Q&A: Twin Shadow On Eclipse, Signing To Warner Bros., & Indie Vs. Pop
The first time I met with George Lewis Jr., the man behind Twin Shadow, it was a mild summer day in June of last year and we were sitting at a small outside table at a cafe on the Lower East Side. Though the Twin Shadow project was born in NYC, in Brooklyn, Lewis had been living in Los Angeles for almost two years at that point, and for reasons I can’t entirely put my finger on, he just looked like my idea of a rock musician living in L.A. in 2014: something about how a chain dangled from his neck way down a deep-V T-shirt, or the white leather jacket he sported in the sunlight, one sleeve cuffed back to reveal the red lining within. In person, Lewis is a little smaller and slighter than he appeared on the cover of his last album, 2012’s Confess; in that photo, he’s decked out in a big black leather jacket and he dominates the frame. Sitting across from him, it’s sometimes hard to picture the low, grand croon of Twin Shadow coming from such a lean person who’s always, always ordering healthy at the restaurant and who has a laconically meditative way of speaking. During our first meeting, the new album Eclipse had yet to be totally, finally completed: Lewis couldn’t tell me the title because he wasn’t 100% positive about it yet, and the only songs I’d heard were the same everyone else already had (singles “Old Love/New Love” and “To The Top”). As a result, the first conversation wound up setting a tone for our subsequent meetings: We talked about Eclipse, of course, but we also got a bit more expansive, getting a wide view of other moments in Lewis’ career, and digging into murky notions like pop vs. indie and where Lewis sees himself in the whole mess of the music world in 2014, and then 2015.
STEREOGUM: Confess was very heavily influenced by your motorcycle crash and how your relationships had changed since you’d started touring. What were you thinking about or going through this time around for Eclipse?
LEWIS: It’s been a really heavy year for me. My father was in the mental hospital a lot [in 2014], and that was a very hard thing for me. It’s not the first time in my life I’ve seen my dad in that place, but mental illness has been something I’ve dealt with my whole life, actually, within my family. So I think there is a lot of that on this record. Then again, there’s a lot of it that’s not on the record because it was happening while I was making it. So it’s weird, it’s more like a lot of the themes on this record seem to be more about … they’re more positive in a way, I think.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, there’s more anthemic stuff like “To The Top.”
LEWIS: Yeah, it’s an anthem. If you really listen to the lyrics, it’s not the most hopeful song in the world, but everything’s kind of about … it’s hard to say this without being corny, but not totally giving up on this life, I guess. A lot of the themes on this record are about redemption in a way, and kind of moving on into the next phase.
STEREOGUM: Redemption for you or for the people around you, or just in general?
LEWIS: Yeah, redemption in general.
STEREOGUM: What did you feel like you needed to be redeemed for, if you did?
LEWIS: I mean, I think it’s so easy when you’re a younger person to get stuck in spirals. And they’re not circles, they’re spirals that go either up or down, or sideways, or whatever. And it’s very easy to, when you’re on that spiral, to hit a peak, to hit a low, or to be hitting constant mundane motion. And it’s like, you will hit some kind of wall in any direction, and I think when you do hit that wall, whatever it is, you just — you have two ways you can go. You can stay there forever or you can search for redemption, and I think that for me, there’s a lot of things that were just spiraling out of my control, and this record was really about finding the goodness inside of being centered and believing that your future can be really positive and that you can fix relationships that are broken and you can be more productive and give more to the people around you. I think that that’s kind of a theme on this record.
STEREOGUM: Did you write and record most of it in L.A.?
LEWIS: All of it.
STEREOGUM: Did being new to L.A. have any effect on the music you started writing?
LEWIS: Well, I recorded in some pretty weird places. The record started in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. They have this masonic lodge where they hold performances. And we played there kind of as the launch to the last record. My manager and I were looking for a place for me to record 24 hours a day in the city, and we were like, “Ok, let’s try to find a place that’s really quiet, where we can record wherever we want.” I was sitting there thinking, “What if we record in the cemetery?” So, I had my manager call this guy Jay, and it was one of those things where you were crazy enough to ask, and they were crazy enough to say yes. So the next day, we came over and he took us in a golf cart around the entire property and gave us some options — some of them were these massive mausoleums with dead bodies stacked to the ceilings. I was like, “Man, that’s a little too grim.” He was like, “I’ve got the perfect place for you.” At the end of the property there was this little chapel, the first building on the property, and it was just this empty chapel. There were these little minister’s quarters. He said, “This is yours, if you want it.” So we moved in, I set up my own studio. I bought a lot of recording equipment and I just set up and started recording. I had 24 hour access to the cemetery. Basically, the beginning of the record started [in mid 2013] in that cemetery.
