The Love In My Mind: CLASH Meets The Lemon Twigs

"We like to try and work with the environment around us..."

The Lemon Twigs burst onto the scene almost a decade ago, fizzing with adolescent energy and dressed like they finally figured out the wiring on their time machine. Echoing the jaunty haircut of Jim Morrison and the floor licking denim hemlines of Farrah Fawcett, brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario were unlike anything else around at the time, which propelled them into the palm of the industry’s tight squeeze (no citrus joke intended).

Following the 2016 release of ‘Do Hollywood’, the D’Addarios were at their peak, soaring in the exuberant rays of success before an experimental album about a chimpanzee who goes to high school and romances the prom queen shot them from the sky, and saw them fall into an inescapable spiral of experimental sounds that didn’t seem to stick like the ones before. 

These days, The Lemon Twigs are back in full swing, fresh off the release of their fifth studio album ‘A Dream Is All We Know’. Their energy is cool and confident, and you can see which one was the instigator of back seat car brawls as kids. Michael is far cheekier, with Brian shooting his younger brother a look when he begins to slouch into the sofa one inch too far for his liking. Their latest offering is punchy and perfected, with a vast soundscape achieved through the painstaking process of analogue recording. A technique mastered by the Beach Boys, the warm, crisp layering of each of the track’s elements combines to create an old school composition, a method that was entirely self taught. “It might be more time consuming, but for us, we’ve always recorded that way,” notes Brian. “For us, a more modern approach would probably take more time when it comes to the computer, ProTools and all that, we’re so slow on it”.

Inspired by their musician father, Ronnie D’Addario, they spent hours learning the intricacies of analogue recording despite his concerns that it was fading out of fashion. “My dad worked in studios in the 70s and 80s and was always at home recording by himself,” Michael points out. “He made records and full albums that never came out at the time that he ended up releasing in the past ten years. We always had an eight track recorder in the house that we never used, and he always warned us, you don’t want to do that, you just want to use the computers. At this point, he had transitioned into the digital realm as early as you could, but I begged him to let me take out a track, and he taught me how to do it. He’s not a tech wiz or anything like that, but it’s really not very hard, in fact, I think it’s more intuitive”.

Growing up on a hearty diet of The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Animals and The Kinks with a dollop of The Teletubbies and “those colourful Australian dudes” known as The Wiggles for good measure, The Lemon Twigs were never short of inspiration in their musical household. With a master of power-pop ballads father and a performer-neurophysicist mother, the D’Addario brothers knew their sound from an early age, however coaxing the kids in their neighbourhood to reach their level of enthusiasm was a less easy feat.

“We have a friend Danny who plays in the band now, but he was never really into the same stuff at that time, he would just play with us because he was real good. There’s another dude we used to hang out with who was in our early band called Thomas, and the band was also called Thomas, how horrible. He also wasn’t passionate about those bands like we were. We idolised them, like how people idolise baseball players. We didn’t know anybody else who did in our school, and I wish that we had met other people like that, I really do. It would’ve been so fun,” Brian muses.

Growing up in Long Island, both brothers were no strangers to the spotlight, brushing shoulders with stardom in their younger years as child actors. “I was in a scary movie called Sinister, and then one called People Like Us which had a totally star-studded cast, although not as well received” Michael smiles, “I was also in a show with Ice Cube, but Brian did two Broadway plays with big, juicy roles. He played Flounder in The Little Mermaid”.

Would they be returning to the silver screen and stage anytime soon? “The problem with acting is that it’s boring, it’s dreadful. You have to really love it if you want to do it successfully, and it was so hard to get myself to even try doing it. Memorising lines was like pulling teeth”. 

As they left the silver screen behind and found their feet in the city’s music scene as teenagers, they discovered a whole new world waiting for them. “We lived about 40 minutes outside of New York City when we first started playing gigs, and they were always there. There was a scene but we weren’t really a part of it, we didn’t like any of the shoegaze stuff and didn’t understand it or any of their influences.” As ‘Do Hollywood’s success and the mentorship of Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado swept in and saved them from sticking out Slowdive-esque support acts, they kept their circle small to harbour from the horrors of the notorious industry.

Inspired by their tumultuous journey following their debut, ‘My Golden Years’, which they pip as the best track out of the twelve, evokes a mixed baggage of fear, self-doubt and bittersweet reflection that their best days may already be behind them. “It just came very easily and it was expressing something that was really genuine. It’s a song we love to play live, and it’s also commercially viable, people seem to like it! It’s based on our career and the up and down nature of life, but I also wanted to write a song that I will like for years, and I think I’ll still feel that way when I start to hate it. I worry that something that was supposed to be a little novelty, fun thing accidentally gets successful and you have to keep playing it”.

‘A Dream Is All We Know’ is bursting with lush, bright melodies that are a far cry from the more introspective musings of 2023’s ‘Everything Harmony’, lending itself sweetly to the titular track. “The album had a more joyful feeling that was a little bit less steeped in reality than our last album”, Brian shares. “’A Dream Is All I Know’ is also one of the songs we liked the most, so it became a working title. Once we got the cover and the layout it was kind of surreal, we just thought it was the perfect title. We don’t necessarily commit to an idea, we tend to do the music and then hopefully something falls into place for that very last bit, similarly how ‘Everything Harmony’s cover has the writing in the right place outside my apartment building – we like to try and work with the environment around us”.

A noticeable emphasis on string arrangements on the new record, the D’Addarios kept Roy Wood’s albums in close company during the writing process, roused by his incentive of buying string instruments he didn’t know how to play and just letting loose. Both multi-instrumentalists in their own right, the brothers experimented with their talents, weaving in between turns on each and shunning their usual approach of recruiting from outside the family. “I really played a lot of instruments on this record. I mostly played rhythm guitar as that’s what I enjoy, but Michael played a lot of drums and bass on the album too. I think the most enjoyable thing for me was playing drums, especially on Michael’s songs, as he would do a rough vocal and sing along – it’s the most you feel like you can relax when you’re really playing to somebody else and focusing on the song, a lot of emphasis and the big decisions happen when you’re recording the drums and it dictates how it’s going to go. If it sounded messed up, we just completely started over”.

Aside from older music, The Lemon Twigs looked to the likes of their musician friends Jessica Pratt, Josephine Network, Slug Bug, and Brower that “influenced a lot of osmosis for the sound just from hanging out”, alongside poetry, noir movies, and the ‘boneheaded’ witt of romcoms to craft the tapestry of the tracklist. Church Bells, an upbeat ballad penned in ode to Brian’s girlfriend who works in Jersey, the shimmering softness of ‘I Should’ve Known from the Start’ and the lowly longing of ‘In The Eyes Of The Girl’ prove their aptitude for tender love tales, yet the rip-roaring retro flair of album closer ‘Rock on (Over and Over)’ concludes that their experimentation has hit the right stride.

After a lifetime of being and creating in each other’s company, has playing in the band brought them closer as brothers? “It’s definitely brought us physically closer. We’ve always been completely emotionally unavailable.”

‘A Dream Is All We Know’ is out now. Catch The Lemon Twigs at the following shows:

August
30 Cardiff The Globe

September
2 Oxford O2 Academy
3 Bristol Thekla
4 Brighton Concorde 2
5 London Electric Brixton
7 Liverpool Hangar 34
9 Newcastle The Grove
10 Glasgow St. Luke’s Church
11 Leeds Brudenell Social Club
12 Manchester Academy 2
14 Dublin The Button Factory

Words: Becca Fergus
Photo Credit: Stephanie Pia

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