Name: Twin Shadow
Progress Report: George Lewis, Jr. — aka Twin Shadow — goes to California to get busy on his new record.
Twin Shadow’s debut album — 2010’s Forget — was one of that year’s prettiest surprises: a swoony, synthy, romantic pop paean to ’80s new wave. The success of that record kept frontman George Lewis, Jr. and his band on the road for the better part of a year, eventually playing a string of shows opening for Florence And The Machine. Having decamped to Los Angeles for a few months, Lewis is currently putting the finishing touches on his sophomore album which is due for release later this year in one of the “J” months.
STEREOGUM: What have you been up to?
GL: I rented a place in L.A. and basically wrote and then recorded pretty much 90% of the new record. I was there for about a month and a half. I’m supposed to be mixing it this week but I got a stroke of the perfectionist and decided to continue working on it.
STEREOGUM: How was the experience of working in L.A.?
GL: It was good. L.A. is really mellow so it was relaxing and at the same time it was a lot of hard work and long hours. We’d been on tour for the better part of a year. I think we played more days with shows than lived normal days without playing. So it was kind of intense and I felt like I needed the opposite of what my life was doing … so I rented a ridiculous house and just holed up there and rented a studio out and bought myself a motorcycle and recorded music. I was pretty much isolated and didn’t go out or party much.
STEREOGUM: Did you have songs already brewing when you started recording or was it like totally starting fresh with a clean slate?
GL: There were kind of a lot of songs that had been ideas that either I had made in hotel rooms or that I had written on the guitar. We had a little bit of downtime during our festival tour in Europe, so I had written some stuff then. There was some basic ideas down but for the most part it was like starting with a clean slate.
STEREOGUM: You were writing with your keyboard player?
GL: Yeah, but it was different this time. The first couple of weeks, she’d work on one side of the house and I’d work at the other and then we’d come together and share ideas at night. It was easier in some ways and more frustrating in some ways. You can argue with yourself all day long but it can only get so heated when you are by yourself. But when you’re with another person it can really escalate. We had some major blowouts but it always ended up making us work hard and get to a new place. It was a bit of the experience that I’ve dreaded since being in an actual band; that feeling of someone disagreeing with your artistic instinct and you just kind of being offended or getting your feelings hurt. At the same time the plusses were really cool too. I think you can do yourself a disservice by being to monk-like in a way or too by yourself.
STEREOGUM: Does the new material feel like a marked departure from what you were doing before?
GL: I know that to me it is the next step, it’s still very much about synthesizers and less of an emphasis on drum machines and more on sampled acoustic drums. So the rhythm section will maybe be the biggest difference, but I’m not really sure. I think it’s just the next step from Forget.
STEREOGUM: Were you working with a producer or doing thing yourself?
GL: This time I was doing everything myself. I would have loved to work with Chris Taylor again and I know we’ll be working on some stuff in the future. He’s really busy with Grizzly Bear and CANT and was actually in Australia while we were in L.A. I couldn’t really think of anyone else who I’d want to work with instead. A lot of people approached me about producing the record and I almost had someone produce it. Then I realized so much of making records for me is about experimentation and you can only do that fully when there’s no one there being like, “OK, let’s get to work!” I find that most people don’t have the type of patience I have for discovering something exciting. So I just kind of wanted to do it by myself. I learned a lot in doing it by myself, just like I did last time, but this time is a bit more like trying to pay attention to where I’m placing my microphones and trying to run a big soundboard.
STEREOGUM: You toured for a really long time on the back of Forget. Does it seem like a blur now?
GL: It certainly feels like a big fucking blur. I don’t think there has ever been anything in my life as blurry as last year. There are key moments that make you think, “Wow!” I remember playing shows at Cameo and maybe being 20 people there and then a year later headlining at Webster Hall with 1500 people there and the promoter calling to say 500 people are wanting to get in. So there are those moments where you really see your progress. But at the same time I also think we worked really hard last year and played our hearts out at the shows. I really have to give credit for my band to doing the type of touring we did last year. When I think about the hard work I’m not as surprised at the outcome.
STEREOGUM: When do you anticipate the new record being released?
GL: I might be getting myself in trouble but I’m pretty sure it’s sometime in the J months?
STEREOGUM: Are you looking forward to touring again?
GL: Ugh, no. But I only say no in terms of like … you know, if they can invent teleportation I will happily play 320 shows a year, because the only part of your day that’s really beautiful is playing for your fans. That’s hands down the most important thing in my life. The problem is that you have to travel what feels like forever in order to play that one hour.
STEREOGUM: People that overly romanticize touring have usually never done it.
GL: Totally. And then some people have done it and think they’ve really done it but they’ve only toured like 3 months out of the year. That is not touring. But it’s also one of those weird things … like I finally get to realize why some people do it and can’t stop doing it as well. I get it, when that becomes your life you can’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend or friends, but the road becomes your home and it’s very true.
STEREOGUM: I have friends who really struggle with that. The touring becomes this bubble of predictable safety. It’s having time off that becomes scary and unpredictable.
GL:: When you’re back at home and thinking, “Well what do I do?” So usually you go to a bar and get wasted and make terrible mistakes that you shouldn’t make. Or maybe that’s just me.