Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr. on being shaped by bus accidents, pop ambition and growing up in Florida

Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr. on being shaped by bus accidents, pop ambition and growing up in Florida
Photo by Milan Zrnic
TWIN SHADOW with Lolawolf 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7 | The Social, 54 N. Orange Ave. | 407-246-1419 | | $22-$25

As the main man in Twin Shadow, George Lewis Jr. has cultivated a reputation for front-and-center bravado. He's put himself on the cover of all three of his albums, which quickly evolved from hazy bedroom tinkering (2010's Forget) to slick dance rock (2012's Confess) to big-tent pop (2015's Eclipse). His leather jackets and well-coiffed looks evoke an image of the libidinous lover boy that women (and men) can't resist. He's written hooks for Billy Idol and Eminem, appeared in Grand Theft Auto V, worked with Levi's and Urban Outfitters, and willingly jumped from indie powerhouse 4AD to major-label Warner Bros. Records. In short, Lewis embodies the term "careerist."

While his trajectory still points up, 2015 brought Lewis and Twin Shadow back down to earth. In April, the band's two tour buses were involved in a horrific crash in heavy fog outside of Denver, seriously injuring several members and forcing Lewis to have reconstructive hand surgery. Although the band stuck by a TV appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers less than three weeks after the accident, the ongoing hospitalization of drummer Andy Bauer prompted the cancellation of shows in May, June and July. Bauer can walk again, but he still wasn't able to appear on Twin Shadow's current tour, which prompted Lewis to reconfigure the tunes with samplers and drum machines.

But the accident allowed Lewis to complete a cycle of reconnection that began in 2014 after his father, George Sr., spent several months in a mental hospital, giving George Jr. and his mom space to repair their relationship. "When you're in a very vulnerable place like I was, laying in bed for a couple of months, it draws a lot of people back into your life," Lewis says. "It was nice that I had already started working on mending those relationships, so that when the accident happened, I had a lot of support from a lot of people. I look down at my hand constantly, and although it's not fully healed yet, the recovery went a lot faster because of those connections."

During the break, Lewis also compiled the free Night Rally mixtape from five years of archival material recorded over "late nights, mornings after no sleep, the bad decisions, the good ones, the sobering solitude, the mistakes, the ideas lost and the singing out of key." Which was a brave move for an artist that considers ambition, practice and craft the cornerstones of pop stardom – not to mention one who pillories those who cling to their indie identity and bemoan the supposed sell-outs among us. "People should project what's inside of them outward in a more rehearsed and trained way," Lewis says. "I have so many projects in my head, and I want to tackle them one by one here in the next year. I'm taking a little bit of a break on writing right now, but I still feel like I'm always working in some way to get more people to hear my music."

Now, if you're from Florida, you might think we're burying the lede by not mentioning Lewis' roots in the state; although he was born in the Dominican Republic, lived for 10 years in Brooklyn, and now resides in Los Angeles, most of his childhood was spent outside Sarasota. "Every time I tour in Florida, I get a little closer to where I grew up," Lewis says. "Orlando's the closest show to my hometown, Venice, so I feel it's going to be a high-school reunion."

Lewis says he's also learned to let go of some of the tendencies he developed as the prototypical Florida teenager: the musically inclined outsider surrounded by rich old folks and rednecks. "I spent so much of my life being such a music snob," he says. "Coming from a smaller town, what you seek out defines you when you're young." Chalk it up to another self-realization arrived at in the wake of that bus accident: "On this tour, I'm taking in for the first time in a long time what other people are listening to," Lewis says. "I've been letting the people I love lead the way into something new."

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