Entertainment » Music

Shadowing Twin Shadow :: 2011’s next best thing

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Jan 16, 2011

Following the bevy of "best of" lists that usually mark the final month of a year, inevitably comes the anointment of a new class of "next best things" set to be anointed. And with one hell of a stellar pop debut already under his belt, Brooklyn-based Twin Shadow -- a.k.a. George Lewis Jr. -- seems like a pretty sure bet to step up to the throne in the new year.

While Lewis' synthesizer-drenched songs might simply feel like a drifty homage to '80s new wave bands like New Order or Depeche Mode at first listen, repeated listens to Forget uncover a captivating, dark pop sensibility carrying through the songs that's difficult to ignore. Watching the band in concert, Twin Shadow comes to live even further, as the music's emotion resonates deep with the band's marriage of electronic curiosity and some genuinely killer guitar riffs. It's no wonder their audiences at each show grow larger and larger as the buzz grows on a band that has become one of the most promising new musical acts out there today.

Now on the road in support of his first album, Lewis -- who was born in the Dominican Republic, raised in Florida and, we have to add, is a very, very good looking man -- took a break between shows to speak with EDGE about life on the road, homoerotic video imagery and why his band won't stop stealing the show from other bands they open for any time soon.

Stealing the show

EDGE: How has this latest leg of your tour been going? You’re about ready to had out to Europe for some shows before returning to the U.S. in the spring, correct?

George Lewis Jr.: So far, it’s been sold out so it’s going really well! We’re enjoying driving through the Dark North right now. It’s very nice up here.

EDGE: You’ve been touring like crazy through last year -- were there any shows or experiences that were particularly memorable for you?

GL: Montreal and Toronto have been really great. We kind of always like going out with afterward with some of the people who were at the shows and have had a great time. That stuff has been really fun. All of our shows are very special, each and every one has its own memorable thing. Or it’s not memorable because it’s hard to remember when you’re doing so many. But every show has its own thing, even the bad shows, which we really haven’t had any. Even where the turnout wasn’t great, there really is something about each one that each one of us in the band really likes.

EDGE: You seem to have a knack for stealing the show from some of the bands you’ve been opening for. Does that make for an awkward backstage area or how do you deal with that?

GL: We don’t really talk about it like, "Hey, I stole your show!" but, you know, that’s pretty much what we’re aiming for. We’re not aiming to destroy another band, but we’re definitely aiming to be the best we can be. And we’re pretty good at it, that’s all there is to it. We’re just trying to be as good as we can be and, in my personal opinion, we’re a long shot away from the best we can be. This sounds like a fucking Army commercial, but we’re aggressive and that’s just in our nature.

The other bands whom we’ve toured with I think pick up on our aggressive nature and it usually brings theirs up a little bit more as well. It’s kind of like everybody pushes each other a little bit harder to be better.

Back to basics

EDGE: What was it like taking the songs off your album, Forget, and translating them into your live shows? Did you even intend to play them live when you wrote them and how did that change the songs?

GL: Of course, I wanted to eventually tour them live. I expected originally to have it be a lot more electronically based in the live show, but after going to so many shows where laptops and technology are heavily used, I think you start to get bogged down by the setup time and the quality of the sound.

There’s something about rock and rock 101 that is so sacred to a live show and having acoustic instruments amplified. There’s something really special and powerful about that. I wanted to be more subtle about bring the songs to life in the live form. We just kind of let go of a lot of assumptions and tried to do what came naturally to us, and that’s what it is. I think the songs stand up for themselves and we’ve hit that vibe we needed.

EDGE: I know you wrote some of the songs from Forget while on the road with other ventures, but what has it been like to approach writing new songs while touring so heavily in support of the current album? Is it a challenge?

GL: That’s what I’m dealing with now and it’s difficult. I just had a week where I went down to the Dominican Republic to visit my parents and I set up a little studio there and so I’ve got all these ideas and I can do it. I’ve done a couple of remixes on the road just in the van or a hotel room, so that’s not hard, but the hard part is getting into the emotional space where you’re ready to give up some things emotionally.