STEREOGUM: How much did you work there, until you moved to other studios?
LEWIS: I was there for like five months.
STEREOGUM: Had they had anybody to ask them for that before?
STEREOGUM: That’s crazy. When you said you started in a cemetery, I was thinking you like, snuck some recording equipment in and wanted to do it for spontaneity one day, not that you guys actually camped out at the cemetery.
LEWIS: No, I was actually living at the cemetery.
STEREOGUM: What did the songs end up sounding like that you ended up recording there?
LEWIS: It was interesting, they were more…church-sounding, than anything, you know? I don’t know. I recorded so much music this last year and so little of it is on the record, it’s even hard for me to track what made it and didn’t make it. We had put out that song “Old Love/New Love,” that was one of the first songs recorded. It’s weird, I actually just found out Tracy Chapman’s ’80s record that has “Fast Car” on it was recorded in Villa Carlotta in Hollywood. And when you go to that place and listen to that record, you’re like, “Wow, of course this was made here.” I don’t think my record’s that way. I don’t think we as young artists need our surroundings to dictate what our sound is. The feeling is in there somewhere, but they don’t go as hand in hand anymore.
STEREOGUM: Has your life changed much since Confess came out? Did that heighten your profile in a certain way? Did it change the way you’re perceiving yourself, your career, your relationships?
LEWIS: For sure. I feel like every two years, regardless of whether you put out a record or not, your life is changing dramatically. For anybody. Life is just changing really fast all the time, you know? It’s been a weird year. I lost a lot of friends to like, drug overdoses and weird tragedies that have happened. Those things have had a really big effect on me, recently. In terms of my — I hate the word fame — my notoriety, my position in the music community — that has a lesser effect on me than all my real life happenings. I kind of feel, if anything, the difference is Confess-era me was a bit removed, jaded. Now I feel like I’m hyperaware, hypersensitive, back to being a more emotional person acting more on my impulses. Having freak outs and real moments of clarity. I feel more dynamic in a way.
STEREOGUM: Why had you become more removed and jaded at that point?
LEWIS: I think the first two years of touring the Forget record had a fucked up effect on me. There was so much of it. We were on planes all the time, playing all the time. Learning who you are on stage is a really tricky thing that can kind of fuck your head up a lot — the power of it, the vulnerability of it. That can mess you up, even at a small level. We were only doing like 500-count rooms, but it’s still kind of tripping me out.
STEREOGUM: You’re still doing that in front of a lot more people than most people do that in front of, so.
LEWIS: Yeah, so you’re developing your personality in an unnatural way. It’s kind of weird. I think all of these things came at me. I became kind of removed, stopped answering my phone a lot. A lot of my friends became kind of secondary to me trying to be still. I was alone a lot. I spent so much time by myself. During this whole recording process I was very alone. But in the finishing of it, I’ve opened myself up more, and I’ve worked with a lot more people on it than I have before. So everything about my life is kind of becoming more open. I’m trying to reconnect with those lost friendships, trying to put bandages on things, in a way.
STEREOGUM: When you’re working on music, art in general, do you need that kind of solitude? Is that a function of you as a musician?
LEWIS: I kind of do. I get distracted easily. I’m kind of weird that way. If people are around, I get distracted. If nobody’s around I’m hyper-focused, to a fault. I think sometimes I can forget to pick my head up out of the water. I get so into it, really riled up inside of it. And that’s a way to knock yourself off your goal. I do need that kind of quiet, but I’m finding that I don’t need it as much and I kind of don’t want it.
STEREOGUM: You’re 31 now. Do you think part of that was a function of turning the corner over thirty, starting to figure out what you want your life to look like?
