Written by Giliann Karon
The Lemon Twigs, comprised of brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario, are natural rock stars. Born into a family of actors and musicians, they learned to play music and sing from a very young age. In previous interviews, they’ve expressed there was no career option other than music. It shows in their interviews, where they effortlessly riffed off each other’s answers, and in their live performance, where they seamlessly transitioned between songs and banter.
In an era where more and more musicians rely on digital techniques to create entirely new sounds, The Lemon Twigs look backwards, borrowing sensibilities from Todd Rundgren, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and other artists they grew up listening to. They strike the skilful balance between pastiche and creating something entirely their own.
Their influences are taking note – they piped up when I asked about their collaboration with Paul Myers on the book he wrote for the 50th anniversary of Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, A True Star. The band wrote a short blurb and called the album one of the most sonically influential. After Rundgren’s appearance with the Lemon Twigs at Coachella 2017, the band has noticed an uptick in his fans who attend the Lemon Twigs shows.
Despite years of critical acclaim, they still don’t take themselves too seriously. Their glorious new album, Everything Harmony, was chaotically recorded in “one of the noisiest places I’ve ever been,” says Brian, as the pandemic hit. When I asked about the name, he responded “everything is with a wink and a nudge.” Their skills are so sharp, their sound so pastoral, it’s easy to miss the layer of irony underneath.
I sat down with them before their Washington, D.C. show to discuss drawing on the past while still looking ahead.
GILIANN KARON: What makes the music you’re inspired by so timeless?
BRIAN D’ADDARIO: They had the perfect amount of technology to record rock music well. From a songwriting perspective, it’s closer to the kind of influence that would create a great song – well-structured and clever chords. It’s closer to the kind of music we make, which is rocked-up melodic songs.
GK: How do you draw the line between paying homage to these bands and creating something entirely your own?
MICHAEL D’ADDARIO: We’re very critical if someone melodically rips off another song. We want all the melodies to be different.
B: When we’re writing a song, we can recognize when it’s starting to sound like something else. We’ll go “actually that sounds like this song” and we’ll change it. A lot of people will write a whole song, be copying something, and not even know it. Then they only realize it once they're already used to the song.
GK: Tell me about the name “Everything Harmony.”
M: “Endless Harmony” is a Beach Boys reference. And “Everything Harmony” just sounded like a name and I didn’t question it. It was just ringing to me. Same with the last three records.
GK: You were born in a very musical household and you’ve said in past interviews that being a musician was your only career option. Part of the band’s charm is how effortlessly you perform. You were always meant to be musicians, but were you always meant to play this specific style of music? Did you flirt with other genres first?
B: Throughout the time we’ve been in the band and somewhat in the public eye, we’ve done a lot of different things, but we’ve always seemed to get closer to what we listened to when we were kids.
M: Harmony-laden tracks with nice, melodic chords that we both like tend to be what we’re happiest with, rather than the stuff we experiment with from album to album.
GK: Who was your first concert?
B: We saw Little Richard and Chuck Berry.
M: Little Richard invited all the kids onstage and I played piano.
B: He crowned Michael the King of Rock and Roll. Put that into the record.
GK: How do you stay sane on the road?
M: Hanging with your bros.
B: Just being around people you like a lot and eating as much junk food as you possibly can.
M: Learning new songs also extends the life of the tour.
GK: When you say learning new songs, do you mean writing new material or learning other people’s songs?
M: We have a lot of material that isn’t recorded or was just recorded. We like learning those and learning covers based on what city we’re in. And then you learn it by the time you get to the next city and it’s no longer relevant.
GK: You should play something by Bad Brains or Minor Threat tonight.