[INTERVIEW] Lewis Del Mar

The Lexington crowd are buzzing following a tour de force performance from NYC's latest buzz act, Lewis Del Mar. And being there to experience it first hand, it's no wonder there is so much hype about this duo, backed up by 3 other musicians on stage tonight. Vocalist/guitarist Danny Miller and drummer/percussionist/samples-dude Max Harwood have the sold out crowd in the palms of their hands all night. The new and unreleased tracks keep the attention with their engaging combination of sophistication and immediacy, whilst the ones that are out in the ether, and which this crowd knows (of which there are currently only four, making up the debut EP) delight. The highlight of the night being a rousing rendition of breakthrough single 'Loud (y)' which closes the set. The crowd's demands for 'one more song' are so vociferous that Max and Danny have to return to the stage on their own to explain that they literally don't have any more tunes to play, but that they are humbled by the respsonse they've received. And whilst the 'yeah you guys are a great crowd' spiel is so often delivered automatically by robo-frontmen, when these guys proclaim it it feels so genuine, and it is this authenticity both in their music and manner that marks LDM out as genuine world-beaters. Before experiencing the thrilling show, I had the chance to experience the two guys' engaging personalities as I sat down for a quick natter to chat about Taylor Swift, Scorsese's 'Vinyl', Chance the Rapper, art and knowledge amongst many other things- but first, their experience of the UK/Europe.

Lewis Del Mar @ The Lexington, photo cred Tom McGivan

Hey guys! So you’ve been here in the UK, and the rest of Europe, and obviously having played a lot in the US- do you notice any difference in how the crowds are between each area?

Danny: No, not so much - the folks in the Netherlands seemed to be quite reserved you know, but everyone has been super receptive in general. I mean, we’re from New York, so when we play there there’s a lot of really good energy. This is only the second time we’ve played here, and both shows have been sold out, and the first show was really crazy, so…

Max: Yeah, first show was awesome…

Danny: Yeah… we don’t have too much experience to make…

Max: Overarching judgements about European crowds just yet!

And I see you’ve got a bit of a festival run whilst you’re over here?

Danny: We’ve got lots in the US, but yeah, I guess we’re doing Dot to Dot, just been at The Great Escape… and yeah, Reading and Leeds in August!

How was The Great Escape? Did you get a chance to soak up the atmosphere whilst you were there?

Danny: It was great yeah, Brighton is so beautiful…

Max: Yeah, we had kind of one crazy night, a crash course in The Great Escape!

Did you catch anyone you really dug?

Danny: Yeah, we saw Tom Misch who was really cool, but not too much else unfortunately, we were only there for one day and staying in London so there was a bit of back and forth.

When you’re writing, creating and recording your music you’re just a duo, but when you play live it’s as a 5-piece- how does that affect how the songs come out? Do you notice any differences, or new life that the tracks take on when you perform them?

Danny: Yeah, absolutely…

Max: I think the live show has a different kind of energy, in a very cool way, it’s more alive!

Danny: It feels to me to be a little bit more rocky, and more distorted and heavy when we play it live, and we strive for sounds like that, that are gonna be more impactful and abrasive when you hear them. The record is, I wanna say, more listenable, like, you’re not getting rocked by the record- it has some nice texture to it, whereas live we want to step it up and keep the energy high.

Max: We also come from a background of playing live music, Dan and I grew up playing in rock bands. As much this (Lewis Del Mar) became slightly more of a studio project, for taking it live, we wanted to make sure it still had the vibe of a live band.

Who would be your fantasy act to go on tour with? Like, if you could support anyone live or dead who would it be?

Danny: I’m gonna say right now, there’s this record we’ve been listening to a lot, and we’ve been mixing the album in the same studio as them: Unknown Mortal Orchestra. And I’d love to tour with them- that may seem like a not so lofty answer, but they’re just an awesome band, the vibe is sort of similar, and they’re really good people, and I think that matters a lot. When you’re going to a bunch of new places, and meeting new people every night. BUT, if we were talking someone dead, I’d go for Otis Redding.

Max: I’ll go lofty! I’d say Duke Ellington, with like a full orchestra in a band situation..

Danny: That’d be rad…

Max: That’d be a kind of musical experience you don’t really get anymore, just this full big band with the brass and everything. His arrangements and everything are just so intricate, I think that would be an amazing experience.

Danny: I think living too, we’d love to open for Sleaford Mods in the UK

Max: Oh yes!

