Reflection sits at the root of rebirth. Looking at the past with prismatic eyes allows for an opportunity to view experiences, people and places in new ways previously unseen. This allows for a continuous cycle of the constant birthing of new ideas, perspectives and interpretations to things once stagnantly understood. At the core, this leads us to a better understanding of ourselves. On the macro, this leads us to a better understanding of the world we live in.
With a debut in 2015, the indie-pop duo Lewis Del Mar (comprised of Danny Miller and Max Hardwood) became known for an ambitiously sporadic sonic sound united in familiar textures. Fused with raw, emotive lyricism that has traveled through narrations from the tumultuous last few years that range from a life-altering period in history to personal anecdotes of inner turmoil and familial loss, the result offers a familiar sense of the unknown and a beautiful way to cope with it.
Using the vehicle of creative experimentation to employ their perspective art, their music is equally as questioning of their inner world, as it is a deep questioning of the outer world. The kaleidoscopic sonic and visual creations become a series of fueled sensory memories both past and present that lead us toward a future better understood. The abstract, disoriented sounds that mimic the chaos of life are met by meditative lyrics that equate to a comforting resolve towards eventual peace. In all its essence, Lewis Del Mar in have learned to make art of the process of coalescing the human experience to understand the fragmented world we live in.
Now, Lewis Del Mar have followed up their last album release in late 2020, August with their latest EP Bouquet. A compilation of introspectively ruminating tracks created at the same time as the latter, the four-track EP allow for a deeper delve into their experimentation that continue to explore the new frontiers faced as evolving individuals in an ever-evolving world.
LADYGUNN spoke with Danny Miller the days in advance of their Bouquet EP release about crafting art with intention, their inspiration behind new experimentation, and the importance of artists uniting together for a brighter future.
Hello! Nice to meet you – and your dog! They always want to see what’s going on. I love it.
Hello, nice to meet you! Living in the zoom era – she has jealousy issues. But this is my dog Kaya! She is a new addition to my life. I was just in Panama for a while and I rescued her there and it’s been awesome! I never had a dog before and she’s amazing. Maybe not right now while she’s biting my hand…
It sounds like it’s been a good time for dogs!
It is. I think there are a lot of quarantine pets coming out of this.
How are you doing lately?
Good! I’m great. I’ve just been slowing down a ton this year. I’m having a great Monday, it’s been pretty laid back. Just getting ready to put the record out on Friday. I got my vaccine on Friday, so this weekend was a bit rough. I’m feeling better now and just grateful to be making and putting out music right now. I feel really healthy.
On the theme of feeling healthy, what has helped you keep your creative juices flowing during this time? How have you been occupying yourself during quarantine and maintaining some form of sanity?
I’ve had so many different quarantine routines throughout this last year. With what was happening, I just needed an opportunity to just kind of reset. I was in Central America for a while and that was really nice. I have some family and some old friends that are there. I guess my routine down there was sort of non-existent. I spent a lot of the days just writing, hiking and really just trying to spend more time outdoors.
For the first two-thirds of the pandemic I was in New York and it was so hard to be outdoors at all. Before the virus was known to be airborne there was just a feeling that you couldn’t touch anything in the city. Every angled part of life there is conductive to being in the presence of other people…so that was just a very mentally jarring experience.
In the last third of this time, I’ve been really trying to give myself over to the untethered feeling of all this. For a lot of it, we were preparing to release an album and there was a lot of stuff that had to be done…despite all the reasons not to be doing anything or promoting work during this period of time. We eventually got passed that and now I just very much feel like I’m living in the current with everybody else. I’ve been spending a lot of time outside. I’ve been meditating a lot. I’ve been writing a lot. I’ve just been thinking about the same things I think a lot of people are thinking about, and how as an artist, I can play a role in helping our nation pivot to a more positive future for everybody that lives here.
That’s beautiful. And so important you’re finding ways to stay healthy and revitalize yourself during this time. Especially to keep inspired as a creative.
There’s a lot to be inspired by. I feel like there’s a lot of people that have probably been grappling with the notion of releasing music in a time when artists are now made to be the main people promoting their work via social media, but I feel like there’s really a lot to be inspired about right now and I’m hoping that most artists are feeling fueled by the conversations taking place.
