Magical Realism, Experimentation, & Duality: Childhood Friends Lewis Del Mar Share Their Fairytale Story

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While it’s not always readily apparent, there exists an inherent duality in countless aspects of everyday life. In fact, Lewis Del Mar’s music manifested itself from the intrinsic duality of the environment from which they were raised: Rockaway Beach, New York City. Located on the south shore of Long Island, Rockaway is a neighborhood where the city and the beach coexist, clash, and in the case of Lewis Del Mar’s music, harmonize flawlessly with one another. 

One spin of the duo’s debut album illustrates the uncategorizable nature of their sound: acoustic guitar melodies innovatively integrated with computer-manufactured noises to produce 12 truly experimental songs that we truly can’t compare to anything else. Those songs earned Danny Miller and Max Harwood a number one spot on Hype Machine, number seven on Billboard’s Emerging Artists, and a record deal with Columbia Records. 

Considering all of the above, we felt compelled to catch up with Lewis Del Mar about their humble elementary school beginnings, musical inspirations, Ones To Watch, and how genuinely grateful they are as fans single along to every song on their current US tour. Read more below.

OTW: How did you originally meet and when was Lewis Del Mar officially born?

Danny: We met in the fourth grade in elementary school and sort of bonded over the fact that we both were troublemakers in school, and that’s totally the basis of our friendship. It sounds so crazy but from 7/11 runs together, bullshit like that. 

Lewis Del Mar came about probably two and a half years ago at this point and we released our first song online a little over a year ago, and we’ve been working on the project in New York for a year and a half.

OTW: Did it start out as a hobby and then you decided to form the band?

A: Not really, we’ve been making music together since we were 10 or 11. We started out just jamming in my basement with a guitar and drums, playing Rage Against the Machine covers, and we started like a blues rock band later. We actually toured around for at least 2 years or so, driving around in my mom’s Volvo station wagon just playing in dive bars, backyard shows, things like that. It wasn’t until we broke up that band and moved to New York that we started this project.

OTW: When Lewis Del Mar started, how did you guys land on this very particular sound? 

Danny: I think that it was a combination of a lot of different things but the basis of it was that we just tried to focus on peeling away the layers of disingenuous inspiration, and getting back to who we were as musicians at our foundation.

For me, I’m someone that’s very influenced by folk and Latin music, so songwriters like Jeff Buckley, people of that sort of style, and more classical-sounding folk. Max is very influenced  by producers like Madlib.

I think living in a place in New York, in Rockaway, also became a huge inspiration, where we were trying to fuse together those industrial and natural worlds where we live currently–the album is very much the personification of that idea. The ocean up against the grit of the city, and huge apartment towers next to the beach, and the train going by, and just New York City at the oceanfront. 

I think the other thing we’re very influenced by is literature. Max and I both studied literature in college, so a lot of writing from the magical realism period goes into inspiring the lyrics, and some of the different intellectual aspects of the music. 

Those are sort of the three different forces that combine, and a lot of it was getting back to the root of who we were as people and musicians.

OTW: As a duo, do each of you play certain roles or do you collaborate on everything?

Max: Ultimately, everything is very collaborative but if you had to break it down Danny is the primary songwriter, and I’m essentially the producer. Danny plays the guitar and sings, and I play the drums. Those are the official roles, but honestly we live together in a bungalow out in Rockaway, and when you live together, and you work together, and we also record in that same space, there’s a constant flow of ideas. 

OTW: Your first song “Loud(y)” seemed to kick things off for you guys. How would you say your lives changed after that?

Danny: I think it was obviously a huge turning point for us. We were completely surprised by the reaction. “Loud(y)” was a song that we recorded in Max’s bedroom and that I cut the lyric in his closet for, and I think that we actually released it first because we sort of felt like we had better songs in place that we were going to lead up to. 

When we put it online I think only five people had heard it, so we were hoping good things would come, but the fact that the song ended up on the radio and has been such a launch point for our careers was a total surprise. In that sense, everything changed. Max and I went from waiting tables to meeting with Adele’s manager in a matter of weeks. It was pretty much as fairytale music industry as it gets, and we’re super grateful for it. 

I think it’s also really cool because with that song we were sort of experimenting with sonic ideas, and trying to see how much we could get away with, so the fact that we were able to do that and have it be well received was really cool for us. That’s the type of stuff we want to be doing. We want to be bringing experimentation to the critical masses.

OTW: Would you say that there is a certain theme to the album?

Max: One thing that Danny and I talk about a lot is duality, and the concept that there’s two opposing worlds coexisting weaves itself into the record in a lot of different ways. Sonically, we have moments where it’s acoustic guitar, the vocals are sort of folk and Latin-inspired, and then that’s sort of clashing with the more industrial and processed sound, use of electronic stuff. However, each song offers a pretty unique take on that theme, and we really stretched the sound in a lot of different directions for the full-length album.

Danny: I’ll also say that a big influence for this project is the fact that I was raised in a multi-cultural household and my father is Nicaraguan. My mom worked overseas. Max’s parents do similar work and also now live in Panama, and a lot of the samples we’re crushing on this album and some of the rhythmic textures are very inspired by Latin America. That is something that sort of found its way onto the album on a later part of the writing process, where a lot of the other songs come out feeling a little more worldly. 

OTW: What’s the vibe at your live shows? Do you have a full band?

Max: Yeah, we do have a full band. We grew up playing in bands. Our first experience as musicians was playing instruments in the basement, so we really felt that we wanted it to be a true live band experience. So in addition to ourselves, we have a keyboard player, a bass player, an electric guitar. We still use a lot of the same sounds and textures from the record, but everything is played live–we don’t do backtracks. You’ll never see a laptop on stage at one of our shows. 

OTW: Who are a few artists on your Ones To Watch list?

Danny: There’s a guy Topaz Jones who we really like right now. There’s also an artist–he’s not totally new but I think he’s under the radar sometimes–his name is Sean Nicholas Savage. Really love that project. Our friends, a band called Alter out of New York City. They’re doing some really cool stuff, also blending genres. Our two tour openers as well– Prinze George and Boulevards.

OTW: Any post tour plans?

Danny: We’re touring through Thanksgiving on our headline tour, then we’re going to head back to the studio and work on some new stuff through the winter. We love playing live, but I don’t think we feel complete as individuals unless we’re writing and making music. Then we’ll probably be out on the road most days in 2017. 

OTW: Anything else you want to share with fans?

Danny: Just want to say that as two best friends who just released their first album, we’re just super grateful. This is everything we’ve ever wanted to do, and it feels amazing. Coming to these shows, every night, the room is full and people are singing along to the words and that’s like, totally new for us as well. It’s just been incredibly empowering and a really special experience for us. 

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