Four years ago, experimental pop-rock duo Lewis Del Mar released its self-titled debut album — and breakout single “Loud(y)” pushed them into the mainstream consciousness, peaking at No. 22 on the Alternative Airplay chart. Following the album’s release, members Max Harwood and Danny Miller embarked on their first headlining tour and played festival gigs at Austin City Limits, San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival and Queens’ since-cancelled The Meadows.
Now, the Rockaway-based band is back with its long-awaited second album, AUGUST, out today on its new home, the independent FADER Label. Harwood and Miller wrote and recorded the upcoming album over the past two years, during which they each endured a notable amount of trauma from battling mental heal issues and substance abuse, to the passing of Miller’s father.
More recently, Miller has released personal essays about the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests — and the underlying sentiment is heard throughout August on track’s like the chilling “Border,” written in part about his late father, a Black and Latinx man, and on “Rosalie,” which draws parallels to the anti-racism movement.
In many ways, AUGUST honors the duo’s turbulent past few years while also signifying a forthcoming fresh start. Throughout the project, Miller’s Nicaraguan heritage comes alive through the percussion while the winding and unexpected arrangements keep listeners engaged until the end. Below, Harwood and Miller discuss early influences, The Sopranos, bonding while working at Dominos and more.
1. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
Danny: I bought two CDs from Tower Records when I was probably 12 or 13. They were the Red Hot Chili Peppers “All Around the World” single, and Master P MP Da Last Don.
2. What was the first concert you saw?
Danny: The Pietasters at The Black Cat in DC.
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?
My mother worked in public health, and my father was a janitor at the Pentagon. (Danny)
4. Who made you realize you could be an artist full-time?
Max: Funny enough in some ways it was my parents. They were both, at least at points in their lives, professional artists (photography and music respectively). I was in college dabbling in journalism, and my dad said to me “you always struck me as the kind of person that would want to be written about, not writing about other people.” Somehow that was the official turning point. In the end though I’ve realized it has nothing to do with wanting to be written about, and the thing that would have led me here regardless is the compulsion to create. It’s not something that you could turn off or on anyway. In terms of doing it full time, that’s also not really up to you. You do your best, the world will let you know if you can do it full-time.
5. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
Both: Building a catalogue we’re proud of.
6. How did your hometown/city shape who you are?
Danny: I spent the second half of my childhood in a predominantly white suburb, and I think in many ways it stunted my growth. It painted this remarkably false and insulated portrait of the world. And I think a lot of my adult life has been about undoing that environmental education in order to access the truest parts of myself.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
Danny: “New York Counterpoint Pt. 3” by Steve Reich.
8. If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?
Danny: Stevie Wonder.
9. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
Both: It’s usually pretty hard to see what’s going on from the stage, but one time we played in Florida and we came back to the dressing room after our set and someone had puked on all our stuff.
10. What’s your karaoke go-to?
Max: I wish I could sing “Open Your Eyes” by Bobby Caldwell.
11. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?
Danny: “Days of Heaven” by Terrence Malick.
12. What TV series have you watched all the way through multiple times?
Max: I just finished watching The Sopranos for the third time, and I swear it really only gets better. It’s so good that it actually becomes hard to imagine that Tony Soprano isn’t a real person. The other thing that I really noticed when watching it this last time was just how they are able to so seamlessly touch on so many different topics through this singular lens. Obviously there is the psychology element, but if you pay attention you realize they touch on so much. Death, marriage, racism, post-9/11 hysteria, familial relations, the illusion of the American dream and how it plays out in different immigrant and ethnic groups, Christianity, addiction — there’s so much. It’s seemingly about such a uniquely positioned experience, but yet they make it so broad and universal.
13. What’s one thing that even your most devoted fans don’t know about you?
Both: We used to work at Domino’s together when we were kids. And the first time we took mushrooms we ate them off of cheesy bread in the back of the store.
14. If you were not a musician, what would you be?
Danny: A Marine Biologist.
15. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Max: I’m at this point in my life — and maybe it’s just because I’m watching Dark — where I’m skeptical of even entertaining that question, because it’s basically like asking if you could travel back in time what would you change? And somehow the idea that I could truly know what to do differently and that it would for sure be better just seems like a logical fallacy. Younger Max did the best he could with what he had and that’s all he ever could’ve done, present Max is doing fine, and I’m optimistic about future Max.
16. What’s been the biggest change since releasing your debut album in 2016?
17. Looking back, what’s the greatest highlight from that time?
Max: I think there is something really telling about this question. For me the most fulfilling moment from that time was when we finished the recording for “Malt Liquor.” I think we had a pretty ambitious vision for what that recording could be, and it was challenging enough that I wasn’t sure we were going to pull it off. We were trying to do this blend of acoustic instruments, electronic sounds, and field recordings all through the lens of this really asymmetrical arrangement — I just wasn’t sure it was going to come together. When it eventually did, I felt so satisfied. And I’ve carried that experience with me. The most satisfying part of all of this is simply creating and pulling off something that you couldn’t do before, and in a moment, wasn’t sure was possible. I feel that way about AUGUST. There was a moment in the very end where Danny and I realized, honestly almost to our surprise, that we had executed on the vision that we laid out initially.
18. What surprised you about the writing and recording process of this album?
Danny: That, in the end, there truly was no way to rush it, or set a deadline. The concept had to complete itself, it had to reach its logical conclusion. And it took perspective, reflection, and both of us growing throughout the process in order to reach that place.
19. Considering the album title, were there any anxieties about the album being delayed past the month of August due to the ongoing pandemic?
Both: Not really, we decided on the title before we knew it would line up date-wise.
20. What are your plans to perform and engage fans while live music remains on hold?
Both: We’re planning to present the live version of the album this fall, but we’re going to keep the details under wraps for now!