Your latest EP Bouquet doesn’t shy away from lyrically touching upon those tough conversations, stemming from both your personal narrative as well as the social conditions that surround you. Can you talk about finding the inspiration behind being vulnerable enough to utilize that voice in your art?
I think there’s a lot there. There was a time, prior to 2019-2020, when it felt like certain people saw things one way and now it feels like we’ve had some sort of larger reckoning with America’s self image. (Prior to this period) I never felt that social causes were something “in” my music. I didn’t consider myself a “socially conscious” artist, I was just an artist making music about the things that I had grown up around. I grew up in a household with a White mother who works in international public health and a Black father who was a revolutionary who fought as a Sandinista in Nicaragua and later moved to America and experienced racism as an immigrant here, so having somewhat uncomfortable conversations is not new to me. That was my upbringing, those two people were who raised me and gave me my world view. I also don’t want to come off as seeming like the most socially conscious artist or the person leading any sort of conversation, I would be a fool to think that of myself. It’s more just to put into context my background and my experience as an artist making art.
I do think that a big part of the last few couple years for me was actually not so much seeing myself in a different light, but just seeing the overall environment that I was operating in, in a different way. That was a big moment for me as well. It was kind of developing some semblance of larger contextual awareness about the work that I was making, which is really just informed by my upbringing and not anything other than that.
I’ll be honest, I think a lot of what making art is and being an artist is really just a very long process of coming to terms with your identity and who you are. That means both the beautiful parts and the limitations. I feel like there’s something really inspiring about seeing artists push beyond what we feel people are capable of doing, expressing creative sides of their personalities other people can’t express.
Your latest EP, Bouquet, was created around the same time as your prior release, your sophomore album August. What inspired you to release these specific tracks as their own entity?
We had some delays with getting our second album out, so we just had a lot of time to make music. It was a really tough process deciding what was going to fall on the album and, ultimately, I just felt really strongly about these four songs and didn’t want them to fall by the wayside. It wasn’t so much that these songs work together, I just loved these songs and I feel like we’re in a time where creativity should be shared. I think it was the process of finishing the project and working with some of my collaborators kind of helped them all congeal around one another. It was really sort of that simple. I’ve done a lot of saying no to things over a long period of time, I’m just trying to say yes more.
It seems the gelling that came afterwards on this collection came from this rooted place of experimentation. What inspired this different direction?
I think that some of this project is definitely just whittling away at the same idea and seeing how deep one can go through the same philosophy of how we make music. Some of it is just going deeper into the rabbit hole, and some of it is influenced by stuff that I was listening too at the time. For some reason, I was listening to a lot of MF Doom right before he passed. So a lot of these mixes are a little bit muddier because I was in the studio thinking about how close to the core emotion you can get to by just letting things be untouched. A lot of the vocals on this EP are just my demo vocals. I didn’t do anything to them, I kind of just let them be there. I wanted the songs, even the ones with more developed production, to still sit in that space. I was also listening to a lot of Arthur Russell and wanted to create something a bit more impressionistic in nature. So I think thats where its source energy came from. I was also just feeling a newfound situation where no one was telling me what to do, so I just did what I wanted.
You feature some great collaborations on this EP. How did they come about and what was the decision behind bringing on others to help shape the music you have already created?
The intention really with the entire process was really to step out from beyond our very direct area of making music with just Max and I and to really see what was on the other side of that, for better or for worse. I had an experience where I met another artist I really admired and expressed I was having some difficulty executing this concept I had for the second album while it was almost done. I thought it sounded good, but still felt this sense of failure because I didn’t feel like it matched the vision I was embarking on. They told me, “You know that’s the problem. The only way you can get beyond what you think you’re capable of doing, is by experimenting. If you try to reach the vision in your head, at best you’ll only be as good as and will never get beyond what you think you’re capable of doing.” So this work was completed after that conversation, and I started thinking so much more about experimenting. It’s really all just a means of learning, you’ll never know if you don’t try.
So all the artists we worked with are artists I respect deeply and enjoy their work. With George (Twin Shadow), we wrote some of their music but he also worked on [“Stealing (Nightly)”], so it just ended up being a thing that saw light of day. With Topaz, he’s one of my best friends in the world and I was curious to see what he would send me for [“Alameda”], so I reached out and he sent me it right as I was mixing the song. I’m glad it made it in. I love both of them a lot. And Johan Lenox is another collaborator who is a super talented writer and arranger out here in LA. I’ve known him for a long time too, it was good to have him involved. It’s a pretty close knit group of people who work on stuff and I just have a lot of respect for them as musicians and individuals.
