Twin Shadow: “I Like Old Motorcycles Better Than Music”

A chat about R&B, sex, speed and cool jackets (and boots)

Twin Shadow is one of the main attractions of Music Day 2012. Taking advantage of his performance tomorrow in Madrid and the fact that his second album, “Confess”, will be out in a few weeks, we gave him a call so that he could explain what the production of the album was like and much more.

George Lewis Jr., the young man of Dominican origin who lies behind the pseudonym Twin Shadow, has had a couple of very busy years since the release of his debut album, “Forget”, which went on sale on the 15th November 2010. Looking back, it’s hard to find a better debut that year in indie territory. The full-length, produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, is among the most select contemporary reinterpretations of synth-pop. Some months later, he decided to shut himself up in the studio with the blonde cherub to help him come up with the songs for his solo debut “Dreams Come True”, under the artistic name CANT. Although the LP didn’t draw as much attention, it had a good handful of songs as sensual as those on “Forget”, showing the Grizzly Bear moving in waters that he had never entered before.

Now it’s time to follow up “Forget” with “Confess”, which will go on sale on 9th July through 4AD. This time the (adoptive) New Yorker has decided to record it solo, without outside producers, in Los Angeles. It was inspired, in part, by the feelings caused by a motorcycle accident that he had some time ago. Taking advantage of the imminent release of the album, we called him to ask about the gestation of this new work, his influences and his love of cool motorcycles, boots, and jackets.

"I never want to make one song more important than another. If one is less important, it won’t make the record"

How did you manage to forget your extensive touring for awhile and find time to record the album?

Mmmm... We toured with “Forget” as much as possible and then I decided to take two months and come to Los Angeles and work on the album.

What would you say are the main musical differences between “Forget” and “Confess”?

I think “Confess” has a lot more… kind of organic drum; it sounds a lot more like live drum sounds rather than drum machines. That’s one difference, but also the emotional nature of the record is very different. But I don’t know, I’m not sure, I can’t really compare them. They are very different to me because they come from different parts of my life.

The album titles are somehow opposed, but the song-writing is still strong here. You didn’t really ‘forget’ in the debut album and you’re certainly ‘confessing’ here. Why did you decide to go for what is probably a more accurate title?

I don’t know. I actually had trouble; I wanted to name it something different. But a friend of mine listened to the record and said that it should be called “Confess”. And I thought: ‘That actually makes a lot of sense’. Many times you don’t have a good perspective when you are making an album, and then someone needs to tell you the name of the record.

There’s a real sex appeal in your songs. Is this the main quality you look for in your songs or are there others?

Mmm… I don’t know, I don’t think it’s something that I think about too much. I suppose that’s the way that I am. I think sex is one of the most important things in life, so it comes through.


"I think a lot of R&B influenced these songs. Drake, Alicia Keys… She’s doing amazing things. Also Kanye and Jay-Z"

I really find it hard to point out a potential hit in this record; every song seems to stand out the same. Was that something you were trying for?

This is something I’ve always tried to achieve. I never want to make one song more important than another. If one is less important, it won’t make the record. I work hard on all of them and I don’t try to make any one a hit.

So you are not looking for hits?

No, I mean, everyone is looking for hits. [Laughs] They’re all important. They’re all catchy.

So in your mind, they are all hits?

Sure! [Laughs]

Some months ago you covered a pretty unknown italo disco classic. Could you please tell us some of your influences in that genre?

Oh, man, there’s too many! Obviously Giorgio Moroder is the king.

Excuse me, I meant more obscure ones…

If I tell you, they won’t be obscure any more! [Laughs] Everyone can go on YouTube and look for the kind of italo disco I’m listening to.

Have these groups influenced these new songs?

No, I don’t think so. I’m thinking, but… I’m not sure what influenced these songs. I’ve been listening to a lot of music. I think a lot of R&B influenced these songs. Drake, Alicia Keys… She’s doing amazing things. Also Kanye and Jay-Z. I haven’t been listening to a lot of rock albums.

What do you find appealing about hidden tracks?

I don’t know, it just reminded me that when I was young I used to love finding hidden tracks in records.

You finally decided to self-produce your second record, which is the opposite of what many new musicians do. What are the advantages of working without a producer?

It’s the same advantages as always. I just do my own thing and don’t have to spend time making decisions with others. It’s just faster. I was able to spend more money on the record itself, rather than paying someone else.

Why didn’t Chris Taylor participate in this record?

Because Chris was very busy doing CANT, which is the music project that he and I did. He was busy touring with that and working on the new Grizzly Bear record.

We were quite surprised with CANT’s beautiful debut album and also thought of it as if it were more of a collaborative album between you two. But at the same time he also produced “Forget”, so… do you both share the same musical ideas or you have different ones and they intertwine in the studio?

We have different music ideas. Chris and I worked well together and we love hanging out, it’s a nice feeling being around him.

Can we expect future collaborations between the two of you?

Yeah, I think so.

We really enjoyed the “At My Heels” movie. You are often compared with Morrissey and it is said there as a joke that you are more the “Bangladesh Bowie”. Who would you compare yourself to in a comical sense?

[Laughs] Roy Orbison… from the Moon!

"I just hope my hair stays on my head long enough so I can keep doing different things"

Were you surprised when people started comparing you to Morrissey or is he one of your references?

You know, I like Morrissey, but I didn’t expect it, really.

Some time ago you posted a video on your website with a cool and crazy guy dancing with a fan, who you wanted for your next video. Did you manage to find him?

Yes, I did. I think he’s going to be in the next video for “Five Seconds”.

What are your ideas for this video?

Oh, I can’t tell you! [laughs]

You had this great idea of having a haircut tour. Was this sort of an excuse to constantly change your look or do you have a particular favourite haircut?

Mmm… it was just kind of a joke because I go and get my haircut done all of the time. It was to show all my different kinds of styles. I just hope my hair stays on my head long enough so I can keep doing different things. [Laughs]

Do you treat yourself with products so that this doesn’t happen?

No, I just pray. Every morning I wake up and pray to God it doesn’t fall out.

You’ve said you’re a little bit vain, which I find totally cool, but at the same time shocking. You know, many musicians complain about photo shoots and all this stuff and I see you as a guy who enjoys them. Is that correct?

Oh, I don’t know if I enjoy them, but I don’t mind doing them. You know, everything I do I take very seriously. I know it’s a thing that is important, so I take it seriously.

In your writing included in the “Confess” press release, you describe a really nice connection with your bike. Even in your new t-shirt you’re featured riding one. Do you now spend more time riding it to relax from the whole recording/promo/touring process?

Yeah, I rode it a lot during the recording process. I picked it up every morning. I’d go, then come back, then leave mid-day, back again, and then I’d ride at night. Now that I have finished the record, I still ride it every day. I’m looking at my bike right now!

Are you as big a fan of vintage motorcycles as you are of vintage music?

I like motorcycles better.

Really?! And could you tell me what motorcycles you like best?

All the old British stuff I like a lot right now. BSA, Triumph...

What would you rather spend your money on: your dream bike or a whole new wardrobe with great boots and jackets?

Oh, man, that’s tough! I don’t know, but look, I have my dream motorcycle already, a 1972 Bonneville Triumph; I’m all set. So I’d choose the clothes.

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