Catching up With The Lemon Twigs

Photo by Eva Chambers
WLUW had a conversation with Michael and Brian D’Addario, AKA The Lemon Twigs, at Sleeping Village during their two-night feature at the Chicago venue. We discuss the release of their fourth studio album, Everything Harmony, their songwriting process, Timothee Chalamet, and the Beatles.

Interview By Avalon Smith

Why did you choose Sleeping Village for two nights rather than, like, a bigger venue? Was there a purpose behind that?

Brian: I’m not exactly sure. You know, it’s like our booking agent usually sets up the shows and there’s a lot of places that we haven’t played like we hadn’t played here before. But we’re happy like, you know, checking out other places. 

So you guys are pretty regularly compared to the Beatles and the Beach Boys . How do you feel about that comparison? And do you have any other musical influences for the music you’ve been creating lately? 

Brian: I never mind that kind of stuff because it’s I mean, it is true, you know, we’re very influenced by them and they kind of created a whole genre within themselves. I don’t find it to be like pigeonholing yourself with comparisons to that because there’s obviously so many bands that sprout out of that genre, you know, it’s pretty. It’s like calling someone rock at this point.

So you guys grew up listening to the Beatles, right?

Brian: Like, totally. Yeah.

Do you have a favorite Beatles deep cut?

Brian: As far as a deep cut, I mean, I don’t know. There’s so many early songs like Hold Me Tight or something, you know, that you might be able to consider like a deep cut. 

Michael: Bad to Me.

Brian: Which is like a demo. Yeah. 

Michael: But, I mean like someone else did it. 

Brian: Yeah, it was given to Gerry and the Pacemakers and written by, I guess, John. So those first two ones, I guess you could consider deep cuts. 

So obviously, you guys are brothers, and I was reading that your dad is a songwriter. What is it like growing up in such a musical family and is that what started making you think of starting a band?

Brian: Yeah, I mean, it was cool for us because the music that my dad, in particular, played when we were kids resonated with us a lot. We started playing in a band configuration with him and the two of us, like right from the beginning, you know. 

Michael: Yeah, and you know, like a lot of harmony heavy music. And he had us doing harmonies together, you know, and him and my mom both with the finger on our ears and stuff and doing, you know, harmonies, scales and stuff like that.  

What does the songwriting process look like for you guys? I was watching a KEXP recording earlier this morning, and you guys were talking about how for your debut album, you wrote separately. Do you continue to write separately or has your process become more collaborative? 

Michael: Yeah, we do both. I mean, mostly, we kind of help finish things, but typically if somebody has an idea, they take it to the point they can take it to, and if they can’t finish it, we bring it to the other one or just let it go. It’s just a lot of ideas. You know, Brian’s pretty good about finishing stuff. It always feels like, well, if you have something that’s fully done, you should just do that. 

Brian: Michael usually says things like, “Should I go to this chord or should I go to this chord?” and he plays me both versions, and I say, “Oh, I think I like that one.”

Michael: Yeah, things of that nature. 

On that note, when you’re writing a song, do you usually start with a chord progression, a melody, or words?

Brian: Words and melody usually. But I mean, for me, there are usually some words that sprout up pretty quickly into writing a melody, and that’s usually the easiest way for me to start, is by thinking of a melody while I’m just mindlessly singing, you know? Usually some words will just sort of come out spontaneously, and then you kind of go, Oh, okay, I guess that’s how I’m thinking about this emotion or whatever. 

Your first two albums have had themes or concepts to them. Is there a specific concept you have in mind with this newest album and like what it’s about?

Michael: Not really. It’s kind of like pretty soft music, if there is an overarching concept. I mean, there are some upbeat songs, but they’re kind of recorded with softer and pleasing tones.

Is there a song you’re most excited to perform or has been the most fun to play so far? 

Brian: Well, this song “Ghosts Run Free” is like probably the poppiest song on the record, and it’s also the most upbeat. It always feels pretty effortless for us to play that. 

I think this is your fourth studio album. There might even be one before the actual debut, right? 

Brian: Yeah, there’s one kind of demo album. 

Can you talk about the evolution of your sound and songwriting over the past few albums and where you think it’s taking you? 

Brian: For us, it’s like the albums are kind of compilations. I feel like there was a song that started off the mood of a lot of the other songs, and that song is “Corner of My Eye,” and that track has been around since our second record pretty much. And so it’s always like a thing of like, I have this song from this time that might go with this song that I just wrote a couple weeks ago. It’s more like we have these whims that we kind of follow in the moment.