LEWIS: Yeah, 28, 29 is a really fucked up time. You hit it and you’re like, “what the fuck.” Turning 30 has been really good for me. I get why people really freak out 27, 28, 29. It’s a weird time. Profoundly weird. I could probably write an album on those three years of life and still not fully understand it. Less than age, it has more to do with what’s happening to your friends around you. I lost a friend who was 27, I lost a friend who was 28, I lost a friend who was 32, all in one year. And it’s like, these were people I’d lost touch with, so the effect it had on me was even weirder. It’s almost not as painful, but at the same time, you feel like, fuck, you start to regret that. It makes you consider the relationships you do have and value that for yourself and for each other.
STEREOGUM: So when your friends died, you were already pretty into the recording. Did some of that make it into the record?
LEWIS: It’s hard for me to say. I haven’t been writing songs and going, “This is about this person.” It’s like collective experiences. I always get in trouble with girls who are like, “Well who’s that love song about?” It’s not about anyone, it’s about a collection of experiences. And so much of my music is like that. So I don’t really look for any one thing to write about. My friends’ deaths have had an effect on me that I don’t even understand, but it’s creating an environment in my mind that’s going on to this intangible thing called music.
STEREOGUM: When you say collection of experiences, do you mean taking all your experiences and making an abstract collection of it, or do you mean taking people’s stories and tying it together?
LEWIS: It is a little bit of everything. You know, on some records you kind of live through the eyes of other people a lot. I feel like Confess was a little bit like that. One goal that I had on Confess was to not be so wordy. There’s this thing you do when you’re a young artist and you’re introducing yourself to the world — you really want to show how beautiful you can be with words. With every record I get less and less interested in that and more interested in whatever just comes out of my mouth. I used to spend 12 straight hours working on lyrics for a song. Now I’m at a place where if it doesn’t get done in an hour or so, it doesn’t get used. I want to get to a place where I can literally spit out of my mouth what is going to be on the record in five minutes. I keep wanting to feel this more immediate connection with what I want to say, not what I subconsciously want to say. I feel like that’s why it’s hard to talk about what the themes are of a record. To be honest, they just come out of my month. And I won’t even have the meaning of it until some day, six months down the road when I sit down and give it a listen.
Before New York and L.A., Lewis had also spent years here and there in Boston, Copenhagen, and the Dominican Republic, where his family is from. In the middle of all that, he grew up in Florida, first in Miami and then on the considerably sleepier west coast of the state. Fittingly, on the July afternoon where I went to meet with Lewis for the second time, it was a nastily Floridian day in Brooklyn. I’d just received Eclipse that morning, and I took a walk through Williamsburg over to the Wythe Hotel — where I was meeting Lewis — while listening to it. Whether on his early albums or here, there’s a humidity to Lewis’ music; I feel like I can hear all those years spent in the Florida air in the way he’ll build these glossy swamps of synthesizers. The thing about Eclipse is that it still has this quality, but is considerably more streamlined than his other work: cleaner, more direct, a shinier maybe-L.A.-indebted heat compared to the thickness of its predecessor. This was the beginning of Lewis promoting the new album, which at the time was still slated for October. Tour dates were on the horizon, and I figured this would be the last time I’d see him until I ran into him backstage at some festival down the line.
STEREOGUM: How’s it going arranging the new songs for a live setting? Is it any different bringing those to a live setting vs. the older songs?
LEWIS: It’s a little bit easier, actually. They’re simpler. Structure’s always been kind of the same, but the layers. Yeah, definitely in terms of layers. It’s very much like…this is the bass part, this is what the guitar does. Everything is a lot more cut and dry. Also, because I’ve been working on production so much, I’m also a lot more organized now. I co-mixed the record. I kind of memorized the stems, in a sense. Whereas, it used to be, I used to make insane sounds, tons of keyboard layers, bounce them all to one track, so you’d have this one track of ten million things I did and I couldn’t really remember what they were. Which has its beauty, but in translating it to a live setting, it became very hard to get that sound. [With Eclipse], all the sounds are very deliberate.
STEREOGUM: There isn’t a song over four minutes. It feels a bit more distilled than Confess.
LEWIS: I think maybe you’re right. I think everything’s 3:30 and under.
