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      October 28, 2018

      Sunday   8:00 PM

      200 41st Street S
      Birmingham, Alabama 35222

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      The Lemon Twigs

      with Jungle Green
      Do Hollywood, The Lemon Twigs 2016 debut LP, was an invigorating, much-needed blast offresh air that whipped across the arid landscape of contemporary rock. If that stunninglyaccomplished recording, which flew in the face of current musical trends, wasnt surprisingenough on the face of it, the fact that Do Hollywood was the handiwork of twoteenagersbrothers Brian and Michael DAddariorendered the achievement utterly mind-boggling. Now, with the follow-up full-length, Go to School (4AD, Aug. 24), the siblings, now21 and 19, respectively, have set the bar dizzyingly high even by their own lofty standards, andproceed to soar over it into the stratosphere. Listening to this wildly ambitious album is likeentering and inhabiting a parallel universe.Go to Schools subtitle is A Musical, and that turns out to be an accurate description of the 15-song extravaganza, which tells the tale of the pure-of-heart chimpanzee Shane, whos adopted bya childless coupleplayed by the brothers musical hero Todd Rundgren and their mom, SusanHalland raised as a human boy. Michael describes Go to School as a fairy tale with a darkedge, as Shane is ostracized, bullied and rejected by the girl he falls for, erupts in an extreme actof retribution for being robbed of his innocence. The libretto is played out in a series of intricate,wildly eclectic musical settings ranging from spot-on throwback rockers to traditionalBroadway-style production numbers.We had enough songs to work on a straight-pop, more obviously autobiographicalalbumwhich didnt feel like much of a riskor this one, Brian says of the decision-makingthat set them off in this envelope-ripping direction. These [Go to School] songs come from thesame place our autobiographical songs come from, so we decided to trust our instincts and toreally commit to making it a musical.Michael continues the thought. We werent gonna do it half-assedwe were gonna do it full-onand not shy away from the concept, he says. For me, it felt completely like the obvious thing todo, which sounds ridiculous, but everything about it is more advanced to me, and further along.What I think would be really disappointing for our most dedicated fans is if we just did astraight-pop album next.For Brian and Michael, working in the musical-theater mode wasnt that big a stretch, becauseboth had been child actors. Along with the brothers roles in TV series, Brian had appeared in aBroadway production of The Little Mermaid, while Michael performed in Coast of Utopia andAll My Sons. We were literally raised on Broadway, is how Michael puts it. When the brothers are working on a project, they typically immerse themselves in a handful ofalbums as a trigger for inspiration. In this instance, they were listening to Rodgers &Hammersteins Oklahoma and The King and I, as well as Stephen Sondheims A Little NightMusic and Assassins.Our mom introduced us to Assassins when we were kids, Brian recalls, and me and Michaelwould do all the different parts with the different characters in the car. We didnt understandcertain parts of the plot, but we knew all the words. I hadnt heard it for years, but when we weredoing this project, I rediscovered it. At that point Id gotten kind of numb to a lot of rock music,and I was ripe for emotionally connecting to musicals. So I felt like that was where I was meantto be.With any musical, youve gotta first believe that people breaking into song every five minutes isnormalthere are no rules, Michael says of the cosmology of musical theater. Theres noreason why nobody realizes that Shane is not a human. They just know hes a little bit different.You dont ask, Well, does he not have a mirror? That doesnt matter. Youve gotta believe it inorder to enjoy the music and absorb the weight of the lyrics. The why is just because it gets youto the next part. Its supposed to make you feel something.They recorded Go to School at the dedicated analog studio theyd installed in the Long Islandhome they shared with their parents. They used a chunk of the advance to upgrade their gear,picking up a vintage 24-track console and two-inch tape machine, and another chunk fororchestral sessions encompassing strings, horns and woodwinds. Brian composed thearrangements and conducted the musicians, while Michael manned the console.Born Wrong/Heart Song is where we went full musical, says Brian. We decided that wewerent going to put any drums or guitars on it and just have it all be orchestral instruments. Ivealways been a firm believer that production is everything, and arrangement is everything, and thesong is variable depending on how you arrange it.At the other extreme, Rundgren appears on Rock Dreams and takes the lead on the swellingballad Never Know, which puts the legend in his early-70s sweet spot. It helped that NeverKnow was something that was