A motorbike accident isn't a common catalyst for an album, but Twin Shadow's Confess, out today in the UK and on Tuesday in the States on 4AD, was born of singer and composer George Lewis Jr.'s altered perspective following a crash.
Lewis' fervent admiration of sleek 80s electro-pop and rock is also evident on Twin Shadow's sophomore album, the followup to 2010's Forget, as demonstrated on tracks like the grand, Bruce Springsteen-meets-Berlin "Five Seconds."
Touring Europe and the UK early this month, including next weekend's Latitude Festival in Suffolk, Twin Shadow will return to the States for a lengthy stretch of time crisscrossing North America beginning on July 20, making his way back to New York on September 27 at Webster Hall.
The soft-spoken frontman discussed what a gap of two years between albums taught him about his music when he and his Twin Shadow bandmates visited The Alternate Side last month for an interview and live set. Listen to Twin Shadow's session when it airs this Friday, July 13, at 11 a.m. EDT on TAS on 91.5 WNYE, streaming on the TAS site.
Russ Borris: I love [Confess], I think it’s great from start to finish. I was wondering, going into this, did you approach things differently than the last album?
George Lewis, Jr.: Yeah, I learned a lot from the last record. It’s been about two years so I learned a lot about recording techniques, a lot about myself and other people. It’s all in there.
Russ: There was a lot of time on the road between the last record and this one.
George: A lot. I think it really informed the energy of this record. Because of the live show and all of the traveling, that energetic performance that we always give, I wanted to bring that energy to the record so it definitely informed it a lot.
Russ: Do you think that was different with the first record? That it wasn’t the same as the live show?
George: I think that we had a hard time interpreting the first record. It was harder because it really was made completely isolated and it has a very isolated sound. So to have a live band [achieve that small sound] was hard. I think we did a good job of interpreting it in our own way, but this record is going to be an easier jump to the live.
Russ: There’s a driving feel to [“Five Seconds”]. How did that one come about?
George: That’s a song that Win and I have been working on for over a year. It’s the oldest song on the record. It was worked on so much and so many times, I couldn’t even tell you where it started or how it started.
Russ: Does it get like that in the writing? You can go over it and over it?
George: I’ve never done that ever in my life before. I’ve never worked on anything more than a week or so. So it’s interesting that this song took almost a year to finish. It was a new experience for me.
Russ: Did you feel like you had to give up on it at some point?
George: I gave up on it a million times, but it always came back and now it’s the first single we released. It’s kind of funny.
Russ: How do you write? Do you use your journal, use your phone? Write on the road?
George: I wrote most of the lyrics on my phone this time around. Which I’ve also never done. The worst thing is the voice memo feature and you play back all of these voice memos of you whispering to yourself all of these deep things like (whispers), “The midnight air is so nice.” Stuff like that. It’s weird. It’s really important when you have your first idea to get it down somewhere.
Russ: It feels that you had a pretty clear picture of where you wanted these songs to go. Does that happen going in? Does it change when you get into the studio?
George: You always think you know where you want to go, but it’s never really were you want to go. It just takes you where it wants to take you and it’s out of your control most of the time. I think if it’s really in your control and it’s really calculated, it doesn’t come off very honest. To be honest, I had a vision for what I wanted, but it didn’t end up being that vision; it ended up being its own thing.
Russ: Is that a positive or a negative?
George: It’s super positive. It’s always amazing. You get in the midst of it and things get really scary and things aren’t going the way you want them to go. It reveals itself in a different way and you gain a lot of confidence, just in the kind of spirituality of it. It find you and there’s a lot of confidence that comes with that.
Russ: Is it tough going into the second album? You think of the whole sophomore slump thing? Or live up to some sort of expectation of what the first record was?
George: I know a lot of people rely on my music to get through whatever they have to get through in this life and there’s a heavy pressure that comes with that, wanting to please them and make something good for those people. And then there’s the thing of getting more fans. It’s challenging but I wasn’t too worried about the sophomore slump really. I’ve been playing music for a long time and I don’t feel like this is my second try. This is my 275th try.