It's a story we've all heard time and time again: Two musician's sons start their careers as Broadway child actors, put together a flamboyant teen glam band, and are quickly signed by an influential overseas label. Soon, they're racking up rave reviews and major feature interviews in the international press. All of this before they've even moved out of their parents' house.
Okay, that's actually a story most of us have never heard before. Unless, that is, we've been paying attention to the wave of hype currently surrounding The Lemon Twigs.
Michael and Brian D'Addario, talented teenage denizens of a Long Island town called Hicksville (not kidding), have become overnight sensations with their debut album, Do Hollywood, which was released in mid-October on Britain's 4AD label. Impressed music journalists are describing the Lemon Twigs' sound as "music from a time that never was" (NPR), "'70s soul/funk met with the likes of MGMT" (Paste), and "the Partridge Family as envisioned by Harmony Korine" (The Guardian).
Produced by Jonathan Rado of the more established but no-less-outrageous Foxygen, the album has no shortage of tried-and-true influences, from the lush melodies and harmonies of The Beatles and Big Star to the anthemic excesses of Bowie and Queen. But critics have been no less impressed by the band's past, including Brian's having played both Flounder in the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid and the Gavroche in Les Misérables. All of that makes for colorful interview fodder, but is it actually true? Younger brother Michael, sounding slightly exasperated, insists it is.
"We both did real Broadway shows, and I did real movies, and you can look it up and watch the movies," says the 17-year-old frontman. "Like Sinister is a real movie with Ethan Hawke. And I also did this Broadway production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons with John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Katie Holmes and all these huge people. And it was really cool."
And then there's Michael's onstage showmanship, which involves an endless array of splits, high-kicks, leaping into crowds, and other moves seemingly designed to, as the theatrical saying goes, break a leg. He credits his hyperkinetic approach to a gig opening for Foxygen at New York City's Webster Hall.
"We were standing still during our set," says Michael of the band, which also includes Danny Ayala on keyboard, Megan Zeankowski on bass, and brother Brian on pretty much everything else. "And then I saw Foxygen go onstage and I thought, 'Oh, it's like people forgot what a rock and roll show is supposed to be.' Or at least I did, you know?"
Lesson learned, Michael also began wearing more gender-bending clothing and makeup, both onstage and in videos. His current look is a far cry from the more conventional rock garb featured in the "1-800-Intervention" video by his pre-teen band MOTP.
"It's funny, because that video is from when I was very into grunge," he says. "So what looks like a casual person, who really doesn't care about what they're wearing, was really me trying not to care. When I was in elementary school, I used to have this purple sweatsuit thing that was for girls, but I used to tell people it was for boys. I always had like rainbow shoes, and was always interested in dressing weird and everything. For a while I got shit for it, but then I was in a band and I did acting, so people would rather talk to me about that stuff than make fun of me."
The brothers' '60s music obsession, meanwhile, was passed along by their father, Ronnie D'Addario. Elder brother Brian was named after the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. ("And his middle name is Paul," says Michael, "after Paul McCartney.") The brothers are also fans of the Kinks' Ray Davies, whose influence is especially pronounced on Michael's song "Those Days Is Coming Soon."
"After I wrote it, I said, 'Oh, that's a great Kinks-y song," he admits. "But at this point, so many things have already been done that I figured I'd just do it anyway."
Or, as Donald Trump might put it, what have you got to lose?
"I was really into these bands that don't move at all," recalls Michael. "Now, I feel like you have to give something. But it's really whatever is natural. You shouldn't stifle anything, you know? If you feel like doing something, you should just do it."