LEWIS DEL MAR (loo-is del mahr)
Sitting in the driver’s seat of their rent-a-van/ temporary tour vehicle, I’m facing Max Harwood and Danny Miller of Lewis Del Mar -Cash Cab style- with my back against the wheel and the interview questions in my lap. In the back seat Danny and Max are deep in discussion over one of life’s most controversial questions; what is the most money that has ever been won in Cash Cab? Enter Siri, my third interviewee, who asks for “just a moment please” before getting back to them with an answer (it’s $4,200 if you were wondering).
Meet Lewis Del Mar, the alternative and experimental duo out of Brooklyn, whose single Loud(y) suddenly grabbed the attention of all the major record labels shortly after they released it online on January 15th. From there, Lewis Del Mar’s rise to popularity was fast and furious. Since the release of their EP, which features only four songs, the duo has collected thousands of fans, gone on tour, and sparked the interest of the greater music industry. And it’s easy to see why; their mix of media samples, acoustic guitar, and Latin American inspired intricate percussion creates a sound that is both innovative and easily enjoyed. If you haven’t taken a listen to their EP, do it and thank me later. And if you have, get excited because they promised to have new material out by 2017.
Are you game of thrones fans and if so…
No. I was kinda excited that this was your first question because I was like this is going to be an easy one word answer.
Here’s the thing though, everytime I start watching a show like that I get really sucked into it and it like takes over my life for a bit. And when I come out of it I’m like wtf just happened?
You can’t binge watch GOT. You have to take time to digest it. It’s very intense.
No see but I would. I’m just like that.
I feel like i’m too late on it. Also I like hate dragons and stuff.
How did you guys meet and develop this musical partnership?
You know what, I feel like this is going to be more fun for you if you just think of questions to ask us.
Ok ok I’ll give you a little bit of background. Max and I met when we were nine years old. We have known each other for most of our lives, and made music together for most of our lives so we have been in lots of groups together. Pretty much every band I’ve ever played in, Max has been the drummer for. We moved to New York City about three years ago and started this project. It was sort of like a new period of time for us; we had just left a group that was touring around the country and doing shit the hard way and sleeping on our friend’s couches. We were working really hard but not working very smart. We were really looking to start over.
What do you mean “not working very smart”?
I think we put a lot of energy into touring and playing shows without thinking about the quality of the recording and really just what we are trying to say through our music.
What are you trying to say through your music?
It’s just a combination of influences… I was thinking about this today actually. The three fundamental influences for this record are New York City, rockaway and the beach slash the ocean, and then Latin America. Whereas in the last band it was just like “play music”.
I think it’s more just that the last group was just like straight out of the fuckin garage, and there was nothing wrong with that. There was like a good energy to it and we were figuring so much out on our own. We were completely independent. But I think what really started it, and it seems so trite to say this now, but nowadays music is just discovered on the internet and it’s based around recorded music. That was something that our other group wasn’t prioritizing. When you really get back to the fundamentals about how to make a great record and a great song, it involves a lot more depth and an understanding of yourself to pull those elements out and make them into real art.
A lot of your songs have mixed media and unusual sounds- do you sample these sounds or do you tend to create them?
It’s a combination of different things. Some of them are our sampled sounds and some are sampled from vinyl like from records; just little percussion sounds. On the other hand, some are sampled from around New York City using just like an iPhone recording.
Can you think of an example of one of those?
Yeah! The preacher in Malt Liquor. That was just a guy who was outside the subway station in New York near where we live! (can I include a sound bite?)
You know what’s even a crazier story about that; when we were making that song I was like I wish I had a sample of that. I knew the guy because he always stands there and has this huge cross and says a bunch of stuff and I was like we need a sample of that guy. It turns out that Max had randomly just recorded that sample on his phone a few weeks before. Totally on the same wavelength.
From start to finish how would you describe your creative process when writing and then producing a song?
Sure! There is a general formula but it varies a lot- especially for the album that we are about to put out. Generally it starts with me demoing a song on my laptop, I bring it to Max and the two of us sort of flush it out. Max builds the production around it, and then we decide on the core identity of the song together. After putting all the pieces in place we go into our friend’s studio and he helps us mix it and put the finishing touches on it. Then it gets mastered and sold to the masses.
Is the thematic acoustic guitar in your first EP going to continue in the next one?
Yeah absolutely! Acoustic guitar is very fundamental to our sound.
It is absolutely.
You guys have been touring for a while now, do you have a favorite memory from the tour so far?
Uhhm we haven’t been touring that long with LDM. Oh! Ok so we played two sold out shows in London. After the second night we went to this club called XOYO. Wait this isn’t even like a good story! Literally our whole fucking team just went sideways in that place. I was like crowd surfing in the fucking club…
There was good part to this story! You also met that girl who ended up inviting us to XOYO again the very next night and we tried to play it off like we hadn’t just been there the night before. And then on top of that I put my jacket behind the DJ booth because the girl knew the DJ and was like it’s totally fine. Sure enough the night ends, DJ leaves, and all the shits gone.
