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The Lemon Twigs: "We Have This Philosophy of Creating the Best Recording of a Song That You Possibly Could"

Following the release of last year's triumphant comeback Everything Harmony, The Lemon Twigs return with their fifth studio album, A Dream Is All We Know. Fusing tightly constructed harmonies and jangly Byrdsian guitars with sophisticated orchestration and analog precision, brothers Brian and Michael D'Addario embrace the golden era of '60s pop bands, covering a kaleidoscope of styles that echo everything from The Beach Boys to Dwight Twilley Band across the new album. To celebrate the new release, I caught up with Michael to talk all things regarding how it all came together, other musical endeavors, and the group's journey from wide-eyed teenagers to pop stardom.

Photo by Stephanie Pia

Paperface Zine: When I was doing research regarding an interview with Kristian Hoffman, I found an old photo of you holding a promo poster of The Mumps' Rock & Roll This, Rock & Roll That EP. How did you acquire that? 

Michael D'Addario: One of our dad's best friends is Paul Rutner, who drummed on all those records, so that's how we acquired that and some other Mumps memorabilia. 

PZ: What gear did you recently acquire from Cynthia Ross of The 'B' Girls?

MD: It's her old Traynor bass amp head. We've been using it on the road. I met her through Reza [Matin] in Toronto and we're all friends now. We see her whenever she visits New York. 

PZ: Let's dive right into this new LP you have coming out on Captured Tracks titled A Dream Is All We Know. What can you tell readers about it?

MD: It's kind of like a Beach Boys record where some of the songs are older and we just took the tapes and revamped them. So whatever was left from a while ago that we were still excited about, we stuck on there with new mixes in our Brooklyn studio.

PZ: There's quite a Beach Boys charm to these new songs, especially with "They Don't Know How To Fall In Place" and "In The Eyes Of The Girl."

MD: Yeah I'd say our approach to music has always been pretty in line with them, at least for the last couple of records. The throughline with The Beach Boys' work, other than their harmonies, has always been with the production where everything is just tight and produced to the best. 

PZ: How did these new songs progress from their initial demos? Were there any that turned out entirely different than you had expected while experimenting with ideas? 

MD: We actually never intend for something to be a demo. We'll start recording something from the ground up and the demo would just be something on the phone with just a piano or a guitar. Once you start doing instruments, the intention is for it to be the final recording and then if that gets fucked up or goes south, then we probably aren't going to see it through and finish it. 

PZ: What was it like working with Sean Ono Lennon on the song "In The Eyes Of The Girl"? 

MD: That one is all over the place, but it was all mixed at home. You see, everything is done on tape, so we just take the tape and put it up on our analog tape machine and put it through the console, which really helps with connecting the sound of each song. But anyway, that was just done at Sean's upstate New York studio. He had invited us a long time ago when we first met him six or seven years ago to come up and record. We never took him up on it, but then we reconnected for something we were working on with our dad. The whole experience was really cool! He has a lot of equipment that was fun to mess around with like this Ampex 16-track recorder.

PZ: What are the origins of this flexi-disc bonus track "Gifts"?

MD: This was another one we did with Sean. It just didn't seem to fit with the other songs, so we felt we'd release it as a bonus flexi-disc with the LP. 

PZ: Which song from the record means the most to you (and why)?

MD: I like "My Golden Years" probably the most. It's a straight-ahead pop song and it works both with just an acoustic guitar or with the whole fleshed-out production. It's also really fun to play with the band. I also really enjoy Brian's song "Sweet Vibration."

PZ: What was it like playing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earlier in the year? 

MD: It was cool, but also pretty nerve-wracking. Everybody was really nervous, and I'm usually the one who's really nervous, but I had prepared so much ahead [laughs]. I over prepared by making sure I didn't drink for a few weeks before. I also took vocal rests because I'm always really nervous about my voice. And then I had set out what I was going to wear for quite a while, so I wasn't freaking out about anything other than just being able to play the song onstage. 

PZ: What has it been like having Danny Ayala and Reza Matin in the fold when performing these songs live as a full-fledged band now? 

MD: When we started out with Danny and Megan [Zeankowski], our old bassist, Brian and I were switching on drums. Now with Reza behind the kit, we don't really do that except sometimes, and it feels more like a band and it's just really fun to play together. 

PZ: What else can fans expect from the new album? 