STEREOGUM: Was that intentional? I feel like there’s often very lush Twin Shadow songs with a lot going on, which would in some sense be, you know, a maximalist sort of approach, but even on Confess, the way it’s produced, it doesn’t necessarily feel over the top. This one in particular, it feels like you honed in on certain elements.
LEWIS: Somewhat conscious. I think it’s more like, I used to have this bloodthirst for chaos. I come from a noisier, punkier, crazier background musically. For me, wall of sound was such a cool thing to do. You just throw everything at it and you can’t tell one color from the next. I think as I’ve matured musically, I think my taste for wanting to see the colors in their true forms has come out. It’s always hard to say “It’s a conscious decision.” It’s more like, “I’ve gotten kind of tired of layering.” My ears grew tired of it, in a way. I’m more interested in the risks that are taken when you choose one sound. It’s still layered, to a certain extent.
STEREOGUM: What made you settle on the title Eclipse?
LEWIS: So, Eclipse the song was one of the first I wrote for the record. It was all about this idea of…meeting your match or meeting someone who just completely blocks out your ego, your everything, and they kind of make you realize…they are so amazing they make you realize how small you are, kind of.
STEREOGUM: In a relationship sense?
LEWIS: In a relationship sense, but I also mean…I look at my mom…my mom was always, when I was growing up, she was very quiet. She was definitely the rock in the family. She was always very reserved. I almost felt like I didn’t even completely know her very well when I was growing up. She was working a lot and doing her job of keeping the family together. We’ve recently become very close, and I’m realizing that with all my playing music and any ego that I have…when I look at someone like her…if I’m this blazing, raging sun, she’s this tiny moon that passes in front of me and she completely blocks out all my bullshit. And I’ve found that in my mother and I’ve also found that in relationships recently. Meeting people who just blow your mind, that humble you. I think the record is really about the humbling of oneself and this idea that you sometimes need to allow someone to, even if they aren’t as outgoing or ambitious as you, that something simple can be very powerful and it can humble you and put you in your place and make you reflect on yourself.
STEREOGUM: Is there any particular reason you gravitate towards single word titles for albums?
LEWIS: One word gives a listener a world to live in that is not necessarily undefined but not completely concrete. For me, my music goes in a lot of different directions. A lot of times people ask me what a specific song is about, or who it’s about, and so often I find it’s about me or it’s me writing a letter to myself or it’s not about anyone. It’s a love song written to a love I’ve never experienced. Things like that. Keeping a one word title keeps things very open for a listener. Gives them room to interpret. At the same time, it is, in a sense, very direct. It does two of those things. It leaves it open, or it’s like, “This is what it is.” Oftentimes the two poles are the same thing.
STEREOGUM: Last time we spoke, you mentioned that you’re always messing with mixing and tracklists, etc. until the last minute. Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?
LEWIS: I mean, in some ways I am. I feel like I’m less a perfectionist, because I’m also very much into the idea of…just speaking to someone, speaking to another human being, sometimes you need to just say whatever the fuck it is on your mind, even if you know it doesn’t get you to your goal with that person. Even if it’s a dead end, I think it’s important to just let it out. In that way, I think I’m not a perfectionist. Musically, sometimes I think a song…sometimes I don’t toil over a song forever, because it loses its spirit, and I don’t ever want to do that. That’s super important to me. Then again, this record, I did do a lot of editing. I tried to cut the fat as much as possible. Make it more perfect to me. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I can be very removed and not really give a fuck. This record was a lot of, “OK, that part has to go. I love that part to death, but it has to go.”
STEREOGUM: So there was the Hollywood Forever Cemetery phase, you went on tour, and there was the phase in your apartment. What older songs made the cut from the cemetery?
LEWIS: Cemetery was the beginning ideas of “To The Top.” Beginning ideas of “Eclipse.” “Alone” was written in the cemetery completely, and was originally meant for someone else to sing.
LEWIS: I actually wrote it for Class Actress and Billy Idol to sing together. I wanted to keep it.
STEREOGUM: How’d that offer come through?
LEWIS: I actually worked with Billy Idol. I wrote one of the singles for his record that’s coming out. Which is maybe going to plague me in people still calling my music ’80s, but what can I do.
STEREOGUM: What was it like working with Billy Idol?
LEWIS: It was amazing, man. It was something that I didn’t seek out. They contacted me. I had my reservations because —
STEREOGUM: Yeah, what’s your thing with the ’80s thing? Do you think it’s not valid?
