On his second full-length Confess (4AD), Twin Shadow’s George Lewis, Jr. has crafted a dramatic, cinematic collection of dark yearning and stylish swagger. Standouts such as gorgeous “Golden Light” could be cribbed from the greatest ’80s teen movie that was never made. Indeed, film featured heavily when Lewis took time out from a tour stop in Berlin to discuss some of his favorite things.
“There’s a certain kind of camaraderie or kinship I feel with motorcycle movies,” says Lewis, whose been riding for years. “I grew up with my dad kind of shoving Marlon Brando down my throat and The Wild One is kind of one of those movies that got me first really interested in motorcycles. [Motorcycle movies] have a tendency to focus on motorcycle cool rather than on storyline or anything like that. But you know, all the Peter Fonda movies, there’s Russ Meyers who’s been kind of a big influence on my work, he had a movie called Motor Psycho which I used to love.”
Night of the Silver Sun
“I wrote this book [the unpublished Night of the Silver Sun] about a motorcycle gang,” explains Lewis, “and so, the videos are super loosely based on that,” he said. Fittingly, in the intro to the “Five Seconds,” clip Lewis is seen riding a motorcycle through a green countryside, while a voiceover talks about “Georgie” and his gang — characters from the book. “I kind of hate when people interpret your music with the video,” says Lewis. “Sometimes they just don’t nail it. I figured why not use my own ideas to make the movie.”
“Cassavetes has a way of being brutally honest,” says Lewis about the late indie-film firebrand. “A lot of people, especially a lot of new indie filmmakers, like to show boredom, because most of us are pretty bored all the time, but Cassavetes has a way of showing emotion behind the boredom, behind waiting for something to happen, the anxiety that we all have about that. He’s also really good at letting his actors have their own voice and really be. There’s something really raw about it. There’s just no fat, no fluff, no bullshit. That’s not to say I try to make records the way Cassavetes makes films. I don’t think I’m as uncompromisingly artistic as he is, I believe in entertainment a little more than he does. I think entertaining an audience is really important, just as important as being incredibly artistic and defiant.”
This desire to entertain played into Lewis’s genre switch a few years back. Before starting the Twin Shadow project, he played in a punk band, Mad Man Films. “I realized that the audience didn’t really exist for it,” he says. “I was in Boston with a bunch of privileged kids, and it seemed dishonest to be playing this aggressive music to them. So I think I changed my sound to address the people who were around me, and in general what people are. I didn’t think there was a need for me to be making this incredibly aggressive music. I had gotten what I needed out of it, which was to really let go of a lot of the anger that I had, and once I did that, there was no one else to feed it to. I eventually started looking towards pop music, which I had loved as a kid.”
“YouTube was a big deal for me, I got to see all of these heroes of mine performing,” Lewis says. “You know, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles. My influences are really easy. They’re all the classics: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the Kinks. Pop music throughout every single decade has been an inspiration to me. I feel like I’m in that club and it’s my job to continue to carry that on.” But moving away from pop, Lewis recalls seeing a video of mercurial, uncompromising jazz chanteuse Nina Simone for the first time: “I had heard her music my whole life. I had never seen an image of her. And then all of a sudden, watching her do “I Loves You, Porgy”, something like that changed everything for me. I saw how emotional and how beautiful this kind of melodic way of singing, instead of screaming all the time, I realized how beautiful that was.”
“There are so many intangible things that happen in your life, the stupidest thing can give you the strangest emotion,” Lewis says. “The other day I was in a bar, and I put my hand on the bartender’s shoulder in a really friendly way, and he flicked my hand off and screamed at me in German. That was incredibly inspiring. I want to write about this dude, I want to know about his life, why my personal touch was so offensive to him. That’s interesting, that’s inspiration. Truly the only real inspiration there is. You can look at movie stars and music icons and you’re impressed with what they do and they give you a certain feeling, but real inspiration comes from your real life experiences, and the people who surround you.”