MD: We intended to make a more bubblegum pop sounding record, like something you would've heard from 1968. I think a lot of people think we were going for a more '70s AM radio sort of thing because of the production values and maybe our clothing, but it's all derived from British Invasion bands and The Beach Boys really. 

PZ: How would you say your songwriting or recording techniques developed over the years? 

MD: Well, I'd say Brian always had it together, while I was always experimenting, but we have this philosophy of creating the best recording of a song that you possibly could. There have been times in the past where I think it was more about capturing a performance that you could do once. There's certain recordings of ours that's kind of like a Stones mode like when Mick Jagger could only do that vocal take once because improvising and I was interested in that at a certain point. But now I've been much more interested in creating the ultimate recording of a song. Obviously, in certain people's case, the ultimate recording is capturing a performance. But for the type of songwriting we do, the best thing to do is to craft a recording and really work hard on getting it tight and perfect. 

PZ: The music videos for this record in particular have been very enjoyable, especially the one Ambar Navarro directed for "They Don't Know How To Fall In Place."

MD: It's hard to get it together when it's just us doing the videos, so we had Ambar put that one together because we trust her and all we have to do is show up [laughs]. Sometimes we got to do it ourselves because there's not enough money to just hire a bunch of people to direct them all. Last year, we did the ones for "Corner Of My Eye" and "In My Head" and for the new album, we directed the ones to "A Dream Is All I Know" and "How Can I Love Her More?" which were pretty fun to put together. 

PZ: Looking back on last year's album, Everything Harmony, what stands out to you the most of that recording when hearing it now? 

MD: I think the tones are good and the harmonies are really tight. I also really like how the strings and horns came out on that album. Out of my songs, I still really like "I Don't Belong To Me," but I like a lot of Brian's songs. It's a little bit down, but I think that's just because we weren't playing out because of the pandemic.

PZ: I feel like there's been a whole new generation of fans introduced to your father's [Ronnie D'Addario] music especially his albums Take in a Show and Falling for Love. Do you have a favorite of his? 

MD: It'd have to be Take in a Show. That was the first one where I really understood how talented he was and saw him as more than just my dad. I always knew he was a good musician, but I didn't really appreciate the full extent of his songwriting and production capabilities. At the time I got into these records, they weren't considered albums, they were retrospective collections. And they do have sonic similarities so "collection" makes more sense. Like the Good For You collection is when he's using drum drops, then Falling For Love, is when he went into a studio and recorded all these songs with real drums, and Taking In A Show was when he recorded all the drums with a microphone on his four-track in his friend's bedroom. I love them all and it's great to see him still recording. 

PZ: What is it like performing as The Michael D'Addario Trio rather than The Lemon Twigs for these smaller shows you sometimes play? 

MD: I like it because the kind of guitar playing that I do comes off better I think with just one guitar. When it's me and Brian playing, I pretty much just do rhythm and that works really well, because he plays these elongated, kind of fancy chords on the guitar, but with me I play a lot of two notes at the same time. I pull a lot from Alex Chilton and with this set up as a trio, it allows me a lot of space. The last one of these shows was back in November at TV Eye when the Uni Boys came through on their tour. It was stressful because I had to get all these songs together pretty last minute. I was going to do a lot more covers, but with the short period of time, it was easier to just make up arrangements to my own songs. I think I did do three covers though. 

PZ: Are these songs you perform with the trio planned to be their own thing or future Twigs songs? 

MD: I mean, none of our songs have ever been ones we work on with the other one until the last part of it anyway. So they were my songs, but whether or not they'll be for a solo project or for The Lemon Twigs, I don't really know. It depends on how long it takes to get another album out, how long it takes to record another album, and what makes a cut. I do think all of the songs that we played were worth at least recording anyway. 

PZ: Aside from the record release, what else is on the horizon for you guys this year? Possibly another live performance with Foxygen like you and Brian did back in December? 

MD: That was just a one-off thing they wanted to do. I mean, if they wanted to record then it should just be the two of them because that's what feels most like Foxygen to me. I'd be happy to back them up again live though since we all get along and me and Brian are pretty deferential to them since I've known Rado since I was like 14 when he produced our debut LP Do Hollywood. In regards to other things this year, we'll be playing a lot of shows around the USA and Europe this summer and fall. Hopefully we can record before then so that there's something else to put out. I mean, there's a lot of material that's collected from the years and stuff that we'd like to get out but it's a matter of finishing it. It gets kind of complicated with all the analog stuff.

A Dream Is All We Know is out now on Captured Tracks.


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