TWIN SHADOW + THE GRAPE.
Tunes N' Spoons : 12 :
One Thursday afternoon: the final frontier before the onslaught of a booze-filled weekend for many college kids in the area. I thought I was going to have a relaxing rest of the day. I had finished classes, turned in a project, and had just gotten out of a meeting. Hell, I thought I would've been able to pick up some groceries on my way home. A man can only live off bread and cheese for so long ...
That's when I, the intern, heard a familiar ring from the back pocket of my mustard yellow pants (yes, I wear mustard yellow). With little to no warning, I found myself flying down Central Expressway to meet up the House of Plates crew and members of the band Twin Shadow at Trees in Deep Ellum.
Yes, that Twin Shadow. The band that, earlier this year, released their sophomore album titled Confess. The same band that had the well-known Chris Taylor produce their first album. Holy Hell.
I walked into the venue and was soon confronted with a life-sized cutout of Twin Shadow front man, George Lewis, Jr. The cutout was staring me down from across the venue wearing one hell of a jacket. It was rather unnerving. Eventually, I discovered that the cutout was part of a Facebook contest: the person with the best picture of themselves and the cutout would win the jacket that Lewis was wearing. I entered (who wouldn't?) after being told by management to not forget to add the hashtag #twinshadow.
I left the cutout behind and wandered the venue until we found the real George Lewis, Jr. and Co. Soon thereafter we made our way down to The Grape Restaurant on Greenville Ave. in Dallas. It was a mind-blowing family-style four-course dinner from THE kitchen of The Grape's Chef/Owner, Brian Luscher.
So how's it going?
George Lewis Jr.: It's going well from my perspective. It's [the tour] been either mostly sold-out or well attended. And we've only lost two vans on this tour.
How does one lose two vans?
George: They just disappear, man.
But you're renting a motorcycle, right?
George: Just for Dallas. I had a feeling that Dallas was the place to do so.
photo of George Lewis Jr. and Andy of Twin Shadow
I agree, especially with Dallas being pretty highway-happy.
George: It's just a ridiculous amount of never-ending highways. I was running around last night, and not a soul was in town except for one guy on a scooter. We kept on banging into him. It wasn't a face-off. In fact, he gave me this look like "hey brother, we own this city!" type of thing.
Have you rented any motorcycles in any other cities?
George: Not on this tour, no.
You have this special interest in motorcycles, correct?
I've read somewhere that you've built your own motorcycle?
George: That's not completely accurate. I've rebuilt the 'carbs' on my motorcycle and do all the maintenance on my own. I'm not great at it yet, but I'm getting there.
What got you so into them?
George: My dad motorcycled, he was a motorcyclist, and I used to see pictures of him. That always got me really excited. But I didn't start riding until I got to Boston, like eight years ago.
Tell us a little bit more about the book you've written. We were able to do a bit of reading, and were just fascinated by it. The book is loosely based on the "Five Seconds" [see footer] videos?
George: Actually, the videos are loosely based on the book. We went to Sydney and were touring throughout Australia and this guy for this magazine asked if I'd write a 500-word piece on anything I wanted. There's a lot of interest in my writing because I did this 7-page piece for "Sup" magazine, and it was about the origin of my motorcycle riding: when I bought my first motorcycle, how I got into it, why I was inspired to ride it, and so on. It was super long. Anyways, I thought it would be kind of cool to use the theme of motorcycles to write a fictional piece. At first, it started off with 500 words. Then it turned into 1,000, then 2,000, then 4,000, and before it hit me I had written 9,000 words in one day. I showed it to my friend Eric and we started talking about it and adding to it until we finally had this final piece.
Have you always had the ability to write?
George: Anybody can write. I'm not trying yet to embark on my literary career, because to me songwriting is so much more important right now.
And in some regards, isn't songwriting just another form of writing for you?
George: Certainly. It's just two different types of things, you know? In regards to the book, it'll be out there eventually; I'm still working on it.
So, going out to everyone, especially to you George since you've grown up in Florida and moved up to Williamsburg, and before that, Boston: What are the places you frequent? Where do you eat?
George: Fette Sau in Brooklyn is pretty amazing. I don't eat that stuff anymore, unfortunately, but when I did...it was really good.
Erin: I always like going to diners, like Marlow and Sons.
George: Yeah, it's pretty slammin'.
George: [Looks down at plate.] So what is this amazing-ness? Oh, that's cheese! [To the rest of the group:]
Have you guys seen this? It's amazing!
It was truly amazing. The first dish was an arugula and spinach salad topped with roasted pear halves, bleu cheese, and macadamia nut brittle. The kicker was a drizzle of lavender-jalapeño vinaigrette.
(photo of Red Wine Poached Pear Salad with mixed greens, St. Pete's cave aged blue cheese walnut brittle & spiced red wine vinaigrette)
Delicious. Next, we enjoyed a wheel of warm, gooey Brie cheese accompanied by crisp green apple slices.
How was it working with Chris Taylor on your debut album Forget?
George: With Forget, I did most of it myself. Wynne played on it. Wynne and my manager were the only people who heard Forget for the first three months I was working on it. Literally, there were the only two other people. And then the next person who heard it was Chris Taylor's sister, who played it for her brother. After that he contacted me and said he wanted to put the album out. I'd been wanting to work with him and I told him that I would love to re-record it with him, but he was like "No, I think it's fine as it is. Maybe we'll polish it up a bit." So between Forget and Confessions there wasn't a big difference since I did it mostly myself. However, with Forget Wynn was heavily involved in the writing process, and Chris did some heavy lifting with production. He also helped with rerecording certain parts. Like, I had this really shitty guitar on "Slow" that never sounded good, so Chris helped out with stuff like that.