natural for Todd to sing, although I didnt write it with theintention of him singing it, Brian points out. Wed just performed with Todd at Coachella [in2017], which we figured would probably be the one thing that we ever did with him. And thenwe were like, Itd be great to get him on the record somehow. And it ended up working out inthis fortuitous way, where it was really easy to fit the pieces together.Big Stars Jody Stephens, another musical hero, drums on Student Becomes the Teacher, whileMichaelwhod been obsessively dissecting the iconic Big Star albumschannels Alex Chiltonon Queen of My School, an uncannily detailed homage to the great Memphis band circa RadioCity. But the song is more than a musical homage, as Michael explains. In Queen of MySchool, I like the idea of the nerd and the most popular girl getting together. I wasnt a nerd, Iguess, but I dont think anybody wanted to date us. Because we were into music and not sports, itwas kinda like nobody looked at us as cool.In fleshing out the characters, the brothers decided none of them should be completely good orevil. Says Brian, In The Bully, you get the bullys perspective: The father has a PhD and hisson is slow, so he resents his son. And his wife died in childbirth, so he blames his son for herdeath. Then you even understand the bullys father, because he had to deal with this horrificthing. And Shanes parents sort of blame the kid for their lost dreams, and you see why thatssad. The whole time we were growing up, my mom always said, I feel like you could really loveeverybody if you knew enough about them and understood where they were coming from.Brian got through middle school and high school in what he describes as a comfortable sort ofisolation, adding, I knew it was probably better to separate myself then become corrupted insome way. And thats a big part of what the records about.When I was going to school, Michael remembers, there was so much negativity and so manyignorant people that Im kind of surprised that I was able to keep it away from me to the extentthat I did. So, in that sense, I felt like Shane, and I think we got that angle from our ownexperiences.Michael wrote the climactic song The Fire early in the process, and that gave the brothers aclearer sense of the narrative trajectory as well as its relevance. It was an important subject thathasnt been touched on, Michael explains. And its so prevalent in the modern world that itneeds to have a presence in art.When asked if the brothers had topicality in mind when they were concocting the narrative,Brian offers an unsettling response. We had an uncomfortable realization after wed finished therecord that [school violence] has always been a reality for us, he says. I mean, Columbinehappened in 1999, the year Michael was born. Its so commonplace that we wouldnt evenquestion the idea of Shane burning the school down and a hundred people dying. So it didnteven feel topical to us, because its something weve always known.Its hardly unusual for artists to gain greater perspective about their work after theyve completedit, and that was true for the authors of Go to School. Initially, we thought it would be moredramatic if Shane really intended to hurt people, Brian explains. But now, the way I think of itis that he obviously intends to set fire to the school, but it gets out of hand really quickly, and hedoesnt necessarily realize that its going to do what it does. So its definitely supposed to bedestructive, but his intention is open to interpretation.Everything that the storys about would seem frivolous and pointless if theres no message,Michael asserts. Shane is put in a situation where everything around him is negative, and thereare so many evil forces that he has to keep it out of his mind and see if he can stay spirituallysound, and eventually he breaks. If youre growing up in a house or working in a place wherepeople around you are depressed and negative and cynical, is there any way to shield yourselffrom that and keep your soul intact without just running away?Brian has his own feeling about the nature of the message. People are so reactionary thesedays, he reflects, and its really easy for people to look at something that someone did and go,Theyre a terrible person; theres some sort of sick joy in that. And thats another big part ofthis recordthat to really feel love and empathy, you have to have an understanding of whatpeople go through. And I think it makes the most sense to get the message across in ametaphorical waybecause if you talk about it in the wrong way, then youre going down a one-way street to the wrong side of history.In creating Go to School, The Lemon Twigs have taken on an immense, multileveled challengeand pulled it off with a degree of insightfulness and sophistication far beyond their years. Thechallenge now falls on listeners to willingly suspend their disbelief and join Brian and MichaelDAddario on this unprecedented musical fantasia, which takes us to the heart and soul ofpresent-day reality.

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