Aug. 15 2012 08:07 AM

Synth-rock songwriter takes a pessimistic look at love

Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr. wonders whether relationships need to be eternal.
Photo by Tina Tyrell

There aren’t many happy endings in Twin Shadow’s songs. Hearts break often. Love doesn’t last forever. Romantic trysts are generally a one-time occurrence. In short: Someone’s bound to get hurt.

Building on his hazy, emotionally charged 2010 debut, Forget, Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr. goes even deeper into places of emotional vulnerability and confusion on his new album, Confess. Set against a backdrop of booming, new-wave synthesizers, Prince-style funk and Springsteen-esque ballads, Lewis sings about lovers hanging on to fleeting moments, or picking up the pieces once those moments come to a screeching halt. “This isn’t love,” he croons on “Run My Heart,” an album highlight. “I’m just a boy / you’re just a girl.”

This pessimistic, almost fatalistic view of relationships comes directly from Lewis’ experiences. Being a full-time performer and touring musician doesn’t lend itself well to starting up long-term relationships, and having such a tight budget on personal time inevitably means not being able to devote much time to anyone.

“I’m writing all about my life, and I question a lot,” Lewis says from his home in Los Angeles. “I question whether a relationship always needs to be eternal. We’re friends now, but do we have to be friends to the death? I don’t know if I believe in that. I think sometimes relationships need to have an end. I don’t think that’s the goal, though, and people have a hard time letting go.

“I have a lot of frustration with that, and I struggle with giving a healthy amount of time with one person,” he continues. “A lot of my friends get upset with me for lack of contact. Am I being selfish? Maybe, but I literally don’t have the time. And the record is me going through that.”

So, it’s not just a clever title: Confess is, for all intents and purposes, a collection of confessions (and reflections and regrets). Lewis’ songs never get bogged down in tawdry gossip or navel gazing, however. Part of that comes from the verve and dance-friendly vibe of the record—one of Lewis’ goals was to create something more energetic than its predecessor. And part of it comes from a concerted effort to strip affectation from his lyrics.

“Slowly, as I was creating it, I realized there were some things I wanted to do,” he says. “I wanted to speak more directly. I kept reminding myself to write like I would speak in real life. I just wanted to be a bit more direct. Rather than trying to kind of— for lack of a better word—be poetic. I just wanted to have a more direct line with reality, rather than fantasy.”

Lewis recently stepped outside of music to work on an entirely different project, a novel titled The Night of the Silver Sun. In an interview with Pitchfork, Lewis said it’s “about a motorcycle gang in the future.” In turn, the novel’s plot ended up as the basis for two videos from the album, for “Five Seconds” and “Patient,” both of which include lots of motorcycles and action scenes.

It’s a bit of a leap from the dreamy pop that Lewis creates with Twin Shadow. But he maintains that his literary work and his confessional songwriting are both honest reflections of who he is.

“If you have a movie with a character who is an awful, awful person, and it’s shot from his perspective, is the filmmaker being honest? Of course,” he declares. “There’s nothing but honesty, because it all comes from me. It’s just the way we really are as human beings.”

Lewis says he likely won’t pursue writing literature full-time—he says it’s more of a hobby. When it comes to writing songs, though, he prefers to stick primarily to autobiographical material. Not that he’s averse to trying something different if the mood were to strike.

“I don’t like to put rules on myself,” he says. “I can write an album about goblins in a forest, and it would still be honest. I prefer writing about my life because I’ve lived an interesting life. Personal experiences are universal, and people can connect in a profound way. We live in a time where we don’t have to be one kind of thing. We’re the mutts of culture.”

Now living in the hip L.A. enclave of Silver Lake after several years in Brooklyn, Lewis sticks to a more relaxing offstage lifestyle than he did before—it involves a lot of time riding his motorcycle. As for full-time bachelorhood, one’s natural inclinations to become romantically involved still tend to win out over practicality.

“It’s in our nature,” he says. “I certainly don’t try to dissuade my nature. I love being in love. … I let myself do whatever I want or need. I can discuss my frustration and happiness and sadness and all that. But I don’t try to analyze it or fix it.

“I don’t think it’s broken.”

Twin Shadow plays with Poolside at The Casbah on Wednesday, Aug. 22, and Thursday, Aug. 23.

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