An Interview with Singing Social Media Superstars, Max and Harvey
Are 18-year-old identical twins Max and Harvey musicians, social media stars, TV presenters, live performers, podcasters – or all of the above? Tony Greenway joins them on a Zoom call to find out…
The kids of today, eh? If they’re not constantly on their phones or playing video games, they’re carving out mega-successful careers as pop stars, television presenters, and global social media sensations, while coming second on Celebrity X Factor.
Er… aren’t they?
Well, Max and Harvey certainly are. If you’re over a certain age, you might not have heard of these pop-singing identical twin brothers from Berkshire. On the other hand, if you’re under a certain age, there’s no chance you won’t know about them.
Max and Harvey – surname Mills – have been performing for as long as they can remember. They appeared as toddlers in the Martin Clunes ITV drama, William and Mary; then, aged 12, they alternated the role of Friederich von Trapp in the UK Tour of The Sound of Music.
But they really hit the big time in their early teens on social media app musical.ly — before it morphed into TikTok. By regularly posting videos of themselves singing and playing their own instruments (Max is a guitarist and Harvey is a fierce drummer), they notched up a huge number of followers.
With their popularity soaring they released their first single in 2016, and — after the BBC made a documentary about their lives — became regulars on CBBC, even fronting their own show, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). In 2019, the age range of their audience went up when they appeared on The X Factor: Celebrity with the likes of fellow contestants Ricki Lake, Vinnie Jones and – for some strange reason – Martin Bashir.
Indeed, there appears to be no stopping Max and Harvey. They’ve recently relaunched their podcast (which is currently riding high in the podcast charts) and released a new single, In My DNA. Plus – Covid-willing – they have a UK tour planned for the second half of the year.
But perhaps it’s social media where they have really found their niche. My official in-house Max and Harvey consultant – aka my 14-year-old daughter, Betsy, who is always supremely dedicated to her research – casually mentions that the twins have amassed nearly one million followers on Instagram and a staggering six million on TikTok.
“All guns blazing”
Max and Harvey! You’re still only 18. So does that mean you’re currently at college?
Harvey: Officially, yes; but, obviously, that’s all ending soon. And it’s been quite hard for us because we’ve had to take a lot of time off due to everything we do. College has been very understanding about that.
You post a lot of content on social media. How do you keep coming up with new ideas?
Harvey: As much as we do create specific content to entertain people, we also just put our real lives out there. For example, last summer we were in France when Max got appendicitis. That turned into peritonitis, which is life-threatening. I texted my mum while she was with him in the hospital and asked: ‘D’you reckon Max would care if I came in and filmed some stuff?’ Because I knew deep down that he’d want it to be filmed because it was a big moment in our lives. On the other hand, I didn’t want to go into hospital all guns blazing, saying: ‘Yeah! Let’s get some videos!’
Max: You did that anyway.
Harvey: I did. But it was interesting to get an insight into what happens in a situation like that. Especially because a lot of viewers might assume that people in the public eye never have those sorts of problems, as you don’t tend so see that side of their lives. It makes everyone realise that we’re just two teenagers who got lucky with social media, rather than some sort of… celebrities, as it were.
Is that how you both see it? That you got lucky?
Harvey: We did technically get lucky – although a lot of people had the chance to get lucky on musical.ly. But I also think we were smart about it… and that what we did with it is why we’re successful. Essentially, we curated our content to our fanbase, rather than just trying to get the next viral hit. Because if you don’t focus on the people who are watching your videos now, you’re not going to keep them in five years’ time.
Max: You can tell the people who figured out to be good at the job of content creating on social media because anyone can whip their phone out and film any old event. You can either make it a skill or you can be a one-hit wonder. The same thing happens with music when people have one hit song — and then you never hear from them again.
Social media is fickle though, isn’t it? How do you keep people interested — and following you?
Harvey: Some people maybe aren’t as invested in our careers as they once were; but we’re always getting new fans and followers who like to watch our content. And we’re so grateful to them because they’re the reason we can do our jobs. They’re like our employers, in a way.
“We never expected to be doing those things”
Let’s talk about the pop side of your career. You’re booked to play festivals in July, then your This is Not a Phase tour starts in August. How sure are you – what with Covid, and all – that it’ll go ahead?
Max: There’s no 100 per cent confirmation; but as far as we know right now (which is mid-April, at the time of writing) everything is going ahead. We’re pretty damn certain the festivals will go ahead because they’re outdoors, obviously. With our (indoor venue) tour it’s a little bit more of a worry… but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Your new song, ‘In My DNA’, is out now. It’s about your grandad, who has Alzheimer’s, and your late grandmother, isn’t it?
Harvey: We’ve been recording a lot of new music in lockdown, which we hope to roll out in the next few months. ‘In My DNA’ was one of those. We’d been told by our dad that our grandfather had been found walking alongside the motorway because he got lost on the way to tennis. Luckily, our grandma was driving back from one of her chemotherapy sessions when she saw him. I said: ‘Why don’t we write about that?’ Max said: ‘Oh, we can’t.’ But I said: ‘No, just think about it. They’ve got a really interesting story because grandma was diagnosed with cancer and grandpops has Alzheimer’s — but they were both trying to look after each other.’ We’ve tried to tell their story in a way that other people can relate to with regards their own grandparents. It’s a song that means a lot to us. We have other songs coming out soon that are more anthemic and summery.
