Dancing in the Dark: An Interview with George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow

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The very first time I heard of Twin Shadow was back in my eighth grade year, and it just so happened to be because of one of Urban Outfitters’ LSTN mixtapes — a free monthly compilation of songs that UO published back in 2010 in order to further it’s hipster credentials.  Though the mixtapes spanned only 15 volumes and abruptly stopped, my love for Twin Shadow has only grown since I first heard “Slow” through my tinny, pink gummy headphones.

The music of Twin Shadow is incredibly unique:  chock-full of dark, groovy guitar riffs with strong R&B undertones and accompanied by Lewis’ amber voice, giving every listener vivid images of lost love and longing through his poetic lyrics.  I had the chance to see him for the first time at the 2011 Austin City Limits Festival, and then exactly one year later in McAllen, where I got to meet him and briefly speak with him about his music and his life (shout out to Patrick Garcia for making this happen!).  It seems that my story with Twin Shadow is a continued one, as I got the opportunity to speak with him the other day and ask him a couple of questions.

When I called him, he was driving through Los Angeles, where he’s now living.  He recently moved to Hollywood from Brooklyn in order to finish polishing up details on the third album, which will no doubt live up to the standards that its predecessors have established.  Throughout this morning drive, I got to speak with him about video games, dancing bachata, and Kendrick Lamar.

 

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You visited McAllen the first time in September of 2012, and now you’re back to headline Galax Z Fair III.  What made you want to come back?

I always feel like our Texas shows are our best shows.  It’s kind of weird, in a way.  It was especially nice to go to McAllen and to go to this kind of off-the-beaten path place and have so many people enjoy our music.  We always like going to smaller towns to play shows because it’s really worth it.

What’s changed between then and now?

I can’t even remember when we were there.  I know we were there, but I don’t remember at what point in Twin Shadow we were there.  I know it was after the second record came out, but not too much has changed.  I’ve been working on this new record.  The band hasn’t been playing out too much.   We’ll probably play a couple of new songs while we’re there, maybe two or three.  We’ll be testing out all our new material on you guys, and then say to the crowd in Austin that it’s the first time anyone’s heard it.  So you all will actually be the first to hear it.

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In regards to your new music, do the songs sound anything like “Old Love/New Love”?

It’s kind of interesting.  That song is much more dance-y, and so far that hasn’t happened much on the record.  But it could change, the record is still not done yet.  We’ll see what happens.

“Old Love/New Love” was recorded for Grand Theft Auto V, and you also lent your voice for the radio host of the “Radio Mirror Park” station in the game.  How did you become involved with Rockstar Games?

I’ve known those guys for a while now, and we’d always talked about doing something.  I’ve kind of become friends with a bunch of those guys over there, and we just talked about doing something together for a long time, whether it was soundtrack work or whatever, and they had the new Grand Theft Auto they were developing, and they reached out to me and were wondering if I wanted to host the radio show and do songs for the soundtrack, and that was it.

Do you play Grand Theft Auto?

Haha!  You know, they gave me a copy of the game for the Xbox.  I’m one of those people who I’ve always been bad at video games, and I hate being bad at something.  I’m really awful  at video games; always have been, always will be.  I played it a few times.  I still haven’t heard my songs playing in the game, so I don’t have that experience yet.  I play it time to time, but often times with video games I’ll find myself playing it for a day and then never playing again.

 

I just recently heard the cover of The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” that you did with Samantha Urbani for your UNDER THE CVRS series.  Which song did you enjoy recording the most?

Probably my 112 cover of “Cupid”.  That was like, my favorite song when I was in high school.  That song soundtracked my high school years.  That was really cool, and I liked that one the most. But they were all really fun to record, it was fun to record other stuff.

Was one of them more difficult to do than the others?

 I mean, reinterpreting a Smiths’ song isn’t easy.  I think all of them were kind of a challenge in a way because they’re all really, like, big huge amazing songs.  And it’s always pretty easy to fuck up a cover.  But it was fun, I didn’t really have to think about it.

 

What were your high school years like?

Ha, well I didn’t really go to high school.  I basically dropped out of high school when I was in my sophomore year.  So my high school years were actually pretty exciting.  I wasn’t in school, I made a bunch of friends.  Well, two of my good friends dropped out kind of alongside with me; they dropped out first and I was like “That’s a good idea!” So I dropped out and I just hung out with a lot of older kids, and it was exciting.  I don’t recommend it for everybody, but for me it made a lot of sense to leave high school.  A lot of it actually I can credit music to doing that, because when I dropped out I used to hang out this little club called The Blue Parrot, and I met this older guy Zach who really just taught me so much about playing guitar and songwriting.  I wouldn’t have had that if I had stayed in school.  So I really kind of became a musician by doing that.

My mom was funny [when I dropped out].  Since I was so young, I actually had to get signed out, like officially I had to have my parents sign for me so that I could drop out of high school.  My mom actually said to me, “Well, Bill Cosby dropped out of high school, so I guess you can.”  So I got the OK.  She’s the best.

 

You were born in the Dominican Republic, and you just recently played a show in Santo Domingo at the Isle of Light Festival.  What influence has being Dominican had on your music?

I grew up in America; I was born in Santo Domingo but I really grew up in Florida.  I think being a Floridian has more to do with my music than being Dominican at this point.  The more I spend time down there and the more I reconnect, the more influence I do think it has.  I’m very interested in Dominican music, and I want to learn what I can kind of take from it, because it really is very unique and I’m very drawn to it.

So can you dance merengue?  Are you a good dancer?

I can dance merengue and I can dance bachata.  My salsa is not so great, though.

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As an artist, is fashion and the way you present yourself a big deal to you?

 I always say that it’s just like a life thing, I don’t think it has anything to do with being a musician or being in Twin Shadow.  I care about presentation in everything.

Do you have any favorite designers or collections?

Right now I’m working closely with this company called the Public School.  They’re doing really well; I’m a huge fan of theirs and a huge believer.  I just did the music for their runway show [at New York Fashion Week].  They’re amazing.  What they do is really inspiring.

Are there any artists or bands that you’re liking at the moment?

I just met up with these guys called Milo Greene, and I’m excited about new things that they’re working on.  I’m super excited by Kendrick Lamar.  I think he’s gonna save music.

What do you think of the apology text Macklemore sent Kendrick after winning a Grammy?

I don’t think anyone should apologize for winning an award.  I mean, awards are such a joke anyways.  All that matters is the impact that the music has on people’s lives.  It’s nice to win an award, of course.  It’s definitely a musician’s dream to win a Grammy because we all grew up thinking, “Oh, that’s the pinnacle of getting the credit you deserve,” I suppose.  I think Kendrick’s music has had a much bigger impact in a real way.  I know for me, listening to Kendrick’s music, it’s a given to me that he’s probably one of the greatest artists of the last ten years, and he’s just going to continue making amazing music.

 

Can we expect to see you in the crowd for some of the sets at Galax Z Fair III?

Yeah, for sure!  I want to see what’s going on there.  I’ve been kind of checked out for a while.

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