Picture this; Jeffrey Lewis speaks out

A greater tribute to John Peel than a thousand platitudes is New York’s Jeffrey Lewis and his honest, diverse, irreverent and poignant music that epitomizes the hard work, creativity and love of what you do that Mr. Peel brought to music and life. Flitting between his two loves of comic book writing and music like a lothario lover; Jeffrey Lewis has a rare and refreshing talent. He even combines his two pleasures with neat flip pad aided live favourites such as ‘Champion Jim” and ‘I Saw A Hippy Girl On Eighth Avenue’. How many people can say they keep they balance their two loves with such prowess?

Jeffrey takes time out after another breathtaking European tour to discuss progress on his third album and provide and insight into his life and motivation. Jeff exudes honesty from every orifice, as regular devotees at his shows will no doubt testify. Read on for insight and a little bit of insanity, it is what you need in this ever serious world isn’t it?

1. How is work going on your third studio album? What is the mood of it going to be like?

Work going slowly, not doing much really, we did some recordings in Birmingham in February but never got to finish them, now I’ve been talking with Kramer about having him produce some recordings here in NYC, I really love the Daniel Johnston and Galaxie 500 albums he made, and other stuff, so it’s an exciting prospect. I think it’s going to be my best album ever, in terms of being a real album, and really putting across more of the spark that I get playing live. More band songs than before, more colors, pushing it all into something I haven’t achieved before. I have no idea if other people will agree with me, but I think it’ll be the one of my albums that I’m most likely to want to listen to myself.

2.How hard is it to balance your two loves; writing comic books and your anti folk music? What does compiling your comic books mean to you, and what in your opinion is the current state of this medium of entertainment is it floundering?

Appreciation for comics or music comes from the internal quality of the art, if people are still making comics of quality then the medium won’t flounder, like anything. Compiling my comics means a huge amount to me, it’s when I feel like I’ve really gotten something done!

3. Since your second album ‘It’s The Ones Who’ve Cracked That The Light Shines Through’ your profile has steadily risen. How has your recent European tour differed from past ones and which of your songs went down and the best? Which do you enjoy playing the most?

The tours get better every time, as I get better at organizing them and better at playing! There’s no one song that works the best, every night is different, and we try to make every show pretty different, so a song that came out terrible in a big club in France might be played again 4 shows later at a basement show in Germany and be the best event of the night, nothing is ever predictable for me. And the songs I enjoy playing the most are not necessarily the same as the best songs, of course. Lately I've been loving playing “Artland”, I love that me Jack and Dave are all playing separate interlocking parts, I love the repetitiveness of it, and that Jack and I have sort of layered dovetailed vocals, plus I get to stretch out on the guitar noise. I want to put a 50 minute version on the new album but Jack and Dave say no.

4. How would you describe the New York music scene at the moment has it changed much in your time away and, describe your feelings when you arrive in New York after a lengthy tour?

I love NYC despite my many complaints, and I always love being back home! People always come and go, lately I’ve been enjoying the Bowery Poetry Club scene more than the Sidewalk Antifolk scene, there’s only so many white people with acoustic guitars that I can watch and the bowery has more of a mix of weird performance art and story telling and perverted puppet shows and stuff. So being a white guy with a guitar myself, It’s nicer to be somewhere with more variety.

5. Are you finding it harder to do your customary Thoreaux like retreat to a shack in the woods in order to work on your comic books and drawings, with increasing demands being made on your time? Do you fear that your drawings may lose authenticity because of this?

The drawings don’t lose “authenticity”, but my output certainly dimishes… it affects the quantitiy more than the quality. And it’s my own fault if it happens, I don’t HAVE to be answering email interview questions instead of drawing comics right now!

6. You grew up with very little exposure to television. Do you think this medium should be banned or controlled, thus forcing people to explore more creative and erstwhile pastimes?

TV is just fine as a medium, same as comics or songs etc. You can waste your life just listening to songs or reading comics as much as you can by watching TV. All depends how you balance what you take in and what you put out and everybody’s different. But because TV is free and easy to digest it preys upon the will, like any cheap drug. I don't know what can be done to strengthen people's wills, if you figure it out let me know cause I need to strengthen mine!

7. Your anti-acid message conveyed through 'The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane' on your debut album and the follow up ‘No LSD Tonight’ on your second album, probably does more to avert people from substance abuse than any patronizing TV ad or poster. Can we expect another instalment on this theme on your new album or are you finished with Acid influencing your songs?

I never had an anti-acid message, I just happened to decide I didn’t want to do it. Writing a song about acid was fine, writing a song about a song about acid was fine, but I doubt I need to write a song about a song about a song about acid.

8. Are you surprised with the cross channel success of the anti-folk genre and are you still pleased to be associated with the aforementioned genre, or are you keen to move on?

I’m listening to the new Brer Brian album this very minute and it’s really great, I’m always proud to be associated with people doing cool creative stuff! If Antifolk means cool creative stuff, count me in; and I hope the good stuff and the new artists will continue to reach appreciative ears where ever they are.

9. One of your most popular songs at gigs has to be the satirical, non album number ‘Champion Jim’ with accompanying A3 flip pad production. Do you have any plans to release this nifty number or even a concept album on the adventures of Champion Jim (Just a thought)?

I might put a recording of it on an album at some point.

10. What song, book or poem would you say sums you up?

”Dancing Gods” by Silver Apples.

11. What are your plans for the rest of the year and the beginning of the next one?

Record the next album, put out the next comic book, plan the next tour, be less shy, buy less bad records, see more good movies, be less hard on myself, but keep trying harder. Maybe go to a dentist.

Catch you later! Happy Thanksgiving!


Share this!