When you’re on tour, you’ve got a lot of things on your mind and a lot of it is practical. It’s hard to get in touch with what you’re feeling when you’re dealing with numbers and press. I’m busier with phone interviews and business stuff so it’s hard to just get into a place where you’re feeling creative. I do plan on doing it, but I just haven’t really found the time I guess.

Story continues on following page:

Watch George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow perform "Slow":

Homoerotic imagery

EDGE: You’ve spoken before about your interest in homoerotic imagery, as displayed in your video for "Slow," which is vaguely styled after a gay adult film. What is it that appeals to you about gay culture?

GL: With a lot of my friends who are gay, I’ve always been fascinated by their stories of how they came to accepting these things and the secrets that were kept and the way they deal with it. With the people they hang out with, there’s always this sense of mystery that inherent to their stories and I think there are huge feelings that you can draw from that -- the worry, the mystery or the freedom.

My gay friends are way more open to sex than my straight friends, so there’s a sense of freedom and that sense of worry all combined into one and it’s just a powerful feeling. It just interests me, but I don’t obsess over it.

EDGE: I think that juxtaposition of freedom and worry pretty aptly describes the mood that Forget elicits better than I’ve ever been able to describe your sound to friends.

GL: [Laughs] That’s good, because I’m worried and I’m free, too.

EDGE: Your press fixates on your status as a fashionisto of sorts, so I’ve got to ask you about that early aughts term "metrosexual." What are your thoughts on that phenomenon? Do you think it describes you?

GL: That’s not something I identify with because I don’t really fit the bill like I’m a bigger guy. I’m like a waify, heroin chic type of guy, so I think that’s the kind of body type that works for that. I think metrosexual is a pretty lazy term. I think that having style doesn’t necessarily mean you’re feminine. Marlon Brando had a lot of style and could beat the shit out of any man on Earth probably. I don’t know, I’m kind of lost in the question now, but I’m just interested in fashion because it’s something I can’t explain. I’m interested in aesthetics and life is pretty boring, so you’ve got to get into something.

Surprised and pleased

EDGE: Has it surprised you to be where you are today with the band -- headlining your own shows, winding up on so many "best of 2010" lists and bringing your songs all over the world to increasingly large audiences?

GL: I say this a lot when this question comes up, but I’m surprised and pleased with where we’re at. You know, I’m not surprised, but maybe I just said that just now. I’m not surprised. I’m happy with where we’re at and proud of the people who have been involved but it’s something that I, of course, expected. I’m not, like, totally baffled by it.

EDGE: Did you make any new year’s resolutions?

GL: No resolutions. Or.. did I make any? I’m trying to think. No, I didn’t have anything I wanted to fix about myself this year, maybe I will next year.

EDGE: What about any goals for your music in 2011?

GL: My goals are just to make as much money as we can and to continue making music and maybe bridging out and working with some other people. I just want to build Twin Shadow -- that’s the focus -- and I want to try and build it as fast as I can.

EDGE: As fast as you can? As a "buzz band" of sorts, do you feel like you’re battling the clock in some ways?

GL: No, it’s not that. I know I like working quickly but the world is holding me back from doing that. You’ve got an album cycle -- you’ve got to promote your record for a year because that’s responsible record-making and selling. I push against that and maybe I can put out two albums a year. I’m not saying I want to, but it’s more just that I know you can get bogged down by the world in this situation we’re in.

I’m sure we’ll get bogged down, so for me to push against that means I can work at a pace I think is steady. I don’t feel rushed too much, other than the end of the world coming and all, I guess.

Twin Shadow wrapped up their North American tour with their sold-out Schubas gig in Chicago Friday, Jan. 14, as part of the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival. They will return to the States in the spring. Visit www.twinshadow.net for more information on the band.

Watch George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow perform "Castles In The Snow". (All images from "PUNKS" a documentary about S.Paulo punk movement in 1983, directed by? Alberto Gieco):

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.


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