And we end up driving around London for like two hours taking cabs because we are like loosely in touch with him and he’s like yeah I do have the jacket but I’m going to this other party to DJ there.
Are you opposed to coat check or..?
No, that’s the thing! I was going to do coat check but this girl insisted that it would be fine because she knew the DJ. She said she had the ‘hookup”.
We have some other good stories! But we don’t have any crazy stories from Lewis Del Mar. We have been fortunate enough that there haven’t been any shit-storms yet.
You guys got popular pretty quickly- were you surprised by the scale of the reaction to your music?
Yeah! One-hundred percent. Max and I had made all of these recordings in our bedroom. There was an element of it where we really felt like it was just a stepping stone towards making recordings that we were really going to release. I just think that you can never really prepare yourself for something like that. Max and I had been working our entire lives towards doing what we are doing now. To take such a leap from where we were and from restarting… Max and I were literally busting tables and working shit jobs in New York and were like losing our minds. I think that to have what happened happen so quickly and to have such good people around us is the most humbling and amazing thing.
Yeah. It came as a complete surprise.
Could you pinpoint a struggle that maybe made your rise to popularity take longer than it could have otherwise?
Like we said, we’ve known each other since we were nine years old and have been playing together in bands since we were like twelve or thirteen, so while this particular project has moved fairly quickly…we’ve been trying to make music for like fifteen years.
I really don’t think you can ever think about things like that. Let me put it this way… I could tell you that we could have done all of the conceptual coming of age that happened in our time in New York slightly before that, but people just get there when they get there. It’s not like it could have ever happened sooner. Like earlier when you were asking us to explain our creative process…that was something that took us a really long time to arrive at. Along with the idea of thinking conceptually about music, and thematically posing limitations on yourself, and the idea of making this music that only Max and I could make as two best friends who have known each other our whole lives. That’s the kind of stuff that you just kind of arrive at in time. I don’t for a second wish that we had done anything differently, because the experiences we have had in these other groups are also what are allowing us to succeed on this level.
I also think there was a lot of discovering what we didn’t want to do by doing those other projects. The last band we were in was a rock band, and we were sort of like Lewis Del Mar is not going to be rock and roll. We are going to do something different and like use the acoustic guitar and the samples and the sounds…
Would you call yourselves alternative if you had to define your own genre?
I mean I don’t think it’s even about placing yourself. I think we like to be sort of this fluid musical entity that in some ways operates almost like a machine.
In the beginning we would say that we aren’t even a band. We are just a music making entity.
And I think what we strive to be -and hopefully we will have time to develop as the project moves forward- is to be like a creative and cultural entity that has its hands in a lot of different mediums. I think for us it’s really important… as a band we conceptualize our music in a lot of different ways, so we want to make sure that we are hands-on as we begin to establish and fill out the brand.
How would you guys describe each other’s role in the duo?
I would describe Dan’s role as songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist. Dan is extremely detail oriented. I feel like I do a lot of broad strokes and then Dan is very good at like focusing in on the little details, whether it’s a song or just anything else that we do as a band; even if it’s like a show poster or something. He’s very focused on the details so I think that that’s cool.
I totally agree. I think that Max looks at things very big picture, specifically creatively and songwise. I think that he always wants to make sure that the sum of the parts is adding into something very tangible and something that’s digestible. I think the thesis of what our music is all about and what we are all about is just about giving back, which seems weird because we aren’t a band that’s like out there doing service. My mom works in international public health so I was brought up in a culture of helping the people around you, the community, and the global community. I think what I realized when I got down to thinking about how I wanted to spend my time, is that I want to give back. I realized the best thing I have to offer, and that we have to offer, is our skills as musicians. You don’t really have to look further than the 80,000 people going to music festivals in the summer to see that music can bring people together and that it can be the center of a culture. I think that we strive to make music that is digestible and relatable and palpable because we want it to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. We aren’t part of the way of thinking that our music needs to be preserved and protected so much that people can’t even enjoy it. I mean obviously you want creativity with control.
So if you went top one-hundred like tomorrow you would be about it?
We don’t release anything that we are not one-hundred percent proud of, and we never make music with that intention [of getting big]. I think we try to push ourselves musically and production-wise but it’s never weird for the sake of being weird.
We want to write songs, and we want it to be music that can hopefully transcend and soundtrack people’s lives because that would be our contribution to the world. That’s sort of what we are striving to do. We would never release something just because we thought it was going to be popular.
In a lot of your imaging there is a red and gold line- is that symbolic of something?
It’s a combination of things. On the one hand it’s the idea of combining two different mediums the same way we do our music. So the same way that we have these weird sounds combined with traditional musical instruments we have the photograph which is a more industrial reproduction of an image combined with the paint which is a more natural element. And then also there’s the two stripes which represent two people coming together as one.
**Ensue hand gestures**