By Eleni P. Austin

(Andrew and David Williams were gracious enough to answer several of my long-winded questions regarding their career and the upcoming release of their fourth official long-player, Memories To Burn.)

EPA: I know you guys grew up in a musical family. What are your earliest musical memories? Was it in a family setting, or just a song you heard on the radio? David: Seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 singing “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Something inside me shifted when I saw it. Andrew will likely have the same answer, as it was a shared, pivotal experience.

Andrew: “Watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964 when I was four years old is my earliest musical memory. My father, who was a music manager would bring records home after that, Herman’s Hermits, Roger Miller (who he managed), and The Byrds are some of the records I remember. Our Aunt, who was living with us at the time, was dating Sonny Curtis (“I Fought The Law”), and he taught us chords on the ukulele. I also remember being around orchestras up close as a kid and being struck by the arrangements they played as my uncle would sing. EPA: Growing up, what music inspired you? I remember seeing shows where you would re-work Elton John deep cuts like “Greatest Discovery” or David Bowie’s “Kooks” (which in turn motivated me to buy Elton’s debut and Bowie’s Hunky Dory). What else kind of blew your minds back then?”


DW: “The Beatles were definitely the major influence. We would get their records and wear them out. We’d recreate them with me on piano, Andy on guitar and our childhood friend, Val, on drums. Later on, Elton John’s LP with “Your Song” on it hit me over the head. It was so beautiful and so musically and emotionally satisfying. Then Carole King’s Tapestry, James Taylor’s Mud Slide Slim… and Joni Mitchell’s For The Roses were touchstones for me.”

AW: “Early on it was The Beatles and The Everly Brothers. We would listen to 93 KHJ (Boss Radio) all the time in the late ‘60s. There was such an amazing variety of music that had the biggest influence on me. Motown, Stax, British Invasion, Simon & Garfunkel, West Coast sounds like The Beach Boys, Mamas & The Papas, Sly And The Family Stone, the list goes on and on. In the early ‘70s all the singer-songwriter stuff, Tapestry, Cat Stevens’ Tea For The Tillerman, Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. By the late ‘70s int was the whole next wave… Elvis Costello, Talking Heads.”

EPA: I first discovered you both in the pages of Tiger Beat, in the early ‘70s. In those days, I was deeply devoted to Donny and The Osmonds, so I never fell under your spell. At the time, you guys were on the threshold of adolescence and being marketed as teen idols. Were you on board with that, the matching sweater vests, the appearances on The Partridge Family series? Or was it just a way to get a record deal and make music? (Not exactly Robert Johnson at the Crossroads, making a deal with the devil, but probably not an ideal way to introduce your music to the world).

DW: “We were on board to make music, and the teen thing fell effortlessly into our lap, so we went for it. It was fun and exciting, sometimes terrifying, and certainly inappropriate to be thrown into an adult world at such a young age (13), with few life skills. But I don’t regret any of it.”

AW: “We sang on our Uncle Andy’s TV show and got some fan mail, which my father somehow parlayed into a record deal. He was following family tradition getting us into showbiz early as his father had done with him and his brothers (the original Williams Brothers). We were 13 and didn’t have much input into the music. But it was amazing observing some of the musicians, who were members of The Wrecking Crew (an ad hoc group of studio musicians who played on everything from The Beach Boys, Byrds and Nancy Sinatra, to Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra), I had nothing creatively to do with those records, but being in a recording studio was interesting and exciting. There’s a certain level of kitsch to the records we sang on in those days that I can appreciate and chuckle at now. By the time we were 15, it had fizzled out, ending almost as quickly as it started. We did get to go around the world though.”

EPA: Fast-forward nearly a decade later, and I saw your names on a couple of records I really loved: T-Bone Burnett’s Proof Through The Night and The Plimsouls’ Everywhere At Once. So, throughout the late ‘70s and early ‘80s were you guys a part of the thriving L.A. Punk scene (or at least, Punk-adjacent)? How did that happen, did you play the clubs then? If so, which clubs?

DW: “We played a lot of those L.A. clubs…. Madame Wong’s, Largo, The Palace, The Roxy, The Whisky, The Palomino, McCabe’s and many others I can’t remember.”

AW: “Ha! “Punk Adjacent, I suppose in the energy and D.I.Y. approach that was happening in the L.A. club scene at the time. I saw many bands. I was a big fan of The Plimsouls and became friendly with them. I ended up playing organ and singing background on their single, A Million Miles Away. After that, their producer, Jeff Eyrich asked David and I to sing background vocals on their Everywhere At Once album. We ended up providing background vocals on a bunch of records during that period, which led us to T. Bone’s album. We went on tour with him both in America and Europe, David played keys, I was on lead guitar. When that finished, we focused on doing our own thing, playing the clubs in L.A. and securing a deal with Warner Brothers Records.”

