Last Friday I promised
we'd go a little in depth with George Lewis Jr. (better known as Twin Shadow). Below is my chat with him, where we discussed his trajectory from the Dominican Republic, to European love affairs, to the Twin Shadow project in New York. Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor and his imprint, Terrible Records, which was started with Ethan Silverman (who comes up briefly in our chat), took notice of George in an interesting way... a partnership that has led to the first LP from Twin Shadow (and the name was divulged! Maybe! Read on!).
Apart from being a talented musician, George is a super nice guy, as was evident in our phone chat. I caught him while he was working on some stuff in a church out in Brooklyn with Chris, and he took a second to step outside and chat with me, despite the humidity being pretty much at critical mass.
Where would you say your whole music career kind of started?
I guess my whole music career got started back in Florida when I left school, I dropped out of school. I hung out at this bar called "The Blue Parrot" and that's where I kind of learned the tools of the trade I suppose. Hanging out there just with older people who played. It was kind of like a jammy situation, a lot of jamming going on.
What was the bar called again?
The Blue Parrot, this tiny little hole in the wall in downtown Sarasota, Florida. And I was lucky enough to kind of get snuck in there by a friend of mine who was a lot older. They knew him well and he used to play there a lot. That's really where it started. I was a pretty awful guitar player. Still am a bit. But I got a lot better by going there.
How did the name Twin Shadow come about?
Oh Twin Shadow is like a whole new idea for me. I've probably been at it only seven or eight, maybe its been longer than that. Closer to a year now. The name comes out of a lot of different things, I am in fact a twin, but it had less to do with that and more to do with motorcycles and stuff. You know, twin engines, first bike I ever wanted was a Honda Shadow, which is a pretty awful bike in my opinion these days, but it was the first bike I ever wanted. It just has a lot to do with always feeling like there's two sides or one side with another part of me offset from that side. It's about what the relationship is with that other part of myself. So kind of like a combination of motorcycle imagery, and coming into this new type of music. It's something I've always wanted to do, like the shadow of myself. I guess that's it, I can't even really remember the day I came up with the name, it just sounded good.
Well at least there's a lot of your own personality in there.
When did you move up to New York?
I've been living here for the last five years, but it hasn't felt like that. I've been traveling a lot. When I first came to New York I got a job writing some music for a theater company in Copenhagen. So I lived there for three months, and then after that my sisters had all moved to Berlin at that time, so I was over there a bit, bouncing back and forth. I fell in love with a chick in Denmark, so I had that whole thing going on. The last three years have been very back and forth between Berlin, Copenhagen, Sweden and here. Before New York I lived in Boston for a little while and before that was Florida. And before that was the Dominican Republic, where I was born.
Is that where you're from?
Yeah, I was actually born in the Capital. My mother's side of the family are all Dominican, my parents live there.
Very cool. So you wound up here in New York, you kind of had this Twin Shadow thing brewing, how did you meet Chris?
Chris and I met through a series of coincidences. His sister is a dancer and I've done some music for some dance companies before, just composing. And he had heard the stuff from a couple diffrent sources and he wrote me an email saying hey man I'm doing this 7-inch thing for a label me and this guy Ethan are starting, we'd love to have you do a song. Which then turned into an EP, which turned into them wanting to do a whole record.
How is the experience of being on that imprint?
It's good, its very casual. It's more like having a couple of awesome friends. It hasn't felt like these are the label guys or anything like that. It's been more of a friendship thing, and I think that's the vibe they are going for with the stuff they're putting out. It's exciting because obviously it's a buzzy label, so it's good for me. But it's exciting to be a part of what these dudes are doing because of the way they do things, it's the kind of label that not many people get to have.
How was the recording process? Did you have songs written?
I mean I would say 75% of the record or more was done in a sense. Originally when Chris has heard the stuff I said you know, I'd like to rerecord all this, preferably with you. And he was kind of like dude, I really like the demos, we should just use the demos. And these are things I've been working on, doing the bedroom thing, for a year. Probably like nine months before I met Chris these songs had been done. Some of these songs are a year old. So it was pretty much done it was just about Chris and I adding what we thought needed to be added. And taking away anything we thought needed to be taken away. But for the most part I played all the instruments and recorded everything in my room, and made enemies of my neighbors. That was when Chris got his hands on it, and now he is carving it up, or cleaning it up, whatever it needs.
What do you think is the most important thing Chris brought to the table for you?
Definitely his ear for hearing placements. I think the sounds, the recordings were great, but they were positioned in a place in the mix where a lot of confusion was happening. It's a very cluttered record and I think it still is, which I like, but now you can hear everything in the mix. He did a great job of making things not clash. I learned a lot about the way he works and I think he brought to the table a bigger lens, a wider lens, to the entire, sonic, um, landscape ... ah I hate that word, [laughs] but I'll use it.
Have you thought about artwork?
I think it's going to be something simple, I think it's just going to be my face. I'm kind of over the whole indie rock photo art. I just want a crusty looking image of myself I think is the most honest. I thought about artwork alot, there is some photography I like... I think it being my first record, I want it to be about me. It's a very personal record. And lord knows I don't mind showing my face [laughs]. But I'm not completely sure, this guy Clark Butterfield is working on it. It's gonna be cool, it's gonna be all about the text and the image of my face. Probably black and white.
Is it self-titled?
No, well, I'm not sure, but you'd be the first to hear it. I think I'm gonna call it Forget
, which will probably be the last track on the record.
Very cool. Any plans for the summer, tour dates, stuff like that?
Um, I think the plan for the summer is just to get the band really tight. Tight, another word I hate [laughs]. I think we need to get the band warmed up for this record. We've got a bunch of shows to do, we're gonna play Boston, which should be interesting, because it's like me going to Boston for the first time in three years. And just playing shows around New York, getting bigger bills. We had some great sold-out shows last week that we were on... that was fun. And just getting the band not sounding like the record, but sounding like a good representation of the record. And that's pretty tough, because there's a lot of layers on this record. And I'm not really interested in having six people on-stage.
Totally. Well thanks for taking the time to talk to me, I hear it getting a little crazy outside so I'll let you seek shelter (Ed. Note: It started POURING.)
Alright man, cool. Thank you so much! Take care of yourself.
The tentatively titled Forget
has a TBD release date, but if you look hard enough, you can find a few demos out there. -joe