Danny: That’d be totally badass, we like those guys a lot.

Staying on the ‘fantasy’ theme, who, same terms (living and dead) would you like to collaborate with in the studio?

Danny: We saw this incredible picture of Wilco’s studio, so I think to go in there and be in the same environment would be really inspiring. So that’s living, and who would we choose for dead?

Max: J Dilla?

Danny: J Dilla yeah, that’d be awesome. Two people that had just really amazing creative spaces..

Max: And those two records would turn out so different, it’d be really cool.

That’s kind of what Lewis Del Mar sounds like right? If you took those two artist’s Lewis Del Mar might come out somewhere in the middle.

Max: Haha, yeah!

Danny: Those are two artists we’re really influenced by, both sonically and just in terms of what we like to listen to.

What new artists would you tip at the moment? What fresh stuff are you listening to?

Danny: Well, that Tom Misch shit is pretty dope! We put that on on the way home after The Great Escape when we’d just seen him. Those recordings are really smooth and clean, and patient. We talk a lot about patience with our own music, trying to build up to something which isn’t overly abrasive right off the bat.

Max: That band Whitney, they’re out of Chicago, they’re doing some really cool stuff, they’ve got a really nice vibe.

Danny: Who else.. I was talking about this the other actually, once you become a musician and spend your whole time touring, writing and recording etc. the way you discover a new act you want to tell everyone about changes, like I don’t feel I connect on a personal level so much anymore, if that makes sense. It’s not that I don’t listen to new music anymore, it’s just that I don’t champion it as much as I should?

Max: I feel that.

So, let's try something-I knew I was coming to get to know you in person, but I wanted to see if I could get to know you a bit beforehand- so I checked out your twitter….

(Nervous laughter form both)

Danny: Oh! So this is like a separate part of the interview…. we need to be drunk for this.

Right,  so I thought I'd pick a few interesting ones out and see if you can explain beyond the 140 characters your feeling behind them! Here's one: 

What is it about homogenous synth-pop bands that offends you?

Max: The homogeny!

That’s fair.

Danny: To me, this stems from a much more fundamental issue I have with the recycling of decades of culture, which is something we talk about. Like, the 80s has really had huge moment over the last couple of years, and I think there’s a lot of bands that came into borrowing elements of that sound. What I was surprised by was that it reached all the way up to people like Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen that made 80s throw back records. Which is neither here nor there, but I just think it’s time for the trend to move on- in my time as a music listener is seems like the one thing that the most people have band-wagoned on to, and I find it frustrating when you find an artist with a sound you really respect put out an album that seems so clearly borrowing from a trend that everybody else is borrowing from. So I think that tweet stemmed from someone showing me a new band the other day, and I couldn’t believe people were still using this sound for their music.

Okay, so, another more positive one

Was there something in particular that inspired you to write that? Or something you’ve learned recently?

Max: Well it’s funny, because on this tour we recently had three days off, which became this weird thing in the context of the tour, and I suddenly found I had free time to read. Dan and I studied literature in school and so I used to read all the time, but with recording and stuff it’s all got so busy, then we were just hanging out in this Air BnB and I started to read again, this book by (Haruki) Murakami and it really opened my brain to like “Fuck! There’s so much out there”

Danny: I think it’s also because when you’re working creatively, you go through phases with it, in making something you need to feed your creativity and Max and I have always used literature as inspiration for our music, like novels and books we share with each other. And so for us personally, we need to read and be taking in to output- but now we’re in this phase where we’re just fine-tuning the album and everything seems to be getting finished and we're doing shows and stuff so there’s very little downtime, so you go through phases of reading heavily and like not at all. Also, this is our first tour and it’s just an incredibly broad experience with new layers and meanings to understand ourselves through and understand other people around you through. So you are very firmly reminded of the fact it is a very big world.

Max: (to Danny) I was about to ask you what museum we went to the other day in Amsterdam but you weren’t there… the Rijksmuseum! That was it, and that was something else that spurred the comment, just being exposed to new art again.

