Twin Shadow played a stripped-down set Oct. 16 at Sonos Studio in Los Angeles that highlighted his skills as a songwriter first and foremost rather than as a producer of ’80s-inspired indie pop. Appearing with just an electric guitar for the first few songs, Twin Shadow aka George Lewis Jr. ran through “The One” and “Run My Heart” from this year’s fine Confess album. On that album, Lewis Jr.’s dazzling production is a major draw, occasionally threatening to overshadow his honed pop songwriting and voice, which echoes ’80s pop stalwarts like Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins (but in a good way). Lewis Jr. only added minimal delay effects to the end of “The One,” and on “Run My Heart,” his voice grew truly transcendent for the song’s soaring choruses. He introduced keyboardist/singer Wynne Bennett as the “other” part of Twin Shadow, and she joined him for a slowed-down take on single “Five Seconds” which made it sound a bit like Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” than it already does, given its throbby synths and romantic vocal. She continued to play with him through “I Can’t Wait,” a highlight from his brilliant first album, Forget, before Lewis Jr. return to a solo venture for a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “The Highway Kind.” He took to the keys for the poptastic “Patient,” which sort of sounds like Prince covering Nelly Furtado (if that doesn’t sound like a great idea to you, we are just different people). He closed the show with the moody “I Don’t Care” before collaborating for a poetry performance with friend and artist Eric Green, who spoke verse while Lewis Jr. handled synth sounds. The two then engaged in a wonderfully oddball interview before screening the video for “Five Seconds,” which was based conceptually on a story written by Lewis Jr. and Green. Check out the interview below. Twin Shadow plays tonight at the Henry Fonda Theater with the lovely Haim. Amoeba Hollywood has tickets on sale for $22.50 plus $2 in service fees; inquire at the registers.
(Green asks him a question about “the garden” ???)
Lewis Jr.: I just think about grandmas in the garden, that’s what I think about.
Green: What are they doing?
Lewis Jr.: They’re tending to their flowers. The little things.
Green: Who’s the grandma in your world?
Lewis Jr.: (laughs) Who’s the grandma? I don’t know, I never really had any grandmas. I had one grandma, but I didn’t know her too well. So I don’t even know what grandma means, other than for this image.
Green: She was in the Dominican Republic?
Lewis Jr.: Yeah, she was in the Dominican Republic.
Green: Did you meet her?
Lewis Jr.: Yeah, I did, I met her a few times.
Green: When you came back from there a couple years ago, you said you found a feeling of where you were coming from. Who you are.
Lewis Jr.: Yeah, I felt like I had — it had been so long since I had been in the Dominican Republic for real, like actually spent time there. And I found that watching my family, family that I had never met before, and watching how similar I am to them, brought me this huge sense of kind of “home,” in a way, which I’d never had because I didn’t know any extended family at all, growing up.
Green: That brings me to another thing I wanted to ask you, about the thread. I don’t know if you’ve realized, but George Lewis is going to tell us about the thread (mentioned in his poem), which you’ve probably been wondering about. What is it, the thread? Which is also like, lineage, because it leads like — the thing that connects, like one human being to another and also like you to your past. But like, I don’t know, the thread in terms of well, listening, you know? Like where does it begin, like the beginning moment?
Lewis Jr.: I mean, the thread is, music is probably the most common thread, I suppose.
Green: But, you know, personally.
Lewis Jr.: My thread starts probably watching the movie La Bamba. Ritchie Valens is probably the start of my thread. I was probably like 7 years old. That’s when I knew it was kind of, I knew that that’s what I was, that that was my people. That was the people I needed to follow.
Green: Do you want to flesh this story out a little? You were a little kid, you’re in the living room?
Lewis Jr.: I’m in the living room, I’m watching La Bamba — uh, I don’t remember. I just remember thinking that this was important. I don’t really remember specifics.
Lewis Jr.: It just all made sense. And that song was so good, you know.
Green: All right. So, one more question, I guess, and then the people, if they have questions. The mirror. All right, this is an interesting thing that happens with performance, like when you perform music. … You become a mirror for the crowd of people, for all the people who listen to you. And it’s sort of like condensed into like one, one line of attention. … I just want to ask you what that image means, the mirror.
Lewis Jr.: Um, I mean, the mirror is what I hope to be, always. What did I just — I heard some amazing quote today.
Green: Was it me or you?
Lewis Jr.: It was you (laughs). No, I can’t remember exactly what it was saying, but it was something about like, you and I talking about what we hope to — I think it may have been Van Morrison — you and I hope to be. What’s the line?
Green: We sat beneath our own star and tell each other what you were for me and I was for you.
Lewis Jr.: But then he says, and then he says — he says something about we talk about what we hope to be and not what we are. … But the mirror is what everyone hopes to be. A mirror is not a selfish thing. A mirror is completely giving. I’m a selfish human being, in my natural state. I’m arrogant, I’m ignorant, all those things. The mirror is not any of those things. The mirror is generous. It just lets everyone else see their image they want to see. So I hope to be the mirror.
(A girl asks if he writes influenced by musical effects or a love of influential songwriters.)
Lewis Jr.: I think that writing for me, the base, the very foundation of all songwriting and songwriters who do their thing, their foundation is always the same, and that’s in the story. The story has nothing to do with the paper it’s written on, or the way you even tell the story. It’s just the story, it’s the heart of it. So the way you tell the story is through these devices, which really to me are, to me these things are like time machines that keep you in recurrent. This synthesizer, this drum machine, these pedals. They’re like my time machine that keeps me like just ahead of the curve, you know? It keeps me predicting what sonically is going to be pleasing to the audience. But they could all be wiped away tomorrow and the song will always remain the same, like the heart of it is always gonna be there, which is why I don’t perform like this ever. Tonight was a special night, and I perform with a band, and the band is a way that I stay current and a way that I stay in this moment and speaking to youth, really, with sonics, because that’s important. But at the core of it, it’s just a song, and it’s always gonna be a song. A hundred years from now, without this stuff, with this stuff.
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