Back in June 2013, Danny Miller and Max Harwood were a pair of friends selling grilled cheeses together as volunteers at Bonnaroo. News travels quickly in the sweltering heat of the Tennessee sun, and in this particular instance, it quickly made its way to the duo: Mumford & Sons, a headliner for Saturday night at The Farm, was forced to cancel their set due to a health issue that called for an emergency surgery. Scrambling, Bonnaroo almost immediately found its replacement headliner, someone who was already on hand: Jack Johnson.
Danny and Max, now affectionately known as Lewis Del Mar, remember this all too well.
“It was classic, though, because everybody knew all those songs,” Max says. “They were like, [NODS]Oh yeah, That’s right.”
The two hold an uncanny rapport, finishing the other’s thoughts like a new breed of Abbott and Costello. Danny continues: “It was really funny. Yeah, we were saying, ‘This is hilarious…’”
“Oh goddamnit,” Max tags back in. “I DO know the lyrics to “Banana Pancakes”“
Just over three years later and Danny and Max are no longer the ones glancing at the stage while tripping on acid in the crowd; they’re the ones on that stage, commanding it with supreme confidence, throwing microphone stands around and coordinating each and every song with one another purely in the heat of the moment. The Rockaway Beach-based pair played Austin City Limits last night, before taking two flights back to New York City where they arrived sharply at 1:00 AM. They finally got to sleep around 3:00, awaking once again at 8:00 in the morning. At noon, they became the first act to take the Sunday stage at NYC’s inaugural Meadows festival, and now they’re sitting here with me.
“…and for a second, I’m thinking to myself, like, Dude, I’m going to fucking die today!” Max, the group’s drummer and producer, says, reflecting on their marathon schedule. “But then you get up on the stage, and the music hits you, and you’re just kind of like, I’m in it. You’re just on again, which is nice.”
The friends grew up playing music together, and it’s clear how much that means to them. Danny, the lead vocalist and guitar player, makes sure to clarify that even though they were playing what was planned to be an early-afternoon, lower energy set, they never want to come off like they’re phoning it in. It’s too important. Which is why, occasionally, all that passion will build to a head: at one point during their Meadows set, Danny hurls his microphone stand across the stage, and is only barely able to reach it while still holding the mic itself.
It hasn’t been a super long journey for Danny and Max under the Lewis Del Mar moniker—their single “Loud(y),” made viral waves a year ago—but it has been an eventful one: after “Loud(y)” hit in 2015, an EP was released earlier this year, and another single, “Painting (Masterpiece)” made the soundtrack for the FIFA 17 video game. Now, after a bit of time sitting on their self-titled debut album, telling me it was completed in May, they’re finally ready for its release, this Friday on Columbia Records. It will be coupled with a free release show at their hometown Rockaway Beach Surf Club.
With a year under their belt, ready to enter another new phase of their career, they’re feeling more at home with the idea of being at home in the music industry. Like anything, it takes some getting used to, and when “Loud(y)” first made its rounds about a year ago, the band needed to gain a level of self comprehension.
“I still sort of felt separate from it,” Danny says. “We live in Rockaway, so we’re already separate from a lot of things, and it’s been very interesting navigating our position, trying to figure out the way people are interpreting our music, and just trying to listen to what everyone has to say, taking it in, and deciding what’s important and what’s not important.”
That first album, as the guys tell me, is going to make a whole lot of sense of a lot of things. Much of the writing for the record was completed last fall, when Max and Danny took a trip down to Colombia. With Danny’s father being from Nicaragua, and Max’s parents presently residing in Panama, they’ve both got roots in Latin America; Colombia was a perfect location for brainstorming and creativity. The album, which contains both the heavier “Loud(y)” and more rhythmic “Painting,” looks to fill the gaps between those two sounds through its 10 tracks.
When listening to Lewis Del Mar, there’s one difficulty: trying to find the precise someone to compare them to. They’ve evoked comparisons to Alt-J; I compared them to Grouplove and Foster The People in a previous piece. After a full listen through of that first record, though, it’s patently obvious that coming up with a parallel is unnecessary. Danny and Max aren’t any of those groups. Just as those others have created sounds that have invited their own sonic comparisons, so too have Lewis Del Mar. Their sound, blending so much into it and pushing so much out of it, stands alone within the genre.
That inspiration is as wide-ranging as it comes: when asked about on-stage influences, names like James Brown and Lauryn Hill come up. We chat a bit about how amazing an artist Kanye West is. I even make a minor comparison to the South/West African sound that Rostam Batmanglij infused into Vampire Weekend based on the very lovely and unique presence of a marimba in “Painting”—although Danny correctly reminds me that their music is more Latin-influenced (“It’s funny how musicians arrive in similar areas from different spaces”). “What we tried to make the album sound like was almost, like, a playlist of all the different palettes of things we were interested in,” Danny says. “I think it really did come out as this spattering of a bunch of different influences, and there’s everything from electric ballads on it to very much hip-hop and R&B oriented songs.”
Lewis Del Mar isn’t bending to any expectations. They’re not trying to be someone—or anyone—else. They just want to be Lewis Del Mar.
Lewis Del Mar’s self-titled debut album is out tomorrow via Columbia Records. Visit the band’s website for more information.