Whether it be singing for Letterman or songwriting for Billy Idol, Twin Shadow remains unreservedly low-key in the limelight. From minimalist sound, to maximalist emotional content, Schön! uncovers the roots of his new album.
Born in the Dominican Republic, adoptive of California, with stints in Florida, New York and Boston, as well as dipping in and out of Europe, George Lewis Jr., better known by his stage name Twin Shadow, is a global child. After Forget (2010) and Confess (2012), the singer, songwriter and producer (a non-exhaustive list, you’ll be spared) is returning to release Eclipse.
The origins of Twin Shadow can be traced back to the years Lewis spent living between New York and Europe, when his sisters were residing in Berlin and his girlfriend in Copenhagen. “I was kind of like bouncing around lots of places and trying to be in a friend’s band, which never worked out,” he explains. “After all of that, I almost gave up music in a way. Twin Shadow was kind of born... out of my fear of not playing music.”
After the Confess album and tour, Twin Shadow returned to New York, where time and place determined a phase of change. “At that point it really didn’t seem right for me anymore and I went back to California, did more of the same, just going around, working on my bike, working on my car.” While Confess, he tells us, was the recording of a crumbling of his personality, Eclipse originated from a more dormant period, a sort of comedown from the previous years. “I finally created a consistency for myself, and started the record on that foundation.”
A hideout in Silver Lake provided Lewis with the much-needed respite. “I was in this tiny little bungalow and I remember that it was very hard to set up any music equipment anywhere, so I guess I cut off from music a bit.” The crux, for the Eclipse album, was a chance gig in Hollywood’s Forever Cemetery. A deal with the graveyard owner, and Lewis ended up setting up camp in the chapel amidst the graves. “There was a priest’s quarter that I turned into my control room, and then I had this huge empty chapel that I could record in.” Without a single living soul in sight, Lewis found he had crafted the space to work. “I could come and go as I pleased. I could come at 4am and the security guard would let me in. I’d literally be the only person in the cemetery other than the guard, almost a mile away at the front.” Macabre experience? Not at all, he retorts: “It was pretty amazing”.
Now signed to Warner Bros., Twin Shadow is taking Eclipse into unconquered territories. “I felt this need to kind of like, scream out of it, be a bit bigger, be a bit louder, and make one of the louder records.” The sound is voluminous, layered and complex. “I think there’s actually less inside the music, which makes it more expansive,” he tells us. “There’s this simplifying of things, certainly it’s not simple – Twin Shadow has always been about layers – but there’s a lot of epic-ness about the record.”
Musically, the album is a natural progression from the first two, with R&B riffs that collide with pop-worthy anthems, awe-inspiring vocals that are wickedly fervent, and lyrics that are, well, lyrically as intense as it gets. The record embodies the eclecticism that Twin Shadow has come to be defined by. “It’s just a mixture of a lot of things, which I kind of feel makes it a little bit hard to pinpoint.” With an upbringing listening to anything from Juan Luis Guerra to Led Zeppelin, with a detour via MTV, Paul Simons and Joe Cocker, Lewis’ background is multifarious, to say the least.
The singer-songwriter has his ambitions set high, whilst modestly acknowledging the steps that have led him to where he is now. Days before we speak to him, Twin Shadow was on air to countless viewers for a performance of Turn Me Up on the Late Show with David Letterman, and has a worldwide tour booked, as well as a list of festivals to fill the rest of the year.
From the vulnerability and solitude of Confess, Twin Shadow has let down his guard further still for Eclipse. “This record is built on an emotional foundation that was a lot stronger,” is his explanation. “I think [it comes from] a place of openness and willingness to let the outside world affect me a little bit more. Eclipse is the actual shifting of things, coming into alignment, falling out of alignment.” It’s an auditory rollercoaster, to be sure, and guides willing listeners through emotional highs and lows, in alignment with Lewis’ own. “I just felt, at this point, who needs another chill record,” comes the concluding remark. “You know – we’ve chilled enough, I think.”
Eclipse is out worldwide on 17th March 2015 on Warner Bros. Records.
Talent / Twin Shadow Photography / Milan Zrnic Styling / Christopher Kim
Hair / Daniel Moon Production / Kylie Ferguson Photography Assistant / Sergiy Barchuk