EPA: When did you begin writing and playing your own music?

DW: “When we quit the teen career, we took a few years off and began writing in earnest and making demos. Andrew always had a studio set-up, with recording equipment and multiple instruments-of which he played guitar, bass, drums, keys, percussion. We had a lot of fun creating in those days.”

AW: “After the teen era we started writing songs at age 16. We learned how to write in our late teens.”

EPA: How did you connect with T-Bone and The Plimsouls? When did you meet Marvin Etzioni?

DW: “We met T-Bone through Jeff Eyrich, who was a great bass player, as well as The Plimsouls’ producer. T-Bone liked us because we reminded him of The Louvin Brothers and The Everly Brothers. We began working with him right after we met. I learned a lot recording and touring with T-Bone. I think I originally met Marvin when he worked at Aron’s Records on Melrose in 1979. We met again performing on the same bill at The Palace in the early ‘80s.”

AW: “We opened for Lone Justice at The Palace in Hollywood and hit it off with Marvin backstage. I think I may have bought some records before that, when he worked at a local record store, but I didn’t really know him then.”

EPA: By 1987, you had a deal with Warner Brothers’ Records. Your debut, Two Stories, was a great introduction to the second phase of your music career, Although the record was stacked with your own winning originals, you salted the mix with three unreleased songs from heavy-hitters like Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. How did that come about?

DW: “I was honored that Stevie recorded my song, “Some Become Strangers” (for the Rock A Little album), before we recorded it on Two Stories. I absolutely loved her voice, and it was a privilege to be in the studio with her. Andrew and I had become good friends with (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers drummer) Stan Lynch, we had toured throughout Europe with him and T-Bone promoting T-Bone’s Proof Through The Night album). It was Stan who introduced us to (Heartbreakers guitarist) Mike Campbell, who produced two songs on Two Stories and was tight with Stevie, Bob Dylan and of course, Tom Petty.”

AW: “Mostly thanks to Mike Campbell who produced us. He had been on tour with Bob Dylan and remembered Bob’s unreleased “Straight A’s In Love.” He thought it would be great for us and Bob said yes. We had been singing the Tom Petty song for quite a while in clubs, we originally heard about that unreleased song from Stan, who we had worked with a few years before. He produced a few demos for us and we really hit it off and became friends. The Stevie song came through Mike again, but we had a little history with her as well, because she had recorded a song co-written by David for her third solo album.”

EPA: Your self-titled sophomore effort was even better than your debut. It included the hit “Can’t Cry Hard Enough,” which reached #42 on the Billboard, a pretty respectable showing. David, I know you and Marvin co-wrote the song (and it first appeared on Victoria Williams’ Swing The Statue album). What was the impetus behind that song?

DW:” I was thinking about a friend who had OD’d and died and I scribbled “I’m going to live my life like every day’s the last,” which became the first line of the song. I was at the piano and Marvin was with me, along with his pad and pencil. The song seemed to write itself very quickly, fully formed. Marvin just kept coming up with one brilliant line after another. We were both in the same frame of mind, thinking of people we cared about and had lost.”

EPA: 1993’s Harmony Hotel was another amazing record, but it turned out to be your swansong. Back then you toured behind it pretty diligently. You opened for like-minded acts like The BoDeans, your pal Victoria and even opened for Linda Ronstadt at the Universal Amphitheater. I know you had a powerhouse manager at the time, were you getting enough support from the label?

DW: “No use crying over spilt milk. Warner Brothers and our manager, Peter Asher, were great to work with. I don’t think we had an obvious single on Harmony Hotel,” so it was harder to promote. I was so grateful Warner Brothers allowed us to produce the album without interference and we were able to work with the legendary (conductor/arranger) Paul Buckmaster again. He created some beautiful string arrangements for us. We did some amazing theater tours, opening for Roy Orbison, Linda Ronstadt and Carole King. We even sang with Joni Mitchell at a benefit concert. I loved playing those old theaters, and I also loved watching those great artists I admired so much from the wings of the stage. Peter introduced us to Linda, Carole, James Taylor and Randy Newman. The latter gave us his opinion on why we hadn’t made it big; “the problem with you guys is that you are too good.” I always appreciated that….”

AW: “Actually, we were getting support from the label. But who knows where you fall, priority-wise, in those closed-door label meetings. I know they were focused on Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven” single those same weeks….so, that’s a tough one to go up against. I know that Peter Asher was a big advocate for us and helped us get on TV shows like Late Night With David Letterman and The Tonight Show.”