Michael: Yeah. You know, I think most bands would say that it’s like the whole thing of an album or, for us, at least, is following a whim through to the end. It’s hard to even have the attention span to do that unless you only have a few ideas. If you have a lot of ideas, it’s about picking one or two and trying to flesh them out, push the boundaries and it’s hard to have the focus for that, for me, at least.

I’ve watched a lot of your music videos and they’re super whimsical, and I really like the surrealist visuals. How do you come up with the concepts for the videos and how do they relate to the music?

Michael: I think sometimes a song lyric will spur on a certain image, and then we’ll just try to go with that. I mean, a lot of the time it’s kind of like, well, here they are by the water or here they are by… Where is the other? 

Brian: In a zoo. 

Michael: Here they are in a zoo. What’s the one that we just did? 

Brian: Beach? 

Michael: Well, that’s the water. Oh, here they are in the graveyard. 

Brian: We don’t take the videos that seriously. It’s more like, okay, how can we make it look good, pleasing. 

Michael: Without distracting from the song. We don’t want it to be a movie, at all. I don’t really like when people impress upon you a narrative or a movie while you’re just supposed to be listening to the song. 

Brian: It should just compliment the song. 

Michael: It’s almost like a picture. 

Brian: Yeah, it’s the same as an album cover or something.

I know you guys have done acting in the past. Do you want to continue doing that in the future at all? I know you guys are primarily musicians, but have you considered like, you know, if they made like a rock movie and you could play your favorite rock artists from the seventies? Like, would you consider doing that?

Brian: Yeah. 

Michael: I wouldn’t be opposed to that. Yeah, I think like really anything, not just that. Whatever. 

Whatever Chalamet is doing, I’m happy to try to jump in to understudy.

Brian: Yeah, if Timothee Chalamet needs an understudy. 

Michael: We’ll get a trench coat, and I’ll be on his shoulders.

Brian: I’m not as tall as him, you know. I might need some stilts. 

Michael: He’s not even very tall. 

Brian: He’s not? 

Michael: I don’t think so, but just the idea that we could even step in seems far-fetched. 

No, I think it’s definitely in reach for you guys. Did acting when you were younger help with performing in front of a crowd? Did it help with performance anxiety, if you’ve ever experienced that?

Michael: I think that maybe it did help with the idea that going on stage is second nature, the same way that the harmony thing helps. You know, we’re able to do more complex harmonies than a lot of people because the simple ones are so intuitive. I mean, they’re intuitive for a lot of people who didn’t have the same upbringing, but, particularly for us, you know, we don’t even think about it. But I do get anxiety when it comes to talking on stage and things like that. 

Brian: Not having a script. Not knowing exactly what you’re going to do.

Michael: That’s okay too. 

Brian: It’s cool to not exactly know what you’re going to do. 

Michael: I don’t think that has as much to do with the acting as much as just doing so many shows when we were kids. We did so many gigs. I mean, we were playing in bars when we were like, you know, nine and ten, doing whatever gig my dad was doing.

Brian: We would just go up and it would be like, Oh, here are the kids, you know? 

Michael: And we just watched him. You know, he’s very natural, always with the audience and talking. 

Is there anything you do for performance anxiety if you have it right before a show?

Michael: I think the best thing for that is just preparation. If you’re prepared enough, like if your voices open up and you know the material well,you don’t have anything to be afraid of. It’s a different story if your voice is gone or something like that, in which case

Brian: There’s nothing you could do.

Michael: Yeah, that’s when the real anxiety happens.

I know you’re obviously on tour right now, but do you have any upcoming for fans to look forward to, some records coming out, a music video you’re working on? 

Michael: We’re working on an album, but our album just came out May 5th, so it just came out the other day. But we’re working on getting another album out as soon as we can. It’s pretty much close to finished.

Brian: But we’re doing this tour for the next few weeks and going to Europe to do some touring there.

Michael: We should be back here probably in, like, September or October. 

Back in Chicago?

Michael: Yeah. 

I will definitely be there. Okay, final question. What is your favorite song you’ve been listening to lately?

Michael: For me, it’s probably “Penny in My Pocket,” The Mersey’s.

Brian:  I’m kind of drawing a blank. 

Michael: You and Rizz have been listening to Dumb Head all the time. 

Brian: Not Dumb Head, but, there’s this Jenny Moss song. It’s a Joe Meek production. I can’t remember the name of it. Oh, actually there’s a Joe Meek song, “Please Don’t Say Goodbye” that I’ve been listening to a lot. 

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