What do you guys listen to? What do you have on your iPod?
Andy: What's sad is that I got a new phone, and I lost all of my music. But, I just got an iPod from a pawnshop in Oklahoma City...
Andy: Yeah, and it comes pre-loaded. Yeah, that's going to the go to device for a while.
Did you check out what was on it before, or did you just pick it out?
Andy: No, no. There were five of them in the shop. I took my time to go through them to find the right one.
photo of a beautiful cut of Luscher's beef tenderloin
Were you creating a visual picture of the previous owner while browsing through the iPod?
Andy: Kind of. I got an idea of what that part of Oklahoma was like. It was pretty cool.
Wynne: I was looking through it, and it was pretty interesting. You had Beyoncé, 50 Cent, and then you'd have MGMT and 4 other indie bands.
George: I've been listening to Ready to Die, the Biggie Smalls record, a lot as of late because I watched this documentary on him. It didn't focus on the making of the album, but it focused on that time.
So I saw an interview you did in a laundromat?
George: Man, that was a while ago!
Yeah, you started dropping albums most ideal for 'setting the mood', and I definitely thought The Walkmen was a good call.
George: Man, I don't even agree with that anymore! But seriously, that album, Bows and Arrows, is a fucking good make-out record. It's got a lot of passion. What do you think Russ?
Russell: James Blake's a good one. But I don't actually like to listen to music [during fun times] because I get too distracted.
Next on the menu was sauteed red fish, served over a little orzo and couscous pilaf with summer sausage, topped by an heirloom tomato salad with lemon vinaigrette.
Wynne: Going back to the food, you should go to Jackson Heights, Queens. That's another great place to go to. That's where most authentic restaurants are, in Little India, little Thai town. It's also where the real China town is. There's the one in Downtown New York, but the ones in Jackson Heights is more legit. I don't like to hang in Queens because there are no hip clubs to go to, but to eat? That's where I love to go. They're not pretty restaurants, but it's all about the food.
I'm also a fan of Pies n Thighs.
Erin [Tour Manager]: Ever been to Roberta's?
Erin: It's a classic pizza joint, but upscale, and they just opened up a sister shop called Blanca nearby. I got to go before we went on tour. It was amazing. There's like, 27 courses...
Erin: Yeah, they're little things. And it's a 12-seater shop where they change the menu every day. It's a great place to go to, if you're into fine dining like that. What's also really cool is that you can bring your own records for them to play while you're there.
And now we're back to music. So, you guys got any more suggestions for the make-out record list?
Erin: I got this. Shit, there are so many. It depends on what vibes you're going for. You can't go wrong with Astral Weeks.
George: Heck, I'm going to put that down as the only hook-up record. Actually, I considered Astral Weeks to be the band's name. It's just a beautiful record.
photo [left to right] is Russell and Wynne of Twin Shadow
Wynne: What's your make-out record Andy?
Andy: You know, I just find it so distracting.
Russell: I totally get what you mean. I rather just listen to... ocean sounds.
Andy: Ocean sounds? If I wanted ocean sounds I'd rather go to the beach. With some beats, I want to feel tribal. I want to feel the human energy.
Russell: Maybe just ambient stuff.
George: I had a girlfriend once who really enjoyed nature sounds, but psychedelic nature sounds.
Wynne: How do you even find that stuff?
George: Trust me, there is an abundance of this stuff out there.
Wynne: I don't even know what to put down for my make-out album.
George: The key is that the music has to be already playing. You have to be walking into the scene, like in the movies.
Andy: If you're not sober, your music choice changes, too.
Round three comes out in the form of a beef bavette with a cherry tomato, goat feta and parsley salad accompanied by fingerling potatoes.
And then came the dessert: a whole platter of sugary goodness including The Grape's Classic Creme Brulee with fresh berries, Warm Caramel Apple Crisp with cinammon ice cream, buttery caramel, and pecan sugar, Valrhona Chocolate Terrine with dark chocolate mousse and fresh brandied cherries, JB's Peanut Butter Brownie Sunday, almond ice cream and sorbet.
Dining with Twin Shadow was great but dining with them at The Grape was unreal. It seemed that the band enjoyed a relaxing break from the cycle of touring life. Toasts were made, laughter was shared, and George ended up drawing the House of Plates crew present on their plate of signing. Apparently, I look like Sal Mineo back when he was in the 1955 film "Rebel Without A Cause". Awesome.
After nearly being decimated by the Brownie Sunday and every dessert on the menu, we made our way back to Trees just in time for Twin Shadow's set. The influence of George's prowess as a writer became apparent immediately. Twin Shadow on stage had a way of leading the audience into a wave of frenzy before bringing them in for moments of intimacy. Draped in swirling smoke on stage, Twin Shadow captivated the crowd in the magic of the moment.
A special thanks to Twin Shadow, Brian Luscher and The Grape Restaurant, Erin Kapor of Headless Heroes, Eddie Bezalel, and Trees
TRANSPARENCY NOTE: The Tunes N Spoons meal was comped. This does not change the fact that this meal was incredible.
Twin Shadow is:
George Lewis Jr. - vocals, guitar
Andy Bauer - drums
Russell Manning - bass guitar
Wynne Bennett - keyboard, vocals