Interviews

The Lemon Twigs chat ‘The Little Mermaid’, Leonard Cohen, and their new album

lemon twigs

The Long Island bowerbirds of ‘70s rock, The Lemon Twigs have just released their fourth studio album, Songs For The General Public.

With an almost Zappa-like tendency to switch gears between their musical influences with no warning, you suddenly realise that you are a welcome participant on their road trip. They have full control over the playlist and their attention spans are as short as a teenager in the age of streaming.

Fresh off the release, we caught up with brother Brian D’addario to walk us through his influences, idols, and ideas for the future.

the lemon twigs

HAPPY: Congratulations on the release of your record! I hear ELO style strings and 10CC stacked voices and a touch of Marc Bolan, tell me a little about what you’re listening to right now?

BRIAN: I’m listening to Ravi Shankar chants. The album of chants he did with George Harrison in the ‘90s. 

HAPPY: Amazing, my mum loves that album. Does your mother love your band?

BRIAN: Oh yeah, she’s a great supporter. 

HAPPY: Firstly, you and Michael are brothers who are exceptionally talented, multi-instrumentalists with big personalities. We all know what happened with Oasis, what’s your antidote for a Lemon Twigs implosion?

BRIAN: Well, space is important you know, creatively and physically. I think when we work with each other, we give each other a fair amount of respect and the fact that we write separately keeps it simple because anyone… you know, we can each make as many suggestions as we want, but if it’s our song, we have the final say. But, we totally want each other’s approval when it comes to our records, or if we’re even working on stuff that’s like a solo record, it’s important that we each think it’s good because we have that respect for each other. So, that’s the secret code.

HAPPY: If you had an Adam and Eve of musical influence, it doesn’t have to be a man and a woman, who would they be?

BRIAN: I mean, Brian Wilson, definitely. Maybe either Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen? Probably more likely Leonard Cohen and just those two writers I’ve just, like many people, just go back to constantly.

HAPPY: Cool, and you feel like you always revisit that when you’re looking for inspiration or a starting point?

BRIAN: Well, they’re just people who are held up as geniuses of song. I would say I love the melody and lyrics for both, you know, it’s the marriage.

HAPPY: Awesome answer. I noticed that you’re also an actor, I read you played Flounder in a theatrical production of The Little Mermaid on Broadway. Do you feel that you bring the theatre to your musical projects?

BRIAN: It’s sort of the monocular of that musical style, not with The Little Mermaid, but more like Rodgers and Hammerstein and Sondheim musicals that we knew in our youth. I think that carries over into the songs. Yeah, other than that I’m sure our comfort on stage has something to do with our background in theatre. Totally.

the lemon twigs

HAPPY: It feels like, from watching your videos and watching your performances that you share the stage with your brother, you don’t take yourselves too seriously. In fact, you revel in self-parody that carries over as well into the video clip for The One.

BRIAN: Well, definitely not self-parody because honestly, when it comes to videos, what I realised after that video anytime we’re in front of the camera, we feel the need to perform. There’re videos that we’ve done since then that we hadn’t felt needed as much. Just knowing that everything around us is right, it’s more important than focusing on moving around a lot. So, that’s something that we’ve just figured out.

HAPPY: It’s an impulse to perform once the camera is upon you, but finding the power of stillness must take time. Can you tell me about the process of making that video, because it’s hilarious? I particularly liked the way you’re really getting into it in the snow. 

BRIAN: Well, we were in Cincinnati, Ohio, and we decided to do that. Michael Hili, the director, was there on tour with his wife, who works in theatre. He found all these locations that looked great, there’s so many nice looking places in that town and because it’s very empty it’s great for filming. It was cold and I got this Uncle Sam outfit in a vintage store. We just kept going into the van that Michael painted, he’s very skilled with a background in production design. He was in a storage space for about eight hours breathing in these paint fumes, painting this van in the blistering cold. We had fun because he and the crew were great and up for the challenge.

HAPPY: You do really get a sense of that in the video. I think there’s a scene where you’re both sitting on a motel bed and you glance across at each other. You suddenly catch a glimpse into the relationship. In that moment, I wondered to myself, are those guys brothers? And then I looked online and confirmed you were. 

BRIAN: Familiarity, whatever that look was, it’s been done for years and years.

HAPPY: Yeah! And you guys have been doing this project for three years now?

BRIAN: I guess that’s when our first album came out, yeah.

HAPPY: What are your visions for the future? I mean this record’s just come out and you must be thinking about its conception and where it all began. Now it’s out in the public hemisphere and suddenly that mirror is upon you, you’re beginning to see this thing that came from inside, the way the world sees it, what’s that like?

BRIAN: With us, we may generally have the next project pretty much planned out because we always overwrite. We don’t really write for a particular record, we are just in a constant cycle of writing. So, this record was a bit of a reaction to the last record, creatively, because we wanted it to be very direct and to the point, upbeat and fun. The next thing I want to release as The Lemon Twigs, I want it to be delicate and beautiful. Because, we put out all this uptempo material and just kind of want to write something softer, beautiful.

The Lemon Twigs
Photo: Michael Hili

HAPPY: I hear that Elton John ballad-style influence on this record, is that where that might lead?

BRIAN: Well, not really that kind of thing, more of an acoustic nylon string sound to it. It’ll definitely be less produced and it won’t really have an RnB influence. Maybe more folky arrangements, but more classical chords or something along that line.

HAPPY: That sounds cool. This all takes place, I’m assuming, where you’re standing right now in your home studio?

BRIAN: Yeah, but I mean with this one, we kind of realised the merits of going into a place like Electric Lady for a few days, just to print all these reverbs onto things because these professional studios just have great equipment. I need everything to tie up. But the first time we mixed it digitally, which was helpful for when we were taking it to other places. 

HAPPY: Yes, of course. So, you print it to tape and then edit it in the box. That’s really cool. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me, Brian.

BRIAN: Yeah, make sure you have a great day.

HAPPY: Thanks and all the best with the release.

BRIAN: Thank you. Cheers, man. 

 

Songs For The General Public is available on all streaming platforms. Grab your copy here
Illustration by Kubi Vasak