It has been a good year for George Lewis Jnr., the laconic songwriter behind the moniker Twin Shadow. The New York native has gone from an unknown to a musician fêted by press and fans alike and is now playing cities and venues far removed from the artistic haven of his hometown.
Tonight he is huddled on a sofa, cursing the cold and listening to trains rumble over the curved roof of his dressing room at the Cockpit in Leeds. In two days time he will head over the channel and bring his brand of languid, balmy electro-pop to mainland Europe. As we talk he enthuses about British fans who although “live, are much more subdued afterwards they are in my face about how much they love it, they are much more into complimenting in a very polite way. An American will say ‘fucking rad show dude!’ whereas a Brit will say ‘I really loved it, its just fantastic'”. That he is playing in such far-flung climes is incredible in itself. He describes how, a year ago, “I was in Berlin and I was like ‘I have to sort out what I want to do’, I was thinking of giving it up. I had ideas and lyrics and things, I was trying myself to create the vision of all these things that I had in my head.”
A career in music, it seems, wasn’t a decision taken lightly. Lewis Jnr. is first and foremost an artist and a writer (“I’d write novels if I had the patience”, he says casually at one point) who creates deeply personal music. To see that music assigned to a category is something that irks him somewhat and he responds emphatically when I ask him if he minds being pegged as an eighties revivalist – “I don’t think any musician is comfortable with a tag, tags are annoying. I don’t care really. Revivalist is such a boring word to me, I don’t think that’s what I’m doing, I have no interest in reviving anything but I also think there’s no way of avoiding so much of the past”.
That isn’t to say that he despises the process by which artists are defined. He recognises the importance of his music being associated with recognisable archetypes and is reassuringly down to earth about the way that people assume they recognise his influences; “You might play me some of your band and I might say it sounds like the Buzzcocks and you might fucking hate the Buzzcocks. If people hear things in my music that I don’t care about as long as they are fond of them it’s fine.”
His debut LP, Forget, released last year, was produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear which could explain the intoxicating sheen that is layered on to Lewis Jnr.’s artifice. Taylor he says was “great” and he expanded more about the working dynamic between the pair: “His thing was preservation. He wanted to take what I had done already and spit-shine it so it would pop out past what other people were doing, his input was very subtle”. Seemingly committing his work to record in as clean a manner as possible was the aim. His music is so authentic and direct that it seems profoundly personal I ask if he sometimes retreats into a persona to shelter himself from pouring his heart out entirely. His answer is as intriguing as it is unequivocal – “Personally I don’t like speaking through a character because I continue to find mystery in my own life.”
Lewis Jr. is a hypnotic presence. He speaks thoughtfully throughout, pausing to ensure he fits together his words correctly and is far removed from the stereotype of a bombastic young musician, drunk on their own success. He references Shakespeare and screen plays as heavy lyrical influences and speaks with remarkable clarity about artistic evolution. “Before this record”, he says, “I was a bit lost because I was removed from my music. Any guilty pleasure I have is on the table now”. So will his music move in a new direction with this new-found confidence? “I always have to take into account the truth of my situation. A year ago I didn’t know that this would be anything, now I’m playing sold out shows, so the truth of the situation has changed. I am no longer in my own shadow, I’m out in the front. I have to change everything according to where I am at. I guess I got what I wanted.”By Jake Farrell