After building a name for themselves gradually over here in the UK with only one EP released, Brooklyn duo Lewis Del Mar have experienced a crazy few weeks, playing to a packed out crowd in Brighton at The Great Escape and selling out London Lexington. And with a string of festivals lined up, it’s clear to see the electronic folk-acoustic group have settled rather nicely onto British soil.
We caught up with Danny and Max on the streets of the Northern Quarter, ahead of their Dot 2 Dot slot at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester, to talk unique artistic influences, the UK and growing up together. (And of course, an interview wouldn’t be complete without strange requests from passer-by’s, too).
You’re about to perform at Soup Kitchen for Dot 2 Dot Festival, is this your first time in Manchester?
D: Yes! It’s so cool here, everyone is so chilled out. Soup Kitchen is a really awesome venue too, playing there will be great.
Have you had much chance to explore the city yet? Some say it’s better than London…
D: Not much really, we’ve only got here this afternoon, but we got chance to have a look round the Northern Quarter and have some lunch which was cool.
M: Every city we’ve visited in the UK so far has been awesome though, London is always great though, especially after selling out our first headline show. Oh, and Liverpool, too.
Your band aesthetic may confuse some, as your name suggests a solo artist. How did you come up with the band name?
M: Initially we wanted something that sounded like an author’s name, so we had that general idea floating around. Or the idea of two people coming together to become one entity. The Lewis part comes from both of our Father’s being named Lewis, so that’s where we got that part from. And the Del Mar part is reference to South America and Central America, and our home by the beach.
D: We like to make it a bit more confusing. It sounds like one person, but the band has two people and the live band has five people – we don’t make it easy.
Was the transition of starting off with two people, and then expanding to being a five-piece as a live band something you’d always had in mind?
M: The creative process was always just going to be me and Danny, because we’re the ones who do the writing. But when we started to get into the live game, we really wanted to be a full band because our roots have come from playing in bands ourselves.
When we were ready to bring it to the stage, we definitely wanted the full live dynamic, and we recruited some of our friends, and since then we’ve never looked back.
You guys met way back when you were kids, but how did forming a band come about?
D: We’ve played in groups for a long time now, and Lewis Del Mar was the latest reincarnation of what we were doing at the time. The two of us decided to move to New York to work on the project, and it was just our idea to make more artistic music, which had more of an angle and specific statement to it.
M: Before Lewis Del Mar we were in a rock band, which was tonnes of fun and we thought it was cool, but we felt it wasn’t really true to who we were as people. So we went back to the drawing board creatively, and developed a sound that was more true to our interests.
What was it like for you both musically growing up in Washington D.C.?
D: There was obviously a lot of initial influence when we were younger, the rap scene was huge and obviously rock was a huge thing for the both of us, from being in our previous bands.
But we realised that in order to get the different kind of sound we were striving for, we needed to move somewhere that would inspire our creativity and passion for writing. We felt like we didn’t really fit into the scene back in Washington DC, so that’s partly the reason we ended up moving to New York.
Would you say living in New York has influenced the music you guys tend to make?
M: 100%. But I don’t think it’s down to a specific music scene, but more about the energy that the city brings. We wanted to hold onto the acoustic guitar and the traditional live elements, and being in that city pushed us even more into sounds that were more industrial and experimental.
How important is it for you to build an interest from music fans overseas?
D: Incredibly important. We want to make ourselves a global project, and it’s more of a personal interest to travel as much as we can and share our music.
We came to London for the first time in January and played a sold out show this month – it’s been such an incredible experience so far. It’s nice to make that connection early on and then go back to build on it – and it’s nice to see how different cities interpret music and how much effect your music has on people.
There have been several attempts to pigeon-hole your music with several genres – how would you describe it yourselves?
D: We don’t exactly think of ourselves as genre-less, but we as products of the 21st century are influenced by so many other different genres makes it harder to pin it down. But we are very influenced by folk, hip-hop, latin, dance etc, which all goes into what music we make today. It’s not that we’re not trying to be a specific genre, we just try to combine all of those together. It’s just us trying to make a sound that only the two of us can make, solely based on our interests alone.
M: It’s not trying to be everything, but it’s trying to be what me and Dan are ourselves.
What inspired the music you make today?
D: Although we are obviously huge fans of music, myself and Max studied literature so there have definitely been other forms of inspiration including a lot of authors from Central and South America from the magical realism period and authors from the early 20th century.
Everything on this album is about Max and I’s experience about moving to New York, re-discovering ourselves and facing the duality of everyday life. It’s been quite the journey.
How does the writing process work between you both?
D: It’s very fluid, and there’s never one specific way it happens. Songs get started in different ways – I usually come to the table with one idea, but we build everything out together.
There’s songs on the album that Max gave me a beat for and I wrote to, others are different. For us, if we were to do it one way every time it would be boring and we’d get the same result each time. We like to mix it up.
So far we’ve only had a small preview of what’s to come with your EP, what’s next for Lewis Del Mar?
M: Lots of touring and festivals.
D: We have Reading and Leeds lined up here in the UK, along with Lollapalooza and a bunch of other festivals back over in the US. We’re doing some travelling in the Fall, and hopefully the album will be out then. We’re sending out the final notes today, which is exciting.
If you had to create your own festival, who would you choose as your headliners and why?
D: D’Angelo, St. Vincent and Stevie Wonder. Definitely. I’ll let Max choose two…
M: Rage Against The Machine and just because we’re in England, Sleaford Mods.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
M: Instead of looking up towards the biggest and most powerful people at the top that you can work with in the music industry, look to your left and your right – look at the people around you who are on the come up with you and come up with them.
D: Art is inherently personal, and you should always be making your art for you and not for someone else. Don’t compare yourself to other artists.