On his latest self-titled release, George Lewis Jr., popularly known as Twin Shadow, created art from a spiritual place. He dove deep into his influences and Dominican roots, resulting in a collection of songs that are both uplifting and transformative. While having to initially navigate the landscape of the ongoing pandemic, along with his release plans and tours, which undoubtedly posed its challenges, Twin Shadow is now hopeful for the future and the next generation of artists he’s inspiring.
This year, Twin Shadow plans to remain in the headspace he was in while creating his latest album as he gears up for performances to support the record properly. Beyond that, his next steps are to dive into experimentation and collaboration to not only grow as an artist but to shape the artistic community around him.
I feel like so many people reference your work, and whatever you make is so ahead of the curve from where music is at any point in time. Where does that come from?
I appreciate that. It’s funny because I feel like in my career, I have always battled this insecurity about people saying my music sounded retro, so I would take old things and try to make them new. I would juxtapose something ’80s-sounding with lyrics that you wouldn’t hear in the ’80s and just juxtapose things in not such an obvious way. My hope is to not be too ahead, but I do get bored very easily with the same sounds, so I’m constantly searching for new inspiration, and maybe that’s why I keep moving forward for myself. I don’t like to get stuck in one place.
When you work on music, it seems like you go into your own world and create from your own unique lens. Where are you at now in terms of the vibe you are creating, and what does this next wave feel like?
I always have this thing where I know that I have a record when I can see myself onstage with an outfit, performing the music that I’m writing. There’s this deep connection with making music and knowing you’re in a good place with it and seeing things differently. I would say I’m still in the same place as my most recent record. It’s such a shame that this pandemic has affected live music, and all of us that have worked hard on records do not know if our shows are going to be canceled, so it’s a bit stressful.
I want to stay in the same headspace of the record because I have a bunch of shows coming up and whatever the visual approach is and all of that. At the same time, I have other projects that I’m working on, and really I’m at a place where it’s a lot of experimentation. Musically, I’m keeping my ears open more than ever, and I’m excited about a lot of new artists and working with some new people and stuff that is outside of my genre. I’m open and ready for what’s next.
Your artistry comes from such a pure place. What can you tell me about your creative process, both sonically and visually? In addition, how do you bring this process to life when you collaborate with other artists?
I am, for better or worse, a very hands-on person. I don’t know how to do it any other way and have a hard time accepting help – I am just so interested in all the aspects of making music and visuals – I really want to work with artists who have a vision for something and need help in any way. For any kind of next step or phase [for my music], I need to sit in the dirt building sandcastles until something starts to form and make sense. I need to see it, touch it and manipulate it with my hands and work it out sonically. I spend a lot of time experimenting before I really know what’s next and wait for those moments where I can see what calls me.
Your latest record feels almost spiritual and has a certain level of soul that you really tapped into in an incredible way. What inspired this?
I felt very spiritual doing this record – I was super inspired by [Jamaican singer-songwriter] Desmond Dekker and some first-wave ska, which I feel like isn’t referenced as much as it should be. I was also inspired by bands like the Clash, and punk bands that wore their influences on their sleeves, and really did something with their influences where it wasn’t just appropriation and really did something to push their genres.
Obviously, as an artist, you are constantly growing, but I also see you as a guide and inspiration to the next generation of artists. How does it feel to inspire others, and what do you make of this new generation and how music is consumed and created?
It’s a big responsibility to be any sort of guide. I appreciate the time that I came up in music and not being able to have my own free will of music choices and being influenced by things that you have no control over, whether that’s from your parents or an older generation. I always try to think about how human beings like to say that generations have these massive shifts culturally, and we do, but we don’t evolve that quickly.
Technology changes, and the patterns of our lives change, but the way we experience and accept things emotionally in our brains are still similar mechanics. I always feel hopeful about interesting things happening musically, even if we do not like the way music is being consumed. The consumption of anything and everything in our culture is pretty scary, between the internet, binge-watching shows and treating music like it’s a human right to have every single at your recall. All of that stuff is very ugly in [a] way, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that interesting things still happen all the time. I was listening to Dijon’s new record [Absolutely], and it made me feel excited that new artists are still blowing my mind, and it doesn’t stop happening. Interesting things never stop happening.
This story appeared in issue #403 with cover star Dominic Fike, available here.
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