Taking more chances and moving in new directions during quarantine is a common experience I hear often from artists. It seems to stem from having the time to explore and not be confined to pre-covid industry models of rollouts and plans during this time because everything is a big question mark.
I think what we’re all experiencing is this big reckoning with our self image and with what may be a more sustainable path for everybody across all industries for the future. I think what’s really sad to me about corporate interest in music are timelines that seem to shift every year or two for what seems to be the most money making way of releasing music. It’s making the music industry a really boring space moving further from being a medium for artists and more a medium for entertainers.
But, we’ll see what happens. I also think there can be a really big rebirth of creativity. The real shit is that art with intention and specificity takes time. There’s no substitute. When people come upon the types of ideas that last and make meaningful change to a genre or a way of doing things, rarely is it quickly. I think as the pace, demand and industry have quickened, what it has led to is more people with a lack of time to make the better decision and ultimately make a decision that in its own way ends up echoing homogeneity.
Great point. Although, art as a tool for salvation has really been highlighted during quarantine as people learn to cope with isolation. Do you think this will lead to an eventual reinvention of the industry?
Art is often the vehicle for change and inspiration for people thinking differently. You take away the interesting and compelling music from the human experience and…the world is meaningless. We’re not like the nurses and doctors making sure that people don’t die by the thousands right now, but we’re like the grease on the axels of everything happening. We just make it easier for people to do that work.
I also think that there’s not going to be a change in the industry for a while. Ultimately, what needs to happen is that artists need to dialogue. Now there are larger conversations about workplace rights, but what’s happening is companies are starting to organize faster than artists. So all this to say. we’re getting some changes in the industry, but where? It’s really difficult because it’s such a modern idea for you to be an artist and make a major living. All this to say, I think it’s very taboo for artists to speak about their finances, especially between other artists. It’s going to take a change in artist culture for the industry to change. So it’s kind of on us to come together and have the difficult conversations. The music industry is as tough as everyone makes it sound, and it’s not getting any easier.
The creative visuals that accompany your music really elevate the emotional intensity. You currently have released two visualizers for this EP – can we expect them for the next two?
You know what, it’s going to depend on how much I can get done this week. That is my complete, honest answer.
I am curious, what comes first: does the music inform the imagery or is it the other way around?
You know, I think it’s both. I think a lot of times I have an emotion, a scene or a story in mind when I write a song. So I definitely know what it looks like, but I don’t think I always bring that all the way through to the visual. That’s a great question. Sometimes it’s the music, sometimes it’s something else but also something that, again, I am developing self awareness about as an artist. I don’t think i’ve ever considered myself a visual artist, but I’ve also taken photography on film religiously since I was 14. I mean, i’ll be honest I’ve been thinking about taking a year off and going to school for photography.
I started in the industry as a concert photographer. Will admit – I still don’t know how to use camera settings properly though, so maybe i’ll enroll with you.
You totally should, i’ll let you know! But yes, I love making these little visual projects. I’m totally a visual artist and I’ve embraced that more as time has gone on. I wrote this treatment for this short film that we just did and just getting deeper and deeper into the world and into filmmaking. I think eventually I want to screen-write. I’m just kinda letting it all evolve very naturally. One part that is nice about being in the industry is working with people that work with other artists, is that they’re very familiar with the temperature in the room. [Filmmaking] was something that was actually encouraged to me by people I work with. They’d be like “Yo, this shit you’re doing is dope and we’re not working with other artists that are doing this!” It just made me think because that’s not how I see it. I just see it as, like, a lot of work. But I think it’s cool, and I mean, is anybody even watching?
Like would there be interest in seeing anything you do or produce outside of music?
Yeah, exactly. But the people around me are reassuring me and I feel really encouraged by that. So yeah, just getting much deeper into it. I have a lot of footage to go through, but I definitely think that further melding that world is really just fun. It’s just exciting. I think I have something pretty cool already planned for the next project so we’ll see how it all shapes up. I’m going to take my time with it.
CONNECT WITH LEWIS DEL MAR
photos / David Gurzhiev
story / Jeanette Diaz