LEWIS: No, I don’t think it’s valid, especially on this record.
STEREOGUM: You don’t think “To The Top” sounds a little ’80s?
LEWIS: I don’t know, it has no synthesizers, it’s got no gated reverb drums. It’s all just real instruments. I get what you’re saying.
STEREOGUM: I get that it’s a shorthand thing for a lot of artists.
LEWIS: In the end, it doesn’t matter, because good songs communicate to people if they’re good songs. If they’re bad songs, then those little things become points to bring up to put an artist down. It’s kind of a thing where, I never intended to always have this ’80s thing attached to it. All artists get pigeonholed. You can’t get away from it. If somebody who makes R&B that isn’t pop R&B, then they’re considered hipster R&B, that PBR&B. There’s always this thing to hang someone up on.
STEREOGUM: That was created as a derisive term, though. The ’80s thing isn’t quite the same, I think.
LEWIS: But it can be, you know? I’ve seen reviews, like, “Here’s George doing the ’80s thing again.” [laughs] It’s like…you don’t want that to be the first stop.
STEREOGUM: I know these are sort of diffuse terms at this point, but with some of the stylistic shifts on this record, I was wondering whether you consider yourself an indie guy or a pop guy?
LEWIS: I always hated the term indie, it always bothered me.
STEREOGUM: For you, or in general?
LEWIS: In general. It doesn’t mean anything anymore, but even when it did mean something…to me, I really don’t know why we segregate or classify or compartmentalize so many things in our lives. It’s kind of strange, because more than ever we live very similar lives. Some poor kid in the ghetto still has access to the same things that some rich kid has. Awareness-wise, there’s an equilibrium that’s on its way. So, for me, I’ve never thought of myself in either way. I know the politics of each side, I guess. I know there’s a certain type of record I can make that would really excite people who really like underground music. Making something that’s not obvious. Making something that’s more coded. Making something that’s more shy and introverted. I know that that can appeal to what people call an “indie audience.” Or right now, making something that’s minimal and R&B would be appealing to an indie audience. I understand those games very well. But I try not to make music in the shadow of that knowledge, you know? My ambition is to get as many people to hear my music as possible. If that makes me “pop,” then that makes me pop.
STEREOGUM: You would welcome being on the charts, getting your songs in clubs, that sort of thing?
LEWIS: Oh, of course.
STEREOGUM: Even if you don’t feel an affiliation to one tribe or the other that might not even exist anymore, there’s still people in your sphere who would not welcome that sphere. This album…there’s certainly still some darker, kind of slow-burners on it, but there’s a few that it wouldn’t be outlandish to hear in a club. “Old Love/New Love” could probably work as is, or especially with a remix. I was wondering if, not that you were writing the songs in the sense of “I want to have a radio hit,” but whether you were gravitating towards sounds more like that rather than a punk guitar part or whatever.
LEWIS: It’s incredible what hip hop and R&B have done in the last five years. It’s completely taken over our sonic landscape. There is no rock ‘n’ roll radio station anymore, you know? And rightfully so. As it was, it was a bastardized old form that needed to go. Something new needs to happen. None of us can get away from the fact that Drake and Jay Z and that Weeknd record that blew everybody’s minds — that’s our language now. So, to me, it’s more like I’m just speaking a language that exists right now, not necessarily thinking, “Oh, this is a more ‘pop’ approach.” But lyrically, I guess, this is the first time where, I think, the titles of every song are the chorus. Which, to me, it’s not necessarily a pop move but it’s more like: “I want this to be as clear as possible.” Which is, in a sense, pop. That’s pop ethics.
STEREOGUM: Some very big choruses, too. Do you ever worry about being lumped in with that whole PBR&B thing?
LEWIS: No, I mean…I’m not afraid of being lumped in with anything, but I certainly don’t want to be lumped in with whatever “indie” means. But I’m not too concerned with being lumped into any one thing. I don’t think anyone should be. I think those things are falling away as pop moves towards the left and non-pop moves towards the right. You’re going to have people like FKA Twigs maybe being a pop star. You’re going to have people like Miley Cyrus wanting to get weird. It’s all balancing out. Art has re-devoured itself over and over again to this point where everything’s going to be on this even plane, and I can’t wait for that, because then it means that bands can be weird and have notoriety. All it’s about is catchiness. People just want a tune to hum in their head. Captain Beefheart was capable of that, and Miley Cyrus is capable of that. It can always be weird again. It can all be straight and weird at the same time. I don’t try to get hung up on that.
