The best artists don’t necessarily need to reinvent themselves in order to keep sounding fresh. It is surely an idea that spring to mind when listening to Twin Shadow’s soon to be released second album “Confess” (4AD). Rather than distancing himself from the acclaimed “Forget”, a personal favourite in 2010 and yet to start gathering dust in our record collections, George Lewis Jr. has chosen to refine his palette, adding nuances to its most tender moments or finding a sense of urgency which was kept under control before. Inspired by a motorbike crash and later the rediscovery of velocity and the freedom that comes with it, “Confess” is a more eloquent and honest record, filled up with love and regret and self awareness. With that honesty, comes also a louder and clearer sound, the sign of an artist coming of age.
As his bike was speeding up, George recalls “I inched toward 100 on the speedometer and punch the last five. TON UP! My mind is filled with words. My heart is full of love”.
A rush of blood which intoxicates the mind and makes the heart race. Being in the moment.
“This is where I want to be. I want to stay here, and I want to tell you everything”.
And so he did.
They say you have a whole life to write your debut album and only a few months to come up with its follow-up. Nonetheless, it’s been almost two years since “Forget” was released. How did “Confess” come about?
I have to say “Confess” was a pretty quick record to make, for the first time I actually had a deadline by which to have it completed so we could start touring again. While touring “Forget” I didn’t spend much time writing or experimenting with sounds so most of the work was done once I actually hit the studio. The recording took more or less 6 weeks and the mixing just another week.
Your debut was produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. Was it a conscious decision not to do it again?
I love Chris, but at the time of recording “Confess” he was really busy and I didn’t want to take him away from Grizzly Bear. Hopefully we will work again in the future. Also, this time I felt stronger about the production side so I was kind of ready to take the challenge and do it on my own.
Between the release of “Forget” and the “Confess”, Twin Shadow has developed as an extremely confident live band. Was the recording more collaborative?
Not really, I have to say. I didn’t bring the band to the studio. Apart from Wynne Bennett, who plays the keyboard, I recorded the album just like I had done the first, playing everything.
Were you surprised by the praise “Forget” received? It seemed to be building slowly but steadily, and it felt like the live shows drew more and more people to listen to the record.
A lot of people nowadays question a lot of musicians who lower the quality of live music by having amazing sounding records and doing a karaoke act when they hit the stage. I guess we took a few by surprise having a lot more energy, more dynamics and changes to the live show.
In a certain way, it has affected my writing and recording too. I wanted to make “Confess” a louder record than “Forget”, because it would traslate more easily in the live setting. I have learnt so much by being on the road for a year and a half with the band., I have learnt that there’s an energy that a band can give that I wanted to capture and in a certain way I tried to manufacture because it was basically just me in the studio.
I think our progress has been slow and steady bacuse the music is a lot more complex than what’s usually out there; it took probably a few listens to get into us. “Confess”, however, is more immediate and accessible.
Forget. Confess. Two completely different feelings, one could think.
I really like one word titles. I actually wanted to call the record “Believe”, but Justin Bieber already had an album coming out with that title. That would have been horrible! I was almost tempted to go for it anyway when a good friend of mine, who actually worked on the story for the Five Seconds video texted me with the idea that I’d call the album “Confess”. It seemed just right, it is a confessional record.
As one word titles go, it also keeps up the connection with the ‘80s you have been so often associated with (The Human League’s “Dare” or Eurhythmics’ “Touch” spring to mind). You can of course prove us all wrong and admit you grew up listening to Genesis.
I DID grow up listening to Genesis! (laughing) I am not trying to carry that ‘80s torch. I really don’t know and care less because people compare me to it, but I just never felt a kinship to that decade. The funny thing is that I always thought I am influenced by every decade in music.
What contemporary music do you like?
MGMT, they’re amazing. Jamie XX. Hooray for Earth. The Weeknd.
No Lady Gaga.
I think she needs to reinvent herself again. Her act is getting a bit tired but she is a talented girl.
The name was almost mandatory because you have so far built an impressive collection of remixes which include not only Neon Indian and Lemonade but also a rework of her Born This Way.
I can’t remember how it happened. I just thought it was a great opportunity. One thing for sure is that she’s good at singing at there’s nothing better for a remixer than having some real strong vocals. If I had to do it again, I would love to collaborate with Fiona Apple, Aezelia Banks and Lykke Li. But that doesn’t mean the next album will be a “featuring guest vocals by” kind of thing. First of all because it would be too much pressure. And secondly because I can sing like a woman better than a woman. (laughing) You can put that down.
You have just released the video for Five Seconds, which is adapted by you novel “Night of the Silver Sun”. Can you tell us more about it?
I had this idea for a long time and I was looking for directors to pull it off with. I had the story written to every detail so I wanted to adapt it to music videos. A few people I talked to thought it was too ambitious, Keith Musil was the only one going “Let’s just do it” without any care of how much it would cost or what favours we were gonna have to ask. The budget was small and the time was really tight. We actually filmed two music videos in 48 hours. Five Seconds is the first half of the story, of course.
One last question. Were you to choose just one song off “Confess” as an introduction to the album, which one would you pick?
It would have to be Run My Heart. I think it is the song that defines mostly the whole idea of “Confess”, the brutal honesty of telling the person that you can love them but they don’t own you and can’t control what you feel. A lot of the record deals with that, the idea that people can feel like they own each other. It’s also the simplest songI have written in a long time, and I really like that.
“Confess” is released on July 9th on 4AD.