twin shadow feature for IE weekly

August 24, 2012

Consider this yet another chapter in the schizophrenic reporting lifestyle I have made for myself: I am now writing arts features for the IE Weekly. Yes, that’s IE as in Inland Empire as in now we have to try and hate on two area codes because the 909 isn’t bad enough. I really appreciate the fact that the badasses at the IEW kept me on their radar from the City Beat Long Beach days, which was also run out of their Corona office. But I have to admit that when Lynn sent over the interview request, I had no idea who Twin Shadow was. Nothing a good Google search can’t fix, though.

So I listened to his tunes and started formalizing some ideas about what I wanted to ask him. Since he sounds like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Cure, I thought that he would be really into talking about the 80s. But as I discovered during our rescheduled phone interview (during which I was in my friend’s car in the parking lot of Pizza Port San Clemente), he is not. So I diverted the subject to his diverse upbringing and spent the rest of the day having deep drunken thoughts about how the 80s was the height of multicultural postmodernism and that Hall and Oates might just be the muddled grey that you get when you combine every genre of music in the world. But then I put the beer down and started writing…

This Ain’t No Throwback

Twin Shadow is a culmination of George Lewis Jr.’s many influences

George Lewis Jr. might look like Hall and Oates’ lovechild, sing with Morrissey’s hypnotic baritone and play synth-loving pop as if a John Hughes film soundtrack just got thrown on the record player, but please don’t call his act an ’80s throwback.

“I don’t really think about it in that way,” Lewis says of the music he makes under the name Twin Shadow. “I see why people see that, but I just make the music that I make and it has more to do with being influenced by so many different styles of music.”

Instead of taking notes from a particular decade, Lewis drew more from his diverse upbringing—which took him from the Dominican Republic to Florida then Sweden, Berlin and eventually New York, where Twin Shadow began.

Along the way, the multi-instrumentalist listened to soft rock, hip-hop, R&B, rock ’n‘ roll and punk. He composed music for a dance company, worked for an experimental theatre group, played in a punk band and messed around with noise music before creating Twin Shadow’s textured-synth sounds from a computer in his Brooklyn apartment.

“I don’t really think of my life in types of music really,” Lewis says. “I just think this is what I’m doing now and I’m enjoying it and I’m seeing some success with it.”

With production help from Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, those initial bedroom demos soon became the basis of Twin Shadow’s debut album, 2010’s Forget. Laced with intricately spiraling guitars, verses of tormented emotions and tinges of classic rhythm and blues, the album goes beyond those from others crowding under the “chillwave” umbrella by hinting at a songwriter with more to offer than pure nostalgia.

Today, Lewis is riding his own wave—playing music festivals, touring the world and promoting Twin Shadow’s polished sophomore release, Confess, which came out earlier this summer and presents Lewis’ sultry synth sounds with even more bad-boy swagger.

“I think being a person who comes from two parents who are from two totally different worlds never really identifying with being black, never identifying with being white, never identifying with being Dominican, just identifying with being different—that kind of informed the way that I approach things in my life,” Lewis says.

With Twin Shadow’s latest, however, 27-year-old Lewis solidifies his musical worth as a post-genre poster boy. Confess references decades of pop ideas while incorporating fresh takes on underground artistry to create something quintessentially millennial. As artists become freer to draw from all ends of the spectrum and audiences relish in the hybrids and hyphens of today’s sounds, music such as Twin Shadow’s begins to make sense.

The east coast native also recently moved to the cultural laboratory of Los Angeles, where—when not on the road (or playing this year’s FYF Fest)—he rides his motorcycle, drinks by the swimming pool and crafts poetic pieces of fiction such as the futuristic novel he co-wrote that is being published both online and in zines.

“I think I’m always exactly where I need to be, I don’t wish for anything more than what I have in the moment,” Lewis says. “And I hope to keep evolving. As long as I’m evolving and I’m constantly getting better and better, then I’m good with where I’m at.”

Twin Shadow at The Glass House, 248 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. Sat, Aug. 25. 8pm. $12-$14. And at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com. Thurs, Aug. 30. 7pm. $20. 

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