So, here’s where things get a little bit odd. Not too long after my second time speaking with Lewis, Eclipse and its accompanying tour were delayed, and it turned out that he was leaving 4AD for Warner Bros. This is a pretty unconventional narrative: The album was done and in the process of being promoted already, a significant tour had been booked, “To The Top” had already been kicking around for a summer. And then a label switch meant the whole thing had to be restarted. It’s mostly been a matter of logistics, though: The version of Eclipse that will see release in March is a little bit different than the one I had back in July, but not too much. Last week, during the afternoon before Lewis played a special set at a sort of social club called Neuehouse off Park Avenue, we sat down at another Lower East Side spot and mainly talked about the decision to switch to Warner Bros. As it turns out, the idea had already been put out there by the last time I’d met him, which makes sense — even with the album completed and Lewis’ admitted tendency to tinker with final touches on a record until the last possible moment, he seemed somehow uncomfortable with talking about Eclipse in July, like he knew this was an unfinished process he was trying to pass off as finished. Inevitably, with the big switch to Warner Bros., the idea of “going pop” came up again; it’ll be interesting to see which direction Lewis leans in, or whether Twin Shadow can be one of those weird HAIM projects that seems to have DNA in equal balance from multiple music worlds. That night at Neuehouse, the new songs have a lot more edge to them than the recorded versions of Eclipse. The guitar is still turned up, and Lewis is a convincing argument for big lead guitar work still being exhilarating, even if Eclipse itself really shies away from the kind of fireworks he shows off live. Maybe these elements of Twin Shadow are still an unfinished process, too.
STEREOGUM: So, last time we spoke it was before you signed to Warner Bros., and there was a slightly different version of this record. “Locked And Loaded” used to open it, and now it closes it, and “Flatliners” is a new addition. When did that song come into the mix?
LEWIS: Once I really knew we were going to switch to Warner Bros….there were a bunch of songs right at the end of making the record that didn’t make it. I was thinking, “Oh, maybe I’ll add one more song.” I tried to finish some of the songs that were made towards the tail end of the recording session. Towards the end there I tried to tack on some songs and I didn’t really like them. I [also] re-mixed “To The Top,” “When The Lights Go Out,” and “I’m Ready.”
STEREOGUM: Why did you decide to move “Locked And Loaded” to the end?
LEWIS: “Flatliners” felt more like an opener than an ender. “Locked And Loaded” was originally going to be first or last so we moved it to last.
STEREOGUM: The album ends on a brighter note now.
LEWIS: Yeah, on a more hopeful note. I knew, because of the record, I knew that it couldn’t end with “Watch Me Go.” It kind of made sense to brighten the arc of the record.
STEREOGUM: When did the whole Warner Bros. thing start? Was that already happening when I saw you in July?
LEWIS: That started around the time the album was getting wrapped recording-wise. So, yeah, I would’ve known about it then. Way before that, we’d been approached by other major labels as well. It wasn’t necessarily the thing that put the idea into my head, but it kind of stoked the fire a little bit. I knew about it, I just didn’t know how it was all going to go down. It’s a lot more complicated than people may think to switch labels.
STEREOGUM: So that accounts for the album delay, right?
LEWIS: Yeah, I want to be clear that we didn’t delay our tour necessarily because the record wasn’t coming out. We delayed it because we were in the middle of this huge shift. It would’ve made the tour very anemic. Our resources were all going towards making this switch happen. The record’s been done since March.
STEREOGUM: What did Warner Bros. say when they approached you? I’m curious about the process of the fact that you had this album that was done and being promoted through 4AD and then it got switched over.
LEWIS: It’s complicated and probably really boring. [laughs] I think it is interesting, interesting and boring. Basically, usually in this situation, the new label approaches you, they show interest, and you have a conversation that either says, well, maybe we can cooperate with your current label or maybe we can buy you out. In this case, I essentially got bought out. Warner Bros. approached us kind of through my management.
