Interview Twin Shadow: ‘I’m Just Not A Fan Of Working With People’

Adam Bychawski explores the mystery behind 4AD’s ghost rider, Twin Shadow.

Photo Credit: Phil Smithies

“Maybe I’ll have my own motorcycle gang one day,” muses George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow, “but for now I like to ride alone at my own pace, it’s more a relaxing thing for me to get away from life.” Succumbing to the lure of two wheels and the open road some eight years ago, George has been biking ever since. For the video of his new single ‘Five Seconds’, he plays the leader of an as yet fictional gang called the Teds who steal the prized motorcycle of a rival gang member, handily giving Twin Shadow the excuse to show off a few tricks whilst saddled on his Triumph too.

Lewis certainly looks the part, blazoned on the front cover of his second album wearing a studded leather jacket against a faded blue background. And as our fascination with bikers refuses to die down thanks to landmark films like Scorpio Rising, Mad Max and Easy Rider spanning three decades, all this highway folklore has given rise to one enduring anti-hero; that of the lone driver, a figure lurking in the wing mirrors of Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ and Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’. It’s a subject that Lewis himself is fan of. “I love biker movies, I always did even before I had a motorcycle, the Wild Ones, all the Peter Fonda stuff. I am always fond of those things, those guys in those movies really doing all the stunts themselves.”

‘Confess’, released two years after his debut ‘Forget’, is intrinsically linked to this particular hobby. According to Lewis, its genesis comes from an accident in which he had been riding, somewhat carelessly by his own admission, with a friend and careered off the road luckily escaping with minor injuries. “It made me think about what it was I wanted to achieve in life, and I very much found this positive answer, in that I do want to be a part of it all and I do want to share my ideas and my love with everyone. That’s what I came to, and I was able to put that into the record.” This coupled with the rigours and the excesses of touring led to a renewed affirmation of life. “I just realised I don’t want to be dead, I want to join the party,” says Lewis, grinning.

In the apex and the aftermath of the crash, something sparked for Lewis, but do all his creations require an element of risk or danger? “I don’t think you need those moments, I think everyone has them regardless. Life is always shocking whether it’s watching the news or something else.” Regardless of that incident, ‘Confess’ has a momentum, a force that the somnolent tones of ‘Forget’ did not possess. Its pounding drumbeat has the rumble of a well-oiled motor engine; the production has the sleek sheen of chrome chassis. That pace and urgency also imbues the songs: ‘Five Seconds’ begins with the sounds of heavy breathing, ‘Golden Light’ describes the thrill of the chase that is lost once satiated. “I think as a person I have grown a lot in the last two years and the record reflects that change within myself. I am enjoying more aggressive music again. I’m quite tired of sleepy music.”

What has remained unchanged between records is an unmistakable throwback to eighties pop, although it is difficult to pin Twin Shadow to any one artist from the era: Prince, Duran Duran, Fleetwood Mac, are all apt comparisons. ‘Confess’ appropriates these icons so effortlessly and with such conviction that it is difficult to fault him for it. Perhaps it’s the record’s self-production that lead to the less restrained results. “Yeah I’m just not a fan of working with people, it’s hard for me…” he says. “But I collaborated well with Chris Taylor [Grizzly Bear bassist and Terrible Records label founder who produced Lewis’ debut]. I have a hard time believing enough in a person to give them any creative control, I guess.”

So often such revivalism can be rather hollow, but ‘Confess’, as its title suggests, is a series of intimate tales of past encounters and relationships. “I didn’t actually name the record - I wanted to call it ‘Believe’ - but a friend of mine [gave me the idea of naming it] ‘Confess’. That made a lot of sense because that’s what it felt like, most of the songs are confessing to someone how you feel. And I couldn’t use ‘Believe’ because Justin Bieber’s record is called ‘Believe’.” Perhaps it’s better not to incite the wrath of Biebz and the Beliebers.

With such personal subject matter and a rising profile, it must be inevitable that the parties involved will hear of said confessions. “I don’t think about it when I’m recording because I like to be fearless about that stuff. But I do sometimes deal with people who have heard things and they know it’s about them. Then sometimes people are like, ‘that song is about me,’ and it’s not about them, that happens all the time.” If this album is a form of confession for Lewis, is putting to record all of one’s misdemeanours a way of atoning for them or a painful replaying of the past? “It’s both, it’s so complicated, there’s no catharsis from it. You can get it off your chest but feel bad that you did or you can get if off your chest and feel great. It’s more about sacrificing your own feelings so that people can connect to it in a way. That’s the more important part of it for me.”

However, confession isn’t necessarily always the best option, as the penultimate track ‘I Don’t Care’ attests too. “In the song I’m saying I am enjoying this moment with you, you don’t have to tell me everything about yourself. Sometimes the truth is not worth it. This moment should be about just us enjoying it for what it is.” There is perhaps a story to be told for every song on ‘Confess’, and if pressed Lewis might well divulge them, but then where’s the fun without any mystery?

Twin Shadow’s new album ‘Confess’ is out now via 4AD.

Taken from the August 2012 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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