By the Beat

Indie synth pop act Twin Shadow creates new album by starting with the rhythm

George Lewis presents a dichotomy of self on Confess, his second album recorded as Twin Shadow.

He's the sensitive synth-pop badass, often times pairing swaggering pop moments with delicate, moody melodies. On "Run My Heart", Lewis declares "I'm not in love", while the rest of the album is dotted with romantic entanglements.

To the lyrical end, Lewis says he sends his words out into the world open to interpretation. Once the songs are completed on the album, he says he's able to pass along ownership to the listener.

"I like when people interpret things in their own way," he says. "Once I've (completed) a song, it's done being mine."

Lewis says he knows those interpretations of his songs and the listeners' relationships with the material are beyond his control.

Beforehand though, Lewis says he puts special emphasis on the lyrics. He works on them removed from his usual routine.

Despite the effort put into the process, he says he's careful to not force lyrics out. Instead he lets them come when they come.

"The words are the most delicate part," Lewis says.

The songwriting process is random beyond that, he says. Isolation from typical, modern distractions is often key.

"I need to shut off my phone and not go on the computer," Lewis says.

While Lewis typically will start songs while sitting at a piano or a keyboard, Confess saw the process for several songs start with a programmed beat or with Lewis playing the drums.

Once a groove was set, songs would build from there. The rhythm-focused process lent the record a starker, more forward texture than the first Twin Shadow album, 2010's Forget.

"It's got a more aggressive feeling to it," Lewis says.

The more in-your-face, bombastic synth pop style all stems from Lewis' growing confidence in achieving his sonic vision for Twin Shadow.

By starting with the beat, they stand out more prominently in the songs. They are more fully encoded into the song's DNA.

"It's more integrated with the production of this record," Lewis says.

The writing stemmed from a year where Lewis says he listened to the least amount of music he had ever listened to, focusing on newer R&B albums by acts like Drake and The_Dream.

"There's things I borrow from that world," he says.

The record came together after tons of touring behind Forget and after Lewis got back into riding his 1972 Triumph Bonneville after an accident.

Lewis says the motorcycle riding is good for his life and he was excited to get back to it.

"Somehow it has a profound effect on me," Lewis says.

The new album's aggression also swings out from Lewis' time playing in punk-leaning bands just before moving to Brooklyn to start Twin Shadow.

"That holds a lot of weight still," he says.

Lewis now resides in southern California, the latest move for the singer who was born in the Dominican Republic, spent his childhood in Florida and starting playing in his first bands as a teenager in Boston.

"I've always kind of bounced around," Lewis says.

Confess is also a product of Twin Shadow's development since Lewis and Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor recorded Forget.

"I didn't really know much about much when I did my first record," he says.

But when it came time to make Confess, Lewis says he felt confident enough to produce the album himself. It was also freeing to not have anybody else's schedule to work with to get the album done.

"When it's your time you just do what you got to do," Lewis says.

Still, Lewis finds himself letting go a little more lately and relying on collaborator Wynne Bennett.

Wynne and I have been making music together for a long time," Lewis says. "She's really kind of my right hand man."

He says it's more fun making music with someone he trusts. Bennett helps Lewis see beyond himself, troubleshooting song arrangements and adding a dose of songwriting help.

"I really trust her opinion. She's my sounding board," he says.

The time logged on the road playing with a live band also added a new shade to how Lewis records his songs.

"The first record was lacking that kind of energy that the live band brought to the music," he says.

Twin Shadow w/ Niki & the Dove play the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. Saturday, Sept. 8th at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 day-of-show. For more information, visit onepercentproductions.com.

posted at 10:15 am
on Tuesday, September 04th, 2012

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