WHO: Twentysomething George Lewis Jr. (actual age? “too young to die,” he says) was born in the Dominican Republic, raised in rural Florida and worked as a composer for a touring dance company before settling down in New York City long enough to record Forget, his debut album as Twin Shadow.
SOUNDS LIKE: Weathered nostalgia. Recorded and performed by Lewis himself – often recording alone, in hotel rooms, during the middle of the night – Twin Shadow’s songs nevertheless feel fully-formed, haunted and haunting in equal measure. On the lazily hopeful “When We’re Dancing,” Lewis croons like a carefree Morrissey, while on the gently funky “Yellow Balloon,” he transforms into a skinny-tied soulman, vamping about secret handshakes and swimming holes over a muted-neon Eighties backbeat. (Watch the video for another standout track, “When We’re Dancing,” above.)
DOWN SOUTH: “I grew up in Venice, Florida,” Lewis says, “actually on a little man-made island. It was really, really lonely. I had a run-in with the KKK when I was 16 years old, at a party where I was the only black kid. Florida is just swampland covered in mini-malls. But a lot of the record was me thinking about all of my weird experiences growing up and trying to let them go. Bitterness is a good way to stay in your past and I have no interest in that. My past was pretty rotten!”
DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY: The best part of Lewis’s childhood – apart from his close relationship to his sisters, one of whom is his twin (hence the band name) – didn’t seem so great at the time. “I was super cut off from all music and culture,” he says. “And so I had to like anything that was on Florida radio. No bands came through – it was just Bobby McFerrin at the local theater. But that taught me to listen to anything and love everything. My Boyz II Men record was next to my Nirvana record. It’s cool to have so many different inspirations.”
NYC NIGHTS: After a few years in Boston (kind of a “stepping-stone” for New York, he says) Lewis moved to Brooklyn. “The best thing that the city has to offer,” he says, “is that if you don’t do what you’re supposed to be doing you’ll probably end up face down on a bar every night having sex with girls whom you’d never in a million years have sex with. It gets dark really quick when you’re not doing the right stuff.” Luckily for Lewis, he spent time writing “books” of lyrics on his vintage typewriter and hooked up with Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, who produced the album.
CALIFORNIA DREAMING: Forget may be sweetly romantic and spare, but Twin Shadow’s touring life is anything but. Lewis describes “living the dream” of a rock and roller on a recent swing through California, which included getting kicked out of hotel pools, being plied with drugs by “creepy” fans and waking up in the middle of a festival after devouring pot brownies and passing out in a park. “We did everything Duke Ellington’s band would have done,” Lewis declares, proudly.