George Lewis, Jr. is a bracing new voice in pop music — and one that sounds surprisingly familiar.
Better known as the ’80s-indebted dance-pop crooner Twin Shadow, 29-year-old Lewis strikes a singular figure on stage and in the press with his confident, world-weary persona and razor-sharp style, which draws from ’50s motorcycle gangs as much as hipster fashion plates in Brooklyn and London.
But it’s his albums — 2010’s critically-acclaimed “Forget” and this year’s “Confess” — and his rapturously-received festival appearances that have truly announced his arrival. Chilly, jittery synths and muted guitars worthy of Psychedelic Furs rub against a surfeit of carnal, sugar-smacked melodies on “Confess,” Lewis’ first album for storied British indie label 4AD.
The influences are easy to spot and endless in their overlap — Peter Gabriel, Morrissey, Tears for Fears, George Michael, even a bit of Springsteen. But Lewis’ music fits neatly next to the work of contemporaries such as M83 and Beach House, artists who paint in broad and melancholy strokes to evoke moods over narratives.
We caught up with Lewis via phone recently in advance of his headlining set at the Bluebird Theater on Friday Sept. 7.
You released your first record, “Forget,” on Grizzly Bear member Chris Taylor’s Terrible Records, but 4AD is a whole other level. Do you feel any increased pressure, given all the great artists they’ve had on that roster over the years?
I think it’s a good home for the music. I mean, I wouldn’t compare myself to anyone on the label now — I’d never compare myself to any band in general — but of course I was a fan of the Birthday Party, the Breeders, Cocteau Twins, all that. I think it’s a good place because of the people who run the show and the freedom they give you.
How did the 4AD deal come about?
They came to see us play an early show and I think Chris Taylor had sent the record over to them, and it’s hard to say exactly how it happened. The gin and tonics were poured and all of a sudden I was signed to 4AD. They did the last record in Europe so I kind of felt their presence on that record as well. It’s all very like boring, practical things that they bring that help you do your business. There’s a lot more advertising for this record. That’s the biggest thing I guess. All the other tiny little things are things that I’m slightly unaware of and that my manager takes care of.
But in this day and age you can either have a label who does all the heavy lifting and the really practical things that you don’t want to deal with, or you can hire a team of people to do that for you. It’s kind of like either-or. But there’s all kinds of things working underneath the surface, people trying to get songs to radio and license them. And most importantly they just kind of support putting out your records without sticking their nose in too much. I have friends on major labels and I think generally the labels are starting to be aware that it’s pretty hip to just leave your artist alone. Until they’re like, “Where’s the hit?” Then you’re forced to write the hit, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you are. So yeah, I am enjoying the support that 4AD gives me and the freedom they give, for sure.
You wrote, performed and produced the entire album yourself. You get complete control but also have to take complete responsibility for it, for better or worse. Is that intimidating considering the critical love you’ve gotten the past couple years?
I really kind of thrive on that (control aspect). That’s everything to me, in a way. I want to be ultimately responsible for the music. I couldn’t really live with myself if my successes and failures belonged to anyone else. So I don’t know, I may continue to just do it that way. I’m not sure though. Maybe I can let go in the future but for now I really like doing that.
Do you have a favorite song on the new record? Especially now that you’ve been playing it live every night?
“Golden Light” has been starting to come together live, which is kind of awesome because I thought that would be a hard song to get off the ground. But it’s really coming together and sounding very right.
You’ve played in a lot of different types of bands over your career, from punk to covers groups, but Twin Shadow has a very specific persona and sound. Do you see yourself as part of any particular scene?
I feel like Twin Shadow’s really set apart from a lot of other music. I always feel like this lonely child out there. (laughs) Man… that sounds bad, doesn’t it? That’s going to make me sound terrible. But I don’t find a lot of kinship with many other bands. I’d like to, but I don’t, and part of that is because it is very kind of hermit-like process.
Some critics have said the “character” in your songs seems like a pretty selfish person, as opposed to a wholesale extension of yourself. Is that a conscious thing when you’re writing lyrics, channeling this sort of lothario persona?
No, I’m just channeling it as a part of myself. All my songs are about me or other people I’m in relationships with. It’s all a part of me. I don’t like making up fictitious characters in my songs. I used to do that when I was younger songwriter and now it’s just about me. I might be talking about the worst part of myself, which is maybe not me all the time, but I think everyone has these parts of themselves and a lot of times the part flying underneath is the part you take the most interest in — and which leads to the most discovery.
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