The Lemon Twigs’ brand-new album, Do Hollywood, is new only to their listeners.
Brian D’Addario, the eldest of the two brothers and songwriting team that powers the four-piece, has been working in some capacity with of all these songs for the last two years. “I can’t wait for this cycle to be over a little bit,” he admits with a laugh from the basement of his parents’ Long Island home. “But I guess I should focus on this one since it just came out.”
Recorded under the direction of Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado and released in mid-October, Do Hollywood is the band’s proper, label-backed introduction to the world. That’s the sticking point for nineteen-year-old D’Addario: It’s out in the world – and no longer just in his head and on his computer. People are listening to it, writing about it, evaluating it, turning it on its ear and shaking out the influences – the majority of which are the pop greats of yesteryear. One listen conjures sonic images of the Beach Boys, Electric Light Orchestra, Wings, Todd Rundgren and the Beatles.
Despite D’Addario’s hesitance to evaluate his own work – “I’m too close to it to really have an accurate description of what it means” – the record can’t help but court revivalist accusations, dangling said influences from its silk shirtsleeve and waiting for a critic to bite.
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If one does, D’Addario is ready with a response. “I think they’re not really looking at the songwriting. They’re mainly focusing on the overall style, which isn’t really getting into the melody and the chords and the lyrics. That’s what a song is,” he says. “But it doesn’t matter. It’s not our job to appeal to them.”
He continually insists that Do Hollywood’s retro aesthetic wasn’t intended as a gimmick. The band didn’t make this record to attract and assuage the balding dads who try to feel hip by keeping up on new music that sounds like what they grew up with (see: Temples, Drugdealer or Tame Impala).
“We weren’t channeling anything other than what we legitimately felt was natural,” says D’Addario. It’s not too difficult to believe that a retro aesthetic came naturally to the brothers’ songwriting, either, given how their father is prominent ’70s producer-slash-rock guru Ronnie D’Addario. Even if his sons eventually came around to Radiohead, early exposure to Brian Wilson and John Lennon via their father left a significant mark.
As did growing up in a house full of instruments. Brian picked up guitar at seven but prefers to write on piano. He’s also proficient on horns, strings and drums. His brother, Michael, waited until thirteen to learn guitar and drums, followed shortly thereafter by keys and bass. When it came to writing the Lemon Twigs’ debut together, they pulled from all their talents, instruments and inspirations. “Do Hollywood is everything we could summon, smashed into ten songs,” says D’Addario.
The smorgasbord wants for neither musicianship nor distinct fashion sense. Do Hollywood’s cover features Brian in a bright-red blazer and dark skinny jeans, mean-mugging beside a freeway entrance. To his left, Michael sports leather pants and a baby-pink silk shirt. The music videos are a flurry of dark lipstick, purple pants and theatrical Barry Lyndon-esque costumes, culminating in a full-blown retrofuturist-by-way-of-Broadway aesthetic. And according to D’Addario, their look is under constant revision as they take in new and occasionally disparate inspirations.
“There was a period where Michael was dressing like Ice Cube because he saw Straight Outta Compton,” D’Addario recalls. “And then there was a period where he was really into Stone Cold Steve Austin, so he dressed like Stone Cold and would run in the room and start beating me up.”
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Despite his younger brother’s forays into wrestling at his expense, Brian is happily anticipating working on the next record at home with Michael, using their parents' basement as a studio. He describes the forthcoming record like it’s already finished in his head: a concept album, one part rock opera, one part Broadway musical. They’re ditching the buffet approach they took for Do Hollywood for something more pointed and, quite frankly, better-sounding than their debut. “We’re trying to zero in on certain aspects of our sound,” he says. “It’ll be more concise, and the songs will be a little strong next time around.”
But there’s one thing standing of the way of their home-based ambitions. Their parents’ basement is filled with exactly the kind of things you would expect to find in the basement of a family home, meaning it’s far from studio-ready. “I’m just looking at all the crap I’m going to have to throw away to fit a freaking tape machine down here,” Brian groans.
To be fair, no one ever said homecomings were glamorous. And despite their affinity for glam rock, the D’Addario brothers will be happy to trade glamorous for musically inspiring.
The Lemon Twigs perform with Sunflower Bean and Palo Alto at Larimer Lounge on Saturday, November 5, 303-291-1007.