Those poor Lemon Twigs. There they were, ready to bring out a new album, with a release date of 1st May and a bunch of shows booked across North America. And then, 2020 happened.
Being under lockdown has had its advantages; due to ‘Songs For The General Public’ being pushed back several months, the brothers remastered it, and re-recorded ‘Fight’, although both versions were released on Apple Music. “That wasn’t supposed to happen but someone I guess screwed up somewhere”, Brian D’Addario told Noise11.com.
“There’s a lot more stuff (up our sleeve), more than we’ve ever had. Yeah there’s like three records where it’s totally written, probably half recorded, all the basic instrumentation, just not lots of overdubs on it. And I think I have a solo album that’s written, and have a couple of tracks done, and Michael has a whole solo album that he’s finished. And then two sort of Lemon Twigs albums”.
That’s good news for fans of these talented and prolific guys. Their brand of splendid pop, with a nod to artists of yesteryear, (when songwriting was an actual craft, not something pumped out in minutes by several guys in a room, writing for numerous starlets at a time), will charm you with their delightful melodies and grab you with those glorious sibling harmonies.
Songs like ‘The One’, which is possibly the second catchiest thing that’s been going round this year.
‘Live In Favor Of Tomorrow’ is a three and a half minute wondrous workout.
Along with ‘No One Holds You (Closer Than The One You Haven’t Met)’, it wouldn’t have been out of place on an old Todd Rundgren album.
Their love for The Beach Boys shows up on the pretty and sentimental ‘Why Do Lovers Own Each Other?’, while ‘Hog’ is a haunting piece with its dark lyrics,
“You once were an angel
Full of glitter, now of shit
My hate knows no bounds
And all I can think of
Are ways I would kill you
If you were closer to me”
“I think I asked him about it too at some point because of that middle section. I thought it was somehow related to gentrification or something, “They’re murdering my island, they’re murdering my charm”. But I don’t know, he never wants to talk about that sort of thing. I think in that case he kind of just lets it all flow out. He doesn’t really know where it comes from. It’s not really one thing or another. I think it’s supposed to just be as you take it”.
It’s been a reflective period for everyone. You’ve been working flat out since before the first album. Have you had time to sit up and think about how much you’ve achieved or how much you still want to achieve?
“It’s definitely put it into perspective a little bit. The amount of time that we spent on the road and to not have that at this moment, it’s been nice in a way, which I feel hesitant in saying, but it’s been nice in a way because just being able to spend more time with our loved ones. And just record whenever we feel like it you know, that part of it’s been good and just taking a lot more time working on songs. Particularly, the lyrics to songs.
“And watching a lot more movies and taking in a lot more art.
“Me and Mike watched all the Cassavetes movies, that was a big eye opener for us. A lot of Robert Altman stuff. Just trying to catch up a little bit. And then Curb (Your Enthusiasm) when we can’t think of anything else”.
A common adjective in Twigs reviews is “ambitious”. Do you think that’s a compliment or an insult?
“I like that. I like that a lot more than ‘just ‘70s’. Yeah, ambitious is good. It always annoys me a little bit whenever I see ‘You just wonder what they’ll do next?” when I’ve finished something. Well what about this thing that we did? But I get what people mean. It’s nice to hear ‘ambition’. I think it just says that at the very least we’re trying to do something that no one else is doing”.
Incidentally, Brian and Michael played and arranged almost everything on this album, co-producing it too, along with friend and mentor, Jonathan Rado (Foxygen). Ambitious, much?
Was Michael deliberately channelling Mick and Lou and Bob (on opening track Hell On Wheels) or is it something you tried as a laugh and it stuck?
“Yeah, he kept saying after he did it, that he wanted to do a straighter version. That was sort of a rare time when I – coz I’m usually erring on the side of ‘you should try it a little straighter’ – but I really loved that vocal. It was kind of in the spirit of the imitators I think more than actually an actual imitation if that makes any sense. There’s a period when everybody was doing that ‘faux thing’, that faux Jagger, that faux Dylan thing. But it just felt right. I really love that part of the song”.
Who came up with the album title and was it a working title you kept or is there a story behind it? It feels like you were maybe taking the piss or twisting something a label may have told you.
“Whenever I would write a new song or do a demo or something I would always put that as the title. So I kind of took it seriously, I think, though it was just so easy and natural. It was the thing that we were telling the label. Around the time when we did our second record (and) we were about to release that, “oh the next one’s going to be the straightforward pop songs, songs for the general public” so it did have that kind of origin, you know?”
There’s a perception in some circles that you’re totally retro. What’s the newest music you’re inspired by?
“I don’t know. That’s kind of tough. Well Michael loves a lot of trap stuff and he’s been listening to Gucci Mane. The newer stuff that I listen to – I love all the Ariel Pink stuff, I love all the Kanye stuff”.
The final track on the album is ‘Ashamed’. Lyrics to the second verse go,
“When a little brother and sister make it with each other
And the family lose their minds, well
Don’t you think they have no right?
Because Little Tom and Jane wanna do something
They only have this one life
So they make it with each other
Just to make it through the night”
A touchy subject matter.
“Probably the latest song, definitely the latest song written about incest. Well that was Michael’s song. I don’t really know what inspired it? He said he wrote it really quickly. I know that I heard the first section before the two parts of the song were both written and recorded separately. The first part was written and recorded at my house. I think I was in LA and Michael was here in New York and he sent me it and I was really blown away by it. I dunno, I think it just came to him really quickly. I don’t know what inspired the actual subject matter. I don’t think he really knows either.
Finally, and possibly the most important question, who’s your favourite Beatle?
“Oh, well I’ve been thinking about this a little bit. I think it’s George or Paul”.
Songs For The General Public out now.
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