Photography by Mr Ben Weller | Styling by Mr Toby Grimditch
Words by Mr Tom M Ford
Shortly before our shoot, as he gets his ambitious crop tamed, Mr George Lewis Jr makes a declaration about contemporary musicians: "We're the mutts of history. When you mix things together, it's much more exciting than purebred."
The man behind the Twin Shadow moniker has led an unconventional existence (the troubled son of a hairdresser and a "teacher who lived many lives"), which began in the Dominican Republic. Nomadic years abroad followed, in Florida at age four, Boston at age 16 and with subsequent stints in Copenhagen and Berlin. A member of the punk band, Mad Man Films, in Boston at the turn of the century, he also composed music for theatre before moving to Brooklyn in 2006. It is there that he developed the demos that Grizzly Bear's Mr Chris Taylor "fell in love with", and led him to produce and release Twin Shadow's debut album, Forget.
Released on 4AD and Mr Taylor's Terrible Records in 2010, Forget has a 1980s New Wave pop-funk sound that is as scintillating as it is evocative. Music authorities including Pitchfork, NME and Rolling Stone (the latter making him band of the week when it dropped) hailed its poetic lyrics and sophisticated synth-led sound. Inevitable festival slots at the likes of Coachella followed, as well as tour dates with artists including Florence + the Machine in 2011, at which he fostered his confident stage presence.
With Forget's sepia-tinged tracks touching on past relationships, lust and youth, I mention nostalgia as a form of inspiration. "I really don't like the word 'nostalgic' because it implies it's trying to relive a memory. There was so much going on in my life I didn't like at that point - I wrote about a lot of memories that needed figuring out. My life was unsatisfactory before Twin Shadow."
Twin Shadow performing at the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City, 3 May 2012
If his first album is about the past, then his second, Confess, which was released 9 July, is very much in the present. "My life is always a direct influence on my music. The album's very much about the people in my life right now. My relationships have changed; they don't have time to develop." Retaining a 1980s electro-pop sound, the record, which he produced, is more polished and personal. Inspired by a return to his beloved motorcycle following an accident, Confess surges from heavier tracks such as "You Call Me On" to R & B introspection via impassioned power ballads "Beg for the Night", "Be Mine Tonight" and the crooning "Run My Heart". It is as brilliantly written and emotive as his first LP, yet with more energy, lust and machismo - as heard with the no-strings fling of "Patient".
Indeed, just a glance at the album cover reveals an archetypal, libidinous pop star. A surly expression matches 1950s hair and a biker jacket - a nod to his preferred mode of transport. "I like looking my best," Mr Lewis says. "I get on to my band a lot because they like to look like sh**! I attempt to keep a standard. I like my Levi's jackets and am a big fan of brands I can't afford such as Marc Jacobs and Dries Van Noten." Delving further, it's no surprise that inspiration for looking good, like his music, came from a familiar place. "My Dad used to wear really nice suits to the school where he taught. That was kind of a big deal for me," he reveals.
With a penchant for shades and fedora hats and with that dark olive skin, Mr Lewis undoubtedly has a cool "look" (if you squint, he has an air of Prince about him) - but he insists it's an honest expression of his personality. "Am I going to have a Thin White Duke period? That's groovy, but a bit forced these days. I'm not a different person on stage, but I'm the best of myself. I'm a pretty horrible guy most of the time," he deadpans. "I feel as if my music is the best part of me."
Watching Twin Shadow effortlessly command a Fourth of July crowd in a throbbing London venue the following night - I would be inclined to agree. "Playing live is one of my favourite things. Music keeps you alive and communicating with people."