Their band name beckons reaction — one of perplexity shortly followed by a snort — from those who are unaware, and unapologetically so, of their existence. But the fanbase for the Lemon Twigs, a revivalist psychedelic-rock group fronted by brothers Michael and Brian D’Addario, is snowballing.
They’ve received social media admiration from Elton John, secured a spot in Coachella’s 2017 lineup, and performed on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon — a sturdy list of accomplishments for the young Long Island natives.
Released this past August, the duo’s sophomore album, Go to School, is entirely unpredictable with its narrative focusing on a human-raised chimpanzee named Shane whose heart splinters by potential love. It could be a musical.
The first track on the hour-long record, “Never in My Arms, Always in My Heart,” opens with an intro of synchronized tamborine smashing and electric guitar strumming, set to a compulsive foot-tapping pulse. But the moment is fleeting, as just so suddenly, the song seamlessly transitions into a fast tempoed, ‘60s rock ballad that echoes the soft back vocals of uhhs and ahhs that are undoubtedly reminiscent of The Beach Boys, (a comparison the band often receives). It’s a song that sets precedent for the following, and unruly, 15 songs on the LP.
We sat down with 21-year-old Brian prior to the Lemon Twigs’ performance at Detroit’s El Club on Jan. 23, to learn about brotherhood, broadway, and their latest inspiration, the works of librettist Oscar Hammerstein II.
Hour Detroit: How did you get your start?
Brian D’Addario: In high school, we performed at a lot of bars with our band, Members Of The Press, which was a half cover band, half original band depending on where we played. But a lot of those early performances were at venues where the people that showed up were also the bands that were playing on the bill. Making music has always been the most important thing to us since we were very small. Nothing else really attracted us. We both made the decision to devote our lives to it when we were younger. Michael and I first thought of our band name when were 14 and 16.
What influenced you to approach Go To School as a musical-like album?
We grew up with our mom, who encouraged us to participate in musicals. She asked us when we were young if we wanted to do some community theater, which eventually led us to be in a few Broadway shows, like the Little Mermaid and Les Mis, when were 9 or 11. We’re really in that sort of culture when we were kids, so we’ve always had a soft spot for it. Over the past two years, we discovered classic musicals by Rodgers and Hammerstein, which inspired us to do what we did on this album.
For “Never in My Arms, Always in My Heart,” the lyrics chronicle a couple’s struggle to conceive, while in the comical “I Wanna Prove to You” music video, you win the love of Nick Roney’s grandparents, who directed the video. Even your own mom sings the part of Shane’s mother in the opera-like “Rock Dreams.” Why is family such a central theme to your work?
Well everybody’s got a family, you know? The projects that include our family members sometimes straddles what is considered to be appropriate. Certainly a lot of things that we have written about are informed by our lives up to this point, which has to do with where we grew up and how we were raised, everything like that. I have to give credit to Nick, who came up with the entire concept for the “I Wanna Prove To You” video. This recent transition from childhood to adulthood is stuff that is very fresh in our mind and continues to inspire us. Our dad, Ronnie D’Addario, taught us how to play the drums at 5, and guitar soon after, so really it comes full circle.
You are bandmates with your 19-year old brother, Michael D’Addario. Has your relationship with him changed since you began as the Lemon Twigs in 2014?
We respect each other as artists, more than we respect anybody else as artists. When it comes to deciding how a song should end, we share a similar mindset. Although, we have very different ideas of what’s good or bad when we’re in the process of recording. Once everything is finished, songs sang and albums produced, we both will look at the end result and sort of feel the same sentiment, whether or not were satisfied. I appreciate that we take different approaches to getting to the same place, it sort of evens it out a bit.
So, there’s some conflict in your creative process, which has been beneficial for the Lemon Twigs. Is it ever hard to work with one another?
Sure, but in other ways, it’s sort of easier. There’s nothing you can say that goes beyond the pale. You know, because you’ve said it all and you’ve heard it all. So if things sort of blow up, they don’t blow up for very long.
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