’re able to have both those experiences in one show. Do you have anything special for your Sydney side-show planned?
BRIAN: Do I have anything special for the Sydney show? I guess it’ll probably be like a pretty similar show. Well we’re trying to learn more songs right before we leave, so that we can make every show a little bit more different. The shows that we have that aren’t part of a festival, we’ll probably throw more covers in. We’re trying to learn a bunch of those so that we can have more fun and each show will be a little bit more spontaneous.
CDM: You teased at Coachella that you’re releasing a new EP soon, which includes songs you recorded when you were working on the album. Was it important for you to be able to release these songs, rather to just leave them unheard by your fans?
BRIAN: Yeah, it is. I mean at this point, I wish we would’ve gotten it out a little bit sooner, but the artwork and stuff took a long time. I would just let people know that it’s not really the next chapter of The Lemon Twigs or anything like that, it’s just like a punctuation mark on what we did with the first record. We’ve been playing these songs from the EP live for a year now, so a lot of our fans are already aware and know these songs. So it’s just kind of to give them the studio versions that we made before we played them live all the time.
CDM: It must be nice, it’s like closure on the first album - getting those final songs out.
BRIAN: Yeah. The EP will be released in like September and then we’ll have a couple of months left of touring and then we’re going to be done for a little bit. That’ll be the end of ‘Do Hollywood’, that’ll be the death of ‘Do Hollywood’. <laughs> I’m looking forward to that so we can get to the new stuff.
CDM: In the opening lines of ‘These Words’, you sing, “Why do I have to follow you / To know just who I am?” Do you think a person’s own identity must be forged by themselves, or do you think the influence of others can alter/change an identity?
BRIAN: I think that people are kind of generally who they are, and other people can either help you figure out who you are, or hinder you and distort you. I think that people are generally good, but everybody is corruptible, so it’s not really determined by other people. But you can be fortunate, like I feel that I was and my brother is, to have people that lift you up, or you can be unlucky and have people that make it really hard for you to find out who you are. But if you had nobody, it would be almost easier than having people that make you think you’re somebody else.
CDM: How do you think people can form their own authentic identity?
BRIAN: Well, I don’t know. Not that I think I have anything figured out, but it was really helpful for me to have something like music that was totally central in my life and totally not determined by what was going on around me. And whatever was going on, I knew that I wanted to get better at music, and if I hadn’t found that early on I would probably be scratching my head wondering what the hell I was doing and what life was all about. But because I found that central interest that I knew I was always going to come back to, I never thought to myself like, “Oh, you know, nothing matters,” and stuff like that. I never had to think twice about it. I guess, just finding something that you love.
CDM: You’ve previously said that the writing process with you and Michael is quite separate - at what point do you bring songs to each other? Just lyrics, or whole songs?
BRIAN: It depends, but there are songs that I just write a little piece of, and I know Michael is in the other room. And, especially if it’s more of like a rock-and-roll song or something, I’m usually going to bring Michael in on it pretty early, and we sometimes figure shit out right there. Other times, he’ll just give me one suggestion and then that’ll be enough to help me finish it. And then other times, I guess, I just show it to him when it’s completely done and vice versa.
CDM: ‘Frank’ is such an awesome song - you can feel the classical musical influence, but it also sounds like something entirely unique. For songs like this, do you tend to start with the lyrics first, or does the melody/instruments come first?
BRIAN: Oh! Well that one, I remember it was definitely the music and it was definitely just piano. I would play this piano part that sounded to me like it was a Frank Sinatra song, and so I was just trying to do one of those classic like [George] Gershwin songs or something like that of the 20s and 30s. So I was trying to do that and I couldn’t... I think I probably had a fight with someone, and then I knew I had that song that had no lyrics, so then I channeled whatever it was that I was thinking about into that song. So lyrics came after with that particular song, but usually it’s at the same time or music first.
CDM: The melodies and harmonies in ‘How Lucky Am I’ are stunning. The song is a little more bare than other songs on the album. Was this a conscious decision to have the song more stripped back?
BRIAN: Thank you! That was the last one I had for the record and I just never had a chance to demo it. So I remember, I think [Jonathan] Rado went out to eat and I sent him a voice memo of me at the studio playing that song on his piano. He said like, “We should just do it that way.” So I knew that it was just going to be piano and voice because Rado said that it should be like that, and then we added harmonies after, because when I wrote the song I always imagined the harmonies there.
CDM: In your Dazed interview you mentioned the way you deal with negativity, which is that you describe it with positive stuff around it. It’s a really interesting songwriting approach. Do you find songwriting cathartic as a method for dealing with negativity in your own life?
BRIAN: Definitely, yeah. I have a tendency to beat around the bush a lot, and a lot of the time I’ll find out what I think about a particular situation from the lyrics that I write in a song. I guess I just got into the habit of writing songs sort of unconsciously, and it’s hard to lie to yourself unconsciously. And I guess because we kind of write using our intuition instead of really thinking about it, you know, that’s why it’s kind of hard to lie. So it helps me a lot in that way.
CDM: So much of ‘Do Hollywood’ sounds like a jam session - before you began recording the album, did you have an idea of what you wanted the instrumentals to sound like, or was it a more natural creation process while in the studio?
BRIAN: Well, we had 12 days to record all of the tracks at Rado’s house because we were going to school at the time, and we made full demos before we went there so that we would know exactly what we were going to play, so that we wouldn’t waste any time. But all of the sounds were… that’s what took the longest, which was actually dialing in what compression you were going to put on it and what kind of effects you were going to have on the drums and vocals and stuff. And that was mainly Rado, I think.
CDM: You mentioned to NME several things that you guys wanna do - making a movie or a musical, and that the next album is gonna be a concept album. Do you know which of these things is gonna come next?
BRIAN: Well we’re going to make a record. We’re in the middle of making a record that is the concept record, and that’s going to be the next thing. I think we’re going to really take our time with it even though it’s moving pretty quickly right now. I know that all of the videos are going to have to do with the concepts, so that would be like - we’ll be taking our videos a little bit more seriously, I guess. And taking more of an active role in the videos, but as far as the movie or something, that’ll have to come later. That’ll have to come much later, I think.
CDM: That can be the step up from the music videos.
BRIAN: Yeah, yeah. We just have to… I think we need to make more music, you know. I mean, we’re sick of having just this one album.
CDM: It’ll be more exciting for your live shows, to have more music to pull from.
BRIAN: Yeah, yeah! Oh man, I had a rehearsal today and it was boring as shit. It’s really boring, but it’s fine. It’s just like when you’re used to playing the same songs over and over again and then the only thing that makes it exciting is having people that are having fun in front of you. Then you go back to rehearsing and like, “Oh man, there’s nothing… ” I’m looking at everybody and they’re just as sick of the song as I am. There’s no-one in the crowd, so... but it’s much better than a lot of other things. A lot of other jobs.
The Lemon Twigs are playing a free show at Sydney's Oxford Art Factory on July 22nd - click here to RSVP for the show.
Watch the ‘I Wanna Prove To You’ music video below…