Hit internet twins Max and Harvey: It is really stressful being on social media
You might recognise Max and Harvey from X Factor: Celebrity. But to a younger generation of viewers, the identical twins are more than that – presenters, singers and role models. Alex Green speaks to the brothers
IT'S quite the burden to be named the "next Ant and Dec" by Simon Cowell aged just 17. But Max and Harvey Mills are no ordinary teenagers. The identical twin, sporting matching Justin Bieber quiffs, are bona fide social media stars.
And the pair have already amassed six million followers on TikTok (the platform of choice for Generation Z) and an impressive one million followers on Instagram.
Like Bieber and Shawn Mendes, they rose to prominence posting videos of themselves singing to social media – before moving into presenting, production and light comedy. Then, last year, they were scouted by reality TV supremo Cowell.
The Syco boss, whose success stories include One Direction and Little Mix, invited them to appear on his latest show.
The spin-off saw a cohort of athletes, former Love Islanders, newsreaders and actors compete for a record deal, and was crafted with the aim of boosting sagging viewer ratings for the 16-year-old brand.
Max and Harvey made it to the final where they were beaten by former Towie star and budding country musician Megan McKenna – but there are no hard feelings.
"It was just a privilege to be on that stage the final night," says Max down the phone, from their family home.
However, the pair almost turned down the offer.
"We always said we never wanted to do something like the X Factor, The Voice or Britain's Got Talent, because we wanted to do it individually," explains Harvey.
"But there was something about this format, when it was explained to us, that we went, 'Actually, this is very different to the normal show'.
"It was a cool opportunity for us to show the British public who we are and what we do – and hopefully begin a real career."
They even had the chutzpah to hand out advice to the show's production company Fremantle about its social media strategy.
"It wasn't easy to get our point across at first," quips Max, the sparkier of the pair. "But they began listening when they saw it was actually working."
Max and Harvey started young. Their father, a musical theatre aficionado and Royal Academy of Music alumnus, had them singing and performing from a young age.
"It was just something that wasn't even a choice," recalls Harvey, the more serious twin. "It was something we would do in the same way people choose to talk – it was completely natural for us."
As toddlers, they shared the part of Thomas in the 2005 ITV romantic drama William And Mary, featuring Martin Clunes and Julie Graham. After joining the emerging social platform Musical.ly in 2016, they began filming themselves lip-syncing to pop songs by Avicii and Bastille.
Soon they had their own TV show (My Life: Max And Harvey on CBBC) and had become authors (Max And Harvey: In A Book published by Penguin UK).
And in 2018, they were the first signing by RMI Records, a new record label formed by the Disney Music Group.
Like many digital natives, Max and Harvey are fiercely independent, having made their own way in the shifting online landscape of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and now TikTok. But like Strictly Come Dancing competitors Joe Sugg and Saffron Barker, both so-called vloggers, they want to transition into traditional media (TV, radio and the stage).
"It's the move everyone wants to make now," declares Max. "I would say about a year or two ago, social media was – in the nicest but not nicest way possible – destroying everything. It killed TV, because it was so powerful, with YouTube and TikTok and Instagram... It was just overtaking everything.
"But now I feel that social media is merging with TV. Everyone who is on social media has noticed that their followers are dropping a bit, because social media can get a bit overrated sometimes. People are going back to TV, because it is better made, better produced content."
Perhaps that explains why Cowell was so keen to harness their social media clout. The twins admit they were shocked when they read he had compared them to Saturday Night Takeaway hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly – possibly the most prolific presenting duo in TV history.
"When we first saw that... That was an amazing thing for us," Harvey says after a brief chuckle of delight. "A lot of our life, family and friends have said that we are like a mini Ant and Dec. We always stand the right way round, and all that kind of other stuff, and we do a little bit of presenting. It was really, really interesting to see that he said that.
"Obviously, we love presenting and that would be a really cool thing for us to do as well. But it was a very amazing compliment to get."
Surprisingly, the pair are candid about the drawbacks of being dependent on social media.
"We won't deny it, being on social media is very stressful, because it is never consistent," admits Harvey.
"We have seen some of our friends – who have quite a few more followers than us – lose hundreds of thousands of followers, because of Instagram's new algorithm.
"We have also lost a few," he adds before quickly correcting himself. "Although we still go up – we have lost a few followers, and our insights tell us that. It is just really stressful being on social media.
"But I guess it's the same on TV as well. X Factor could release an episode. It could get 10 million live streams and then the next one could get three."
Despite both wearing the cool confidence of someone 10 years their senior, Max and Harvey are still teenagers, albeit extremely industrious ones.
Harvey is studying drumming at music college and taking singing lessons on the side, while Max is studying production, so he can start making tracks in the vein of Avicii's dance-pop.
On top of that, they recently filmed a pilot episode for the BBC which, Max says, "basically entails Harvey and I doing things wildly outside our comfort zone".
It's fair to say the twins are busy. When asked how they cope with the pressure of balancing teenage life with work, Max admits he often feels he is running at full capacity.
"I'm not going to lie to you," he laughs. "A lot of the stuff doesn't really go into my head, because there is so much going on. A lot of it goes right on past. But I will have to look back when I do have enough space in my brain to pick it all up."
But if their careers continue to accelerate, Max and Harvey might never get the chance.
:: More at maxandharveyofficial.com