New York - Max Hardwood and Danny Miller make up the experimental indie group Lewis Del Mar. A little over a year ago, the duo recorded and self-released its first single, “Loud(y),” from a two-room bungalow in Rockaway Beach, New York. While the “overnight success” story has commonly been debunked – there tends be a lot of unseen work and struggle that comes before – the praise “Loud(y)” received from various prestigious music blogs as well as making iTunes’s “Best Songs of 2015” list, plus calls from various labels looking to sign the group, it’s hard not associate the term meteoric rise with the group’s accomplishments. After signing with Startime International, an imprint of Columbia Records, and releasing its debut EP, Lewis Del Mar is set to unveil its debut full-length album this October. The band’s quick popularity garnered several interviews, in which the audience got to know the guys behind the music. Now that Max Hardwood and Danny Miller have been introduced, Best New Bands delved deeper, talking to Danny about the influence sudden success had on the duo’s process (hint: not much), how Lewis Del Mar will evolve from here, and why Max and Danny make music to begin with.
The two of you started playing music together when you were kids. Did it naturally evolve into the thing you were going to dedicate yourselves to, or was there an “ah-ha” moment?
On the whole, our journey to this point has felt very natural. We began as kids playing music in our basement, and in many ways that’s still where we’re at. We make all of our recordings in our home and keep our process pretty straightforward and low-key. We are fortunate that things are moving at a good pace at the moment, but for years before Lewis Del Mar ever existed, we were driving all over the country in a station wagon playing in every backyard and dive bar that we could. Over time we learned from our mistakes, and grew steadily towards where we are now.
“Loud(y)” was the first single you released to the public, and it instantly circulated the blogosphere, went viral on Spotify, got the attention of various record labels, etc. – essentially giving you an “over night identity.” In what way has that recognition affected or not affected your making music?
The process of watching a song you recorded in your bedroom go “viral” is certainly humbling and a bit strange, but in reality, it had very little affect over how we make music. When we released “Loud(y),” we had scrutinized the recording so much that our perspective was completely gone as to whether it was good or bad. So when the song was well received, it gave us some added confidence to continue to delve deeper into what we were doing. But, at the same time, we were also a little afraid of losing the magic that we’d stumbled upon. So we decided that despite having access to better studios and producers, etc. we would stick to our process and finish the album the same way we’d started it.
The success of “Loud(y)” was the obvious turning point for you guys. Before that happened, was there a less obvious moment that you considered a turning point?
The less obvious turning point came when we moved to New York. The city has serious teeth, and the gravity, grit, and shining diversity of it has heavily influenced our sound and songwriting.
Sonically, I’ve read a lot about your very eclectic influences, from learning drums in Ukraine to sampling the sounds of life in New York. How about lyrically? What inspires your lyrics and song themes?
We write songs about what we know. True stories that stem from our experiences as young people navigating the world on their own for the first time. Emotionally speaking, people are remarkably similar. And it often feels like the best songs we write are the most honest ones. If you’ve lived it, chances are a lot of other people have too. The best song makes the listener feel like they’re the one singing it.
I read a quote from Danny about not wanting to be just an American band, but it wasn’t about being world-famous. Rather, you were referring to the desire to foster a global music community. Why is that important to you?
Promoting global music is meaningful to us because we’ve both benefited from cultural exchange. My father is Nicaraguan, and my mother travels the world doing public health work. I was raised in a multi-cultural household where I spoke Spanish before I spoke English. Similarly, Max’s parents, who currently live in Panama, also worked internationally, and as a result, Max spent several years in the Ukraine growing up. We’ve lived and studied together in Latin America and have travelled extensively there and in other regions, as well. Our experience with foreign cultures has shaped our identities and, in turn, our art.
You’re all about mixed media: electronic/acoustic, nature/industrial. As your fan base continues to grow and (potentially) expects a certain sound from you, how do you resist being put in a box?
It seems to us that nearly every artist is “put in a box” so perhaps it’s inevitable. But, all the greatest artists certainly have evolved over the course of their careers, and it is our hope that we do too. Our only goal is to create music that only the two of us could create. We want to find a sound that embodies the melting together of our two personalities. This album achieves that for the individuals we are now, but over the next couple years we will inherently change. Our hope is that as long as we continue to return to our only goal, that our sound will develop in step with us as individuals. We’ll never please everyone, but that’s not really why we make music to begin with.
What’s most important to you as musicians?
Patience. We both have high ambitions for this project. But, it all starts and ends with the music we make. And the best art is patient.
Nerves performing live, stage fright – ever been an issue?
Not really. We used to feel that if you didn’t have at least a bit of nerves then you weren’t living right. But now our goal is to walk on stage like we’re walking into our living room. Completely comfortable and ready to enjoy ourselves.
Lastly, because we’re Best New Bands, what’s the latest best new band you’re listening to?
We’ll give you two of our best new bands: Jon Bap and Homeshake.
Lewis Del Mar’s self titled debut album is due out October 8th and is available for preorder on iTunes and Amazon. The duo is currently on tour in support of Lewis Del Mar. A full list of tour dates is available on the band’s Facebook page.
Photo Credit: Daniel Topete
Note: This interview was originally published on September 23, 2016.
She’s lived in Rome and California. Deeply nostalgic. Is interested in random thoughts and observations. Drinks coffee black. Drinks whiskey with ginger ale. Hates writing bios. Non-discriminatory about people and cupcakes.