I get you. Another one was:

Danny: Well, Max and I are very invested in the state of the music industry and current music economy, for obvious reasons- we’re musicians! So part of it is economic, and we want fair compensation for musicians, but a bigger part of it is philosophically about how people consume music. And I think for us, when we talk about streaming- if it became ubiquitous that people listened on streaming platforms, not only would the artist get fair compensation but the artistic value would be reinstated which has been lost over time. So I think where that tweet came from, without getting too much into specifics, as we love Chance and respect his art, and the album, it just seemed this platform and precedent he’d set for himself over a long period of time was gone, and not only in a small way. To be clear I would have no bone to pick if it had just been out on streaming platforms and available to purchase, but it went from this idea of being really universally accessible to really remotely accessible. Which to me seemed like the complete opposite of what he stood for. To us overall the biggest thing about art, and why we started this project, is that we really wish that art in all its different forms would be more specific. At times it feels very ambiguous and a lot of where we put our effort is into choosing one thing, and if people don’t like that ‘one thing’ at least it’s very clear what we’re doing. So we’re still trying to figure that out personally.

Max: Yeah (his message is) like all about music and peoples access to it, then he’s totally restricting everyones access to it, and even beyond that what’s even stranger is that people are still applauding him for being like this champion of free music, but it’s just the opposite and it’s hard to get. And anyway, I never really got the whole free music thing, if you’re making art that’s valuable it’s okay to sell it!

Danny: And it’s like 10 years ago, or maybe more, I guess 20 years ago, if people liked music they’d buy the albums, as that’s the only way you could hear it, either that or on the radio. And things change I know, but now you’ve got like Taylor Swift coming out campaigning saying that Apple Music have to pay artists for the free trial months. And it’s weird, because Taylor Swift has her music and we like some bits and don’t like some bits, but Chance we LOVE, but actually we agree more with Taylor on that matter and how Chance handled this issue seems weird.…

Max: ..yeah weird, convoluted. The message is not very clear any more.

Danny: Many artists do this, Drake did it, but he doesn’t stand for that in the same way. Like, he’s a commodity in himself, he gets memed all the time etc. … whereas Chance stands for the opposite of that, but is making the same decisions.

Max: How can you align yourself with Apple and be like ‘I’m independent of the industry!’ Apple are like the biggest corporation in music, and the world…. 

Yeah, it was a bit of a bummer coming from him especially. So how about this:

Why does vinyl suck? And which shows don't suck?

Danny: With TV these days, because of its passage into the internet, it’s getting higher and higher in quality and more cinematic, and with names like Scorsese and Jagger on board I was really excited, and it was all shot in New York so we had a lot of friends that were extras in it, so it came out and I was excited to watch it. The pilot is the longest episode, it’s like almost 2 hours long, and the rest are about 1 hour, and I just couldn’t get behind that at all, but that’s more just personal preference. I really just felt like…

Max: It was cheesy!

Danny: Yeah, some really cheesy, dishonest moments, and so done before….

Max: Shows that don’t suck! Umm, that would be Louis…

Danny: Louis’s great.

Max: I feel a lot of people will know that by now, but that is a phenomenal show.

Danny: I love Girls too, I loved the second season of Girls that was just out

Max: That was really good, yeah

Danny: Yeah, very pointed humour

Is that how you guys wind down?

Danny: Uh, we usually read

Max: Yeah, we usually read, but if I just want to shut my brain down totally, I’ll still throw on a good episode of South Park and zone out completely.

So, just to round-off what have you got coming up next? What’s happening in the world of Lewis Del Mar?

Danny: We’ve got a bunch of really cool releases coming up that we’re planning, we’ve still got our album to come out, that’s coming out this Autumn. Lots of touring, lots of festivals in the summer, in the states and over here. And generally we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of momentum out of the gates, so just trying to find ways to keep that momentum up as we grow with the project. And something we talk about internally a lot is trying to become more ‘one thing’.

Aspirations wise, we just want to try and make this a career, we’re sort of still in the growing pains stage where people are hearing our music for the first time, so we want to get through that and be able to make more and more records.

Max: Yeah. We’re really proud of this record that we’ve got coming out, but we’re basically already thinking about what we’re going to do for the next one!

Danny: It’s been a humbling experience so far, and art, as a competition, is just you against yourself, so our aspirations career wise are neither here nor there, we just want to continue to make art that’s honest to the two us, and unique to the two of us, and if we can keep doing that, we’re so lucky, right?

Max: The idea of challenging ourselves is always relevant, and it’s certainly going to be relevant for for the next album, how can we take this in a new direction or push ourselves to build on what we created with the first album… haha, we’re talking about the second album when the first album isn’t even out yet!

So, the message is loud and clear for Lewis Del Mar- they're not going anywhere: they've got so much more to say and express, and there is an ever increasing fanbase out there to hear them say it. Keep a look out for one of the most hotly anticipated debut albums of 2016.

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