STEREOGUM: How did 4AD react? Were they put out at all?
LEWIS: I have no idea. I really have no clue. I just let it be through managers. It’s weird. I think it’s a testament to what the relationship was that I have heard from one person and not a person who I worked with on the regular. I don’t hold any sort of grudge that no one reached out and was like, oh, we’re upset. Oh, we’re happy. I wish people had more guts in this world to say how they felt. I guess I could email someone and be like, “Hey, how did you feel about blah blah blah.” But why would I waste my time or energy to do that? I really don’t know. I’ve had friends who’ve gone through it with smaller indie labels and they’ve wanted to leave and there’s a lot of drama. That makes sense. I think 4AD and the whole Beggars machine is a lot bigger than people think it is. I love them as a label, I think they do amazing work, I think they have some of the most amazing artists. I was really happy to be there. And I’m really happy for my time there. It’s a great, great label to be on. I was really proud to be on that label. This just felt really right to me. It continues to feel right to me. I’ve just been meeting the people who are involved in this record and feeling really excited.
STEREOGUM: Did Warner Bros. put any pressure on you to change the record at all?
LEWIS: Not at all. They really just loved the record. They were a hundred percent supportive. I wanted the record to be ten songs. In the very last step I went back and wanted to take a song off. They encouraged me to keep it at 11, because they really loved all the songs. No, it’s amazing. The climate is really changing, I think, over there. I can’t say this for all artists, because I do know artists on major labels who get “Where’s the single? Where’s this, where’s that?” I understand that pressure still exists. For me, I’m telling you, I couldn’t believe how excited they were about what exists.
STEREOGUM: Last time we talked a bit about the indie vs. pop worlds, whether those labels mean anything, etc. But with the major label shift, are you thinking more about that kind of thing now? Do you feel like you’re in the pop world now?
LEWIS: I think the healthiest way for any artist to look at their career is to continue to not bombard themselves with this genre boundary. For me to say I’m moving into a pop market…it doesn’t do justice to me or my peers. I know it’s become trendy almost for people to be like, “Oh, I’m making this pop record.” Everyone’s making pop-leaning records. Yeah, because everyone realized that quote-unquote indie is boring as fuck. So, yeah, we’re all influenced by Madonna and Michael and all the greatest pop stars that ever lived. I like to say I’m simplifying things, and trying to not make things too…I think when you’re a young artist and you put out your first record, you almost want to talk in code. You want to have this specific language specific to you. It’s elitist, almost. My music is no longer elitist.
STEREOGUM: Do you think it was on Confess?
LEWIS: I don’t think it was on Confess, but perhaps on Forget. There was a weirdness to it, there was a code. Which, for that time in my career, was perfect. Now, it’s more like…I want everyone to be able to understand it. I want it to be a universal language. In that sense, you could say I’m going more pop. I think it’s doing myself and my peers a disservice to label anything we’re doing anything. As long as we can stop calling it indie, I’m OK with it.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, again, the term doesn’t mean anything anymore.
LEWIS: Neither does hipster, neither does goth, neither does anything. I understand you guys have to categorize things to be able to talk about them. Let people put labels on everything. But musicians shouldn’t be concerned with labels. That was always my problem with young people calling each other hipsters or this or that. Why not just be a young person loving other young people? For those involved, why bother. For the critics, which is your guys’ job, let the labels run. But, anyway.
STEREOGUM: Is being on Warner Bros. giving you a broader range with what you can pull off?
LEWIS: Production in general. Live, production in music videos. Financial help with those things. There’s certainly more of that. But more importantly there seems to be a more active support system, generally. There seems to be more feedback. Which I’m really enjoying now. And again, the honeymoon phase gets over pretty quick. So we’ll see how it plays out.
Eclipse is out 3/17 via Warner Bros. You can pre-order here. And here is the first reveal of the cover art and tracklist, along with a new album trailer:
02 “When the Lights”
03 “To The Top”
06 “Turn Me Up”
07 “I’m Ready”
08 “Old Love New Love”
09 “Half Life”
10 “Watch Me Go”
11 “Locked and Loaded”
[Album cover art by Milan Zrnic. Twin Shadow photo by Ryan Muir/Stereogum.]