Exclusive: The Masculine Mystique of Twin Shadow
The current dance-rock scene, or even as alternative music as a whole, is seriously lacking a quintessential male figure, a position previously occupied by the likes of Prince or David Bowie. Fortunately, that figure has arrived in the form of the handsome, mysterious, and supremely talented George Lewis Jr, aka Twin Shadow.
Launching into the music world with his spectacular debut, Forget, Lewis quickly forged a reputation for himself of heavily guitar-driven elctro-pop quite unlike anything millennial listeners had heard from an emerging artist. He continued to excel with his sophomore effort, Confess, an album that launched the hugely successful single Five Seconds, with a video that solidified his reputation as pop’s sole badboy-biker figure. After a move to Warner Bros Records, Lewis made his major label debut with this year’s Eclipse, an album that highlighted Lewis’ ability to meld the sonic textures of R&B into his already formidable repertoire. Milk Made’s Jake Boyer spoke to Lewis following a performance in New York of his new material to discuss the role masculinity plays in his persona, his first musical obsessions, and whether or not he is okay with being coined ‘indie’ by his peers.
When did you first get into music?
I guess it started in the house growing up. When everybody listened to the same records together and that would be something we shared. Everyone wanted to play DJ in a way. Pretty early on I was really interested in Boyz II Men, I began listening to Paul Simon— Graceland a lot. I was so in love with the idea of learning how these songs were created, though I think the Boyz II Men obsession happened because I just wanted to be in a boy group. And I got involved in music in church, I sang in the choir, and that was the first real experience I had with music. And I learned to play piano there as well.
Each successive album of yours seems like it gets bigger and bigger, in every sense. How much of an effort was there to create that atmosphere on ‘Eclipse’?
There was somewhat of a conscious effort, but I think it was mostly subconscious. It wasn’t like I wrote down on a piece of paper ‘this record will sound this way’. But there was definitely that subconscious instinct of a large scope for the new record.
Are you a big 80’s fan? Your music is often described as pretty 80’s esque.
It’s funny, because I would’ve only been six years old when the 80’s were over, so in a sense I was more of a 90’s kid. I was obsessed with Nirvana and Pearl Jam and reissued Clash records and I was more interested in punk rock from the 70’s. I never really got the comparison, 80’s production is very layered, it’s very lush, it’s very indulgent. I think all my peers are using a lot of production techniques from that time period, but that said I really don’t find it too applicable to my music.
How much of a role does your sensuality play in your aesthetic?
It’s becoming a part of the world aesthetic I guess. At least for people in the art world. I think people are exploring a lot of the darker turns of love in their work. So I think that’s a product of a generational thing, or part of a collective consciousness. But it is certainly present in my work.
Your album titles are all pretty charged—Forget, Confess, where did the idea for Eclipse come from/fit in?
After listening to the record honestly. This was the first time I was working on the album artwork after the songs were written, so the whole thing was a creative process where everything was tied into each other. With all the images the art director came up with we just saw these patterns happening. Things were silhouetted, very black and white, very cut and dry. And the words on this record aren’t necessarily as playful as the previous ones, they’re a little more direct and inviting. So we just kind of came up with that word ‘eclipse.’ Whenever you think about something moving and you think of big contrast of light and dark, you think of eclipse, and it’s also an action word, a verb. The idea of movement exists inside of that word, which I really like. When you think of things as black and white, these are concrete things, and I thought of it in that way but it’s also evolving; I will move past that point. Eclipse!
I’ve read a lot about your antagonism with being referred to as an ‘indie’ band, why is that?
I just think that we should stop using that word. I wish we didn’t have to use any words to describe music, but we have to, there are jobs that are created by analyzing music. I just don’t care for the discussion or the separation of musicians. I can joke with my friends ‘oh god here comes another from Brooklyn’, another one of these kinds of bands, this indie band and that indie band. But it’s a very young people-centric thing to classify them, I mean nobody really nobody knows. Indie used to represent something, but now it’s a style, so no one knows what indie is. It’s a useless term, my frustrations are more with that fact.
What was it like appearing on Comedy Bang Bang?
Scott Aukerman just asked me to do it. I’d been on his radio show. And I’m friends with Reggie Watts, my keytar player plays in Reggie’s band, so there’s a lot of connections. And I said of course. I thought it was hilarious.
Can we expect a future in comedy from you?
Oh man, I don’t know about that. But I have deep respect for comedy. I really stand behind it, I think it’s the greatest art form; it’s the hardest. Music takes you to that spiritual place, but comedy is the most relatable, it is the every man drug. It keeps us sane.
I was surprised to hear a shift away from the guitar driven pop from your first two albums…what informed that decision?
It had to do with the fact that I wasn’t reaching for it as much. I was reaching out to other things. When I make music I kind of pace around, everything is plugged in, and I don’t really know what things are about specifically. I’m just looking for something new. There’s plenty of guitar there, it’s just far more subtle on this record. I always say a guitar is my cross to bear. I’m kind of stuck with it on my back. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have anything to do with it.
I think one of my favorite videos of your is ‘Five Seconds,’ where you cast yourself as this beatnik biker guy. Are you a biker in real life at all?
I kind of am actually. I have one, and I work on it pretty often. You could say that I do all my own stunts. It’s fun.
That ties into another one of your qualities, one that doesn’t come across in too many other pop music outfits nowadays: masculinity.
I think it’s really important, especially right now more than ever, for men to have role models. It’s a strange time for men, we’re losing our power and status in the world, as we rightly should. I think our time is up as leaders, and in everything that comes with that advantage. There’s a huge shift where the feminine entity is going to take control of a lot of industries, and I think it’s about time for that to happen. And during that inevitable shift, men need to love themselves for their masculinities. We need to understand that we have it, and simply love ourselves for it without the complications that arise from that. It doesn’t need to be this whole big campaign either, it can be very simple. Men are very beautiful, they need to get into that idea. It’s all they’re going to be able to hang onto honestly, it’s just not going to happen any other way.
Anything else you’d like to share to the readers of Milk Made?
Not much, I’m just going to go take a nap. I haven’t really slept since last night’s show.
Get Twin Shadow’s new album ‘Eclipse’ [here]( http://smarturl.it/tseclipse)
Photography by Milan Zrnic