EPA: You guys played an Everly-esque duo in Allison Anders’ Grace Of My Heart film. Is that when you recorded most of the music for this new(ish) album?

AW: “I think yes, that inspired us. It was a lot of fun to play those roles in the movie and it reminded us how much we loved the Everlys…. we had been singing their songs all of our lives. One of the first songs we wrote together when we were younger was “She’s Got That Look In Her Eyes,” which was obviously inspired by early Everly Brothers. I think David and I are best singing those close harmonies and playing acoustic guitars. It’s so natural and easy for us. We just gathered some of our favorite songs with Marvin, put up a few microphones and recorded live in my tiny studio in just a couple of days. Marvin and Don Heffington were such a tight rhythm section, having played together in Lone Justice. Greg Leisz on steel guitar is the star of the sessions. We would usually just do two or three takes and he would create this instant musical architecture that would pull the whole thing together, making it sound like a record. We put the tapes in storage and forgot about them until Marvin unearthed the ones he had written in 2020. He asked if we had recorded any other tracks. I had a faint recollection and took a look in my storage room where I have boxes and boxes of tapes. I found two-track tapes marked WB Country, and lo and behold, there was indeed an album’s worth of songs. I sent the best tracks back to Marvin and he did some edits, making the songs shorter and more immediate sounding. He cut out extra verses and bridges, he shortened intros and outros. He wanted to create that feel of a two-minute song from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Since everything was recorded live, we couldn’t remix anything. I just added some tape echo and we were ready to go.

EPA: You guys broke up, sans drama, in the latter half of the ‘90s. Pre-internet, it was never really publicized. Personally, I kept waiting for a fourth album. Why did you break up?

DW: “Our contract was up with Warner Brothers and Andy turned to me and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I wasn’t ready to let our career go, but understood we needed to go off and find our own lives separately-we’d never really had that opportunity before. I floundered for a couple of years in New York before returning to Los Angeles to start over again. I needed to find a job and was hired by an architectural firm as an assistant. I had always been interested in architecture and design and learned a lot there in eight years. I left that company and was able to create a business for myself doing interior and landscape design, which I do to this day.”

AW: “I wanted to produce other people’s records. after working with David since we were kids, I needed to experience new possibilities on my own. It’s easy to lose individuality as a twin, and even more intense when you share a career.”

EPA: Andrew, you segued into music production, and were behind the boards for a surfeit of stellar albums from The Negro Problem, Grant Lee Buffalo, Peter Case and the Old ‘97s (just to name a few). Did you ever contemplate a solo career?

AW: “NO, I never considered a solo career because I don’t like singing by myself. I only ever sang harmony and that’s where I’m most comfortable. Apparently, my father taught me how to sing harmony when I was in the crib and I guess it stuck. David always sang the melody, he has a much better voice. I’m happier behind the scenes putting arrangements together. Never really loved the spotlight, but I do love working in the studio. EPA: David, you left music and the West Coast behind and then returned to L.A. working at an architecture firm before beginning a new career interior and landscape design. Do you miss making music?”

DW: “I never stopped making music, but it has only been for my own enjoyment. I’ve really enjoyed collaborating again with my brother and Marvin, putting together Memories To Burn.”

EPA: What precipitated the release of Memories To Burn, which basically consists of unreleased music?

DW: “Two words: Marvin Etzioni!”

AW: “Without Marvin, no Memories To Burn. He sent me a few of the tracks we had recorded and…. besides liking the songs…. I really liked the vibe of the recordings. They have a similar sound to ‘50s and early ‘60s records because we used the same process of recording where you set up a few microphones in a room, capturing a performance live. It wasn’t a conscious choice to do it this, it was simply a necessity, due to the constraints of my small studio. It was fortuitous that I had positioned the microphones in the right place to get a good blend on the recording. All of this was done very quickly, over a period of two days.”

EPA: Will you play a few shows to celebrate the album’s release? Or consider collaborating on some totally new music?

DW: “I’m always up for writing new music.”

AW: “No, we won’t do any shows. If we sell a million copies, I might consider it.”

EPA: Finally, if reuniting isn’t in the cards, what are your next (separate) projects, musically, or otherwise?

DW: “I’m quite busy with my design work. Marvin, Andrew and I are starting work on a “Best Of The Williams Brothers” album, which will involve selecting our favorite tracks from past albums with some alternative versions of songs.”

AW: “My project right now is getting my son ready for college.”

EPA: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I hope I reined in my inner-groupie….