The Lemon Twigs are one of the most curious bands to emerge in 2016. From Long Island, NY, the band are comprised of two teenaged brothers, Brian and Michael D'Addario, a couple of wunderkinds who demonstrate extraordinary musical chops. With their eccentrically throwback hair and wardrobe, the brothers might come across as a tad contrived, but as their debut album, Do Hollywood (out now on 4AD), demonstrates, these guys are simply committed to their craft.
Exclaim! recently spoke to both D'Addario brothers to find out what they're all about.
Six Things to Know About Teen Sensations the Lemon Twigs:
6. The Lemon Twigs began playing together when they were in elementary school.
Although they're still teenagers — Brian is 19 and Michael is only 17 — the two have been in bands for a decade.
"We formed our first band in elementary school, like third, fourth or fifth grade," Brian admits. "We did one for the talent shows, and then we got more serious with it. The band was called MOTP — Members of the Press — but some other band had that name already. It was mostly cover songs, but then we would write occasionally and throw those songs in."
They didn't form the Lemon Twigs until they were teenagers. "Michael was 14 and I was 16," Brian says. "Michael was doing these songs with this great production, and my songs were lacking that. Prior to hearing Michael's songs, I was very into doing my own thing and keeping it separate, but once I heard his songs, I thought I could use his help. That's when we started full-on collaborating."
5. They come from a musical family.
Their father Ronnie D'Addario was an accomplished songwriter, session musician and producer in the '70s and '80s. His love of the Beatles rubbed off on them when they could barely walk. But their mother taught them how to appreciate music.
"He was a pretty big influence, but so was my mom," Brian says. "She's a great singer and she encouraged us to do harmonies with each other early on. But my dad being a musician, he feels a song should be poppy, but also have some depth to it. Especially when it comes to putting the chords together with the melodies. It shouldn't be the first thing that you come up with. If you can really avoid using a simple chord progression, you should. That was something that he taught us, and we heard it in his music while we were growing up. We definitely looked up to him, and I'd say that my mom had an influence, because she's not jaded when it comes to music. Even though it's important to strive to make complicated music, you shouldn't think all other music is shitty. So from her we got a love for other types of music."
4. The D'Addario brothers were successful child actors.
Before the Lemon Twigs existed, both brothers were child actors. The elder Brian appeared on an episode of Law & Order and CSI: NY. Michael, however, experienced greater success, scoring substantial roles as Ethan Hawke's son in Sinister and Chris Pine's estranged nephew in People Like Us. The way they see it, acting prepared them for a career in music.
"From a performance aspect, we don't get that nervous going on stage, because we had to shed that early on if we wanted to remember our lines," Brian says. "You learn how to do a lot of stuff unconsciously and that prevents you from making mistakes. And that came from having to read the same lines every day."
They haven't shaken the acting bug either. "The Lemon Twigs is definitely a full-time project, but in the future we'd definitely like to get back into acting," Brian adds. "It'd be cool if there was a relationship between acting and what we do musically. There used to be a lot of rock'n'roll movies, and that'd be really cool to do something like that. Of course, it would be on a much smaller scale than the Beatles movies."
3. Their new album, Do Hollywood, is being called their debut, but it really isn't.
In 2014, the Lemon Twigs released a limited-edition cassette on Winspear called What We Know. There were only 100 copies made available, and the band were still trying to find their sound.
"What We Know is the music we thought we wanted to make, and Do Hollywood is the music we actually want to make," explains Brian. "We realized that pretty soon after doing What We Know that we missed the mark of being this psychedelic band we wanted to be, and that it wasn't really suited to us. It's been two years since we wrote the songs for Do Hollywood, and I can stand by them. I think it was important to realize that."
2. Do Hollywood was produced by Foxygen's Jonathan Rado.
All of the songs on Do Hollywood were written and arranged when they went into the studio with Rado, who most recently produced Whitney's Light Upon the Lake.
"You kinda get attached to your demos, but when we had the full record, I felt Rado had contributed to the overall sound," Brian says. "I was much happier with the finished versions. I would say he was more of a producer, because as far as the sounds on the record go, he was very responsible for those. Like the sound of the drums and guitars, and knowing what synths to use for each part. It was very important that we were comfortable and that his idea for the record was the same as ours. It was very easy to be comfortable and come up with ideas with him."
1. They both wrote the songs on Do Hollywood – but not together.
Brian and Michael both shared songwriting duties, but separately. In fact, the album is sequenced so that their songs alternate throughout, one after another.
"It's because we have big egos," Michael says. "Or we did have bigger egos at the time. We didn't want each other to sing on the other's songs. It was like we wanted to be in two different bands. But I like his songs as much as my own songs, so we felt it would be a better group if it was two songwriters instead of one."
Since they finished Do Hollywood, however, their songwriting process has changed. Now they collaborate. "Yeah, it was pretty soon after this album was done," Michael admits. "A lot of great songwriters write together. It's easier, but it can get too easy. Another person can be such a huge influence, so the only time we go to each other is if we literally come up with an idea at the same time, or we get to a place in a song where we're stuck. If I'm writing a song and I'm really flowing, I don't want anyone else's energy or input, because the truest songs are probably one person's vision. It's more like we originally didn't think it was a good idea, but now we do think it's a good idea. I think we were too proud. We now see what the benefits are."