Of all the things you do — social media, TV presenting, and performing — what’s your favourite?
Harvey: Performing. We’ve always been in it for that; but, at the same time, we’ve grown into the TV presenting and social media – although we never expected to be doing those things. And we’re podcasting now, too. That’s so much fun because you get to talk to so many cool people.
“Genuinely lovely person”
Who would be a dream guest for your podcast?
Harvey: That’s so tricky. You’d think it would be our favourite celebrity, but actually it should be people who are interesting to listen to. We recorded an episode with (Made in Chelsea‘s) Jamie Laing recently and I have to say, genuinely, even our producer was jumping up and down about how interesting and fun it was. Someone I would say – and it would be controversial – would be Logan Paul.
Max: I think I’d have to go for someone like The Rock, because he’s just done so much. He’s done singing, he’s done movies, he’s done wrestling. He’s done the lot.
You interviewed Evie Meg (a TikTok star with Tourette’s Syndrome) on the podcast and have since become good friends who constantly go live together on social media. Why do you connect so well?
Max: Harvey and me aren’t wise old people who have been in the industry for years and years; but we do know what it’s like to grow insanely large on social media in a short space of time – which is what has happened to Evie (she has 13 million followers and counting). We know the dos and don’ts and want to help as many people as we can in that regard. When we first interviewed Evie we had a chat afterwards, and she mentioned about wanting to find management but not knowing how to go about it.
Harvey: From those conversations it just moved into friendship. We really got along. Max and I were like: ‘She’s really cool.’ She’s a genuinely lovely person who is getting massive on social media.
How did your TV presenting careers start?
Harvey: We’d just recorded our documentary in 2017 for the BBC (called ‘My Life: Max and Harvey’) and appeared on one of the Blue Peter live shows to promote it. One of the BBC commissioners was watching and said: ‘I want those two to have a show. I don’t care what it is.’
“He is so outrageous”
Is that how you were given your own programme, FOMO?
Harvey: Yes. We were like: ‘This is brilliant!’ It was an amazing opportunity for us. The whole thing was put together on a whim. So the fact that it ran for two-and-a-half years and three seasons was incredible.
It was recently announced that FOMO won’t be coming back. What happened?
Max: It was Covid. If Covid hadn’t happened the show would still be running. I think they’re going for more cost-effective programmes that people can consume. But we’re fine with it.
Harvey: CBBC has a new commissioner. There’s absolutely no hard feelings, and they still want to keep us around. We’ll definitely be working with them in the future.
Max: Saturday Mash-Up! (a Saturday magazine programme hosted by Joe Tasker and Harpz Kaur) starts soon. So we’ll be back on that.
Harvey: And it does mean we’re free to work on our own projects. Although FOMO was our project it was also very much controlled by the BBC. Which is not a bad thing – they have to be very strict on everything they put out. Whereas now we have this massive creative freedom.
Talking of CBBC presenters – what’s Hacker T Dog like in real life, cockers?
Max: We all make the joke that Hacker is the one that CBBC can’t fire, because he gets parents watching with their children. He is so outrageous, though. He’s had the most complaints. Well, not complaints that would get someone fired, but they’re sort of: ‘Right, Phil. You need to not do that next time.’ And he’s like: ‘Cool! I’ll think of another way to do it.’
Harvey: Phil is the guy who is Hacker’s puppeteer.
Hang on. Hacker isn’t real?
Harvey: I’m so sorry.
“We just love entertaining”
After that bombshell, answer me this: how did you get involved in Celebrity X Factor?
Max: They approached us and, at first, we thought we were being pranked. I think they approached the likes of Vinnie (Jones) and Ricki Lake, too — but everyone else applied for it. They had to audition. For some reason, they didn’t audition me and Harvey.
Harvey: Well, that’s because they already had proof of our singing ability, whereas the others weren’t known singers. They had to make sure they could at least hold a tune.
So when you were asked to appear, did you jump at the chance?
Max: Initially, we said to our management: ‘We don’t really want to do it’ because it wasn’t the direction we wanted to go in. But then it was presented to us as: ‘Look: don’t think of it as a talent competition where you have to prove yourself. Think of it as a bit of fun where you can grow as artists and work with the best people in the industry.’ Then we thought it sounded like a good push for us. The training was ridiculous, though. But it was extremely helpful to us. We wouldn’t be where we are now without that show.
What does the future hold for you?
Harvey: It’s a great question because, right now, we don’t know. How do you choose, especially when we we’ve been so lucky to be given opportunities to try different things? We want to be musicians but, with the world we’re in, we just love entertaining. If we can be in this industry and entertaining people, then that’s our end goal.
The Max and Harvey podcast is now available on Spotify
For more information visit: maxandharveyofficial.com