GEORGE LEWIS JR., AKA TWIN SHADOW
When Interview met George Lewis Jr., better known by as Twin Shadow, a few months ago, we were both a little disoriented: we were in Oslo for the Øya Festival, and had trouble finding one another in an unfamiliar city. Lewis was finally nearing the end of an impressive (and exhausting) run of festivals—Coachella, Sasquatch, Pitchfork, Bonnaroo, Primavera, Hopscotch, Austin City Limits—but was only halfway done with his “Clean Cuts” tour, featuring one of the best tour posters we’ve ever seen.
As it turns out, though, a little disoriented is one of the best ways to talk to George Lewis Jr. He’s disarmingly honest, and doesn’t much care to go through the motions of pretending to appreciate the music-industry clichés so often applied to him. These revelations shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to those who have heard his new-New-Wave compositions—they, too, are more honest, and more personal, than we’re used to in this day and age. And he is, of course, a thrill to see live—which you can do tomorrow night at Webster Hall, where he’s playing with Diamond Rings, Mickey Avalon, and Roxy Cottontail.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: It seems like you’re in a bit of transitional mode right now—this is the last tour that you are doing for the current album, and you’re already debuting new material. What kind of headspace are you in?
GEORGE LEWIS JR.: I’m in a very tired headspace, but I’m excited for the future of Twin Shadow. It’s a stressful place to be in, once you’re heading into recording your next record, there’s a lot of expectation, but I’m actually okay.SYMONDS: Good, glad to hear it. How do you think that the new stuff is different from Forget?
LEWIS JR.: I don’t know yet, I haven’t made it.
SYMONDS: But you have new material that you’ve been rolling out. Sort of a soft launch.
LEWIS JR.: Yeah, it’s a little faster, I think that it’s going to be a little louder, I think it’s going to be a little more energetic.
SYMONDS: It’s not like you were lacking in energy before…
LEWIS JR.: No, I don’t think I was, but it’s going to be even more energy.
SYMONDS: Is it as personal?
LEWIS JR.: [joking] No, it’s going to be very removed.
SYMONDS: Some people do that; it’s not such a crazy question.
LEWIS JR.: No, it’s not a crazy question at all. I think it will always be personal, with me.
SYMONDS: So you’ve gone to a lot of festivals this spring and summer—like a million, almost.
LEWIS JR.: A million, almost a million.
SYMONDS: Do you think that the experience that you have as a solo musician is different from what a band has? Do you get lonely?
LEWIS JR.: I don’t play by myself, I have a full band. So it’s the same as everybody else, I think.
SYMONDS: So you’re not the diva in charge.
LEWIS JR.: Well, I am the diva in charge.
SYMONDS: But you spend time by yourself—your band isn’t here right now.
LEWIS JR.: Oh, no. Okay, doing stuff like this. I guess it’s a little different. I don’t know anything else, though, so this is normal to me.
SYMONDS: So you don’t get jealous?
LEWIS JR.: Of them having free time?
SYMONDS: Maybe it’s not a clear question, sorry.
LEWIS JR.: It’s okay; just pretend you’re Norwegian.
SYMONDS: I’ve been trying to do that, but I don’t fool anyone.
LEWIS JR.: Really? You look Norwegian.
SYMONDS: As soon as I walk up anyone, they automatically start speaking English to me.
LEWIS JR.: Really?
SYMONDS: Which I guess is nice, but at the same time I feel like I’m not pulling anything over on anyone.
LEWIS JR.: Maybe you should dye your hair a little lighter.
SYMONDS: Maybe you should die your hair a little lighter. [laughs]
LEWIS JR.: I will, but I still don’t think they’ll think I’m Scandinavian.
SYMONDS: The ’80s get brought up a lot in connection with your music, but I think there’s also a hint of the ’60s crooner, with these semi-narrative second-person songs you write. Do you ever feel that you’re getting too boxed into this ’80s revival niche?
LEWIS JR.: Yes, and I don’t care. You can’t avoid getting boxed in; all you can do is prove yourself by making good music.
SYMONDS: Do you just figure that if it weren’t this, it would be something else?
LEWIS JR.: Yeah, of course. And at the same time, I hear just as often that I’m not a definable band.
SYMONDS: I think those are the two big music writing clichés right now: “It sounds like the 80s,” or, “It’s unclassifiable.”
LEWIS JR.: Yeah, exactly. It doesn’t matter, people need consistency, people need to know that something is something. I don’t know why that is, ’cause I certainly don’t listen music that way, but whatever, it doesn’t matter.
SYMONDS: You’re very Zen right now.
LEWIS JR.: I’m Zen always, I think. Except for when I’m yelling at people; then I’m not very Zen.
SYMONDS: Well, hopefully this won’t devolve into that.
LEWIS JR.: No, it won’t.
SYMONDS: The last time you talked to Interview, you had expressed some annoyance at the idea of a bedroom project, or people saying that you were a bedroom project. Or you think that bedroom projects don’t have that that much to offer.
LEWIS JR.: I doubt that that was what I said. I probably said that, like what we were just talking about, it’s another box to put people in. I think that a lot of people think that it’s cute to be like, “Oh yeah, my bedroom project.” No. If you’re making pop music, then you are doing your best to make it sound, with the tools that you have, like you’re doing your best. Bedroom doesn’t mean shit. I could have 50 thousand dollars of gear inside my bedroom, which I do now.
SYMONDS: [laughs] Do you want me to strike that from the record? I don’t want to get your house broken into.
LEWIS JR.: No. I have one million dollars of gear in my bedroom! It doesn’t matter. No, it’s just another annoying category, and it’s a really silly category, too.
SYMONDS: One of my favorite tracks from Forget is “I Can’t Wait,” which, as you know, opens with the line “I cannot wait for summer.” Did this summer live up to your expectations?
LEWIS JR.: I think that that song is just using summer as a thing that you hope for—but it’s not tangible, it’s the pot of gold, it’s the end of the rainbow. It is the rainbow. It’s not attainable; the going for it is the important thing, I suppose. This summer, a whole new set of problems came, and that’s what that song is about: I can’t wait for something else to happen, so that the problems that I have right now will go away. Then you get there and there’s a new set of problems. I think that they call that the “human dilemma,” or something like that.
SYMONDS: Wheel of fortune?
LEWIS JR.: Yes, I suppose so.
SYMONDS: That’s kind of a bummer note to end the interview on.
LEWIS JR.: No, I’m saying when I write music I’m in a very naïve state, and that’s a beautiful thing, and then learning is a beautiful thing. And I will be naïve again, and I will hope for something again, and I will try to achieve that thing that I hope for, and I may not get it. Or I may get it, and it might not be what I want it to be.
SYMONDS: That’s a good attitude to have.
LEWIS JR.: It’s not negative, it’s just evolving.
TWIN SHADOW WILL PLAY AT WEBSTER HALL TOMORROW NIGHT. FOR MORE ON GEORGE LEWIS, JR., VISIT HIS WEBSITE.