MFNW Preview: Twin Shadow

The shape-shifting sounds of George Lewis Jr.

The music of George Lewis Jr. can be described in many terms, but "subtle" is not one of them.

While contemporaries like Future Islands and Toro y Moi have parlayed a fetish for the '80s into more nuanced, modern sounds, Lewis pushes his FM-pop-melting-pot Twin Shadow to its logical extreme. Call his bombastic 2015 record Eclipse what you will—synth pop, arena rock, montage music—but there's no mistaking Lewis' uncanny ability to dig deep through myriad influences as anything but the bold efforts of an indie-blog darling swinging for the fences. Though the many highlights of his Warner Bros. debut sound tailor-made for the climax of a John Hughes movie, Lewis says there's no calculation involved in bringing his genre-bending anthems to life.

"I don't try to define things before they define themselves," he says. "It's an exploration and whatever comes out on the other end. There's a lot of chance and magic and luck. Toward the end of a composition, I become more deliberate. I never think about things in terms of genre, though."

Lewis has little concern for the theoretical line between homage and pastiche that often torpedoes upstart indie artists with a flair for synthesizers, nor should he. Considering the disparate sounds of radio titans like Prince, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen, there's no purer way for Lewis to proclaim his love for those artists than by throwing their best ideas in a blender and reveling in what comes out.

Take, for example, Eclipse's infectiously schlocky first single, "To the Top." The title alone evokes images of a young Tom Cruise high-fiving anyone within arm's reach, and the track's redlined dynamics and massive chorus are certainly up to the occasion as well. It's a major leap from the bedroom disco of Twin Shadow's debut, Forget, but Lewis, 31, has had few issues reconciling major-label ambitions against the kind of punk-rock past an outsider from Florida would be inclined to hold onto.

"When I was 18, I would've told you I only listened to punk rock, but that wouldn't have been true because I was listening to a lot of Michael Jackson as well," he says. "Like any teen in Florida, I was exposed to whatever was on the radio. Hip-hop and R&B were kind of the thing my sisters and I listened to. My mom really liked Marvin Gaye and Sade. I didn't know it then that those were influences, but I'm one of those people who literally loves all kinds of music."

Lewis has since migrated to L.A. by way of Brooklyn, mostly to "soak up the sun and enjoy my motorcycle year-round." Lewis endured a rather gnarly motorcycle accident before the release of his second record, 2012's Confess, and he was forced to cancel a string of recent U.S. dates after a tour-bus accident in April. Rather than sit still while undergoing reconstructive hand surgery, Lewis dug into his archives and emerged in late July with Night Rally. To Lewis, the purpose of the scattered, lo-fi mixtape is both archival and transitory. Like pop music itself, the future of Twin Shadow is a constantly evolving idea rather than an established construct.

“My mission is to always be excited about what I’m doing, and oftentimes that means changing in a big way or getting bigger, or even smaller,” he says. “I released Night Rally because it shows my creative path in a way people don’t get to see. I know that I’ll always continue to change. It doesn’t necessarily mean making music that’s more grand or bombastic. I’m as clueless to what the next thing will sound like as everyone else is.” 

Twin Shadow plays at 6:30 pm on Saturday, Aug. 22.

WWeek 2015

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