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Twin Shadow's New Album Takes Him Back To The Dominican Republic

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Twin Shadow's new self-titled album is a big change in George Lewis Jr.'s sound. He shifted from the funky beats that made him famous to a return to his musical roots, recording in his native Dominican Republic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALEMANIA")

GEORGE LEWIS JR: (Singing) Alemania, Alemania. Alemania.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lewis has had big changes in his life, too. A few years ago, there was a near-death bus crash. And he left his record label, too, and started his own. George Lewis Jr. joins me now from Los Angeles. Welcome.

LEWIS JR: Hi. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask you about that bus crash. Can you tell me what happened?

LEWIS JR: We were driving from Kansas City to play in Colorado - in Denver. Along the way, we got caught in a blizzard. And I was the only person awake. It was early in the morning, and our driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. And he had only moments before being able to see a 18-wheeler in front of us, just slammed on the brakes just way too late. So we hit the 18-wheeler going about 50 miles an hour on our tour bus. Many people on the bus were hurt, a lot of broken bones.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, that sounds, like, pretty life-changing.

LEWIS JR: People think of it oftentimes as - oh, it's this, like, come to God, pivot moment. I think it's so much more nuanced than that. And it put my life on pause. It still has a bad taste in my mouth.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This album does sound different. And I'm wondering if - you know, if that event had anything to do with this different kind of sound, you recording in the DR, you know, getting your own label. I mean, there's a lot of changes here.

LEWIS JR: I would say that it very much was lingering on my last record. The last - I think the last song on the last record, there's the - there's a line in the last song that said...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RUNAWAY")

LEWIS JR: (Singing) I knew that crash was coming then. I felt it in my blood.

And there was sort of a big kind of - a reckoning that needed to happen. I wanted to record more, and my label at the time wanted me to keep touring, wanted me to keep working the record. I was feeling creative again and just wanting to record music. And it made me want to consider this thing of, like - well, what does it take, really, to put out my own record? And I found that it's a lot more work, and there's a lot more details, but it's not much harder. And it is certainly a lot less heartbreaking because you don't have people around you who love you when they sign you, and, when your stuff doesn't perform well, they sort of don't get behind you and don't support you and don't really care that you're there.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's listen to "Modern Man."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MODERN MAN")

LEWIS JR: (Singing) How can I be a modern man when you give as little as you can, and you still have me holding back tears? I'm not some stupid Romeo. I pride myself that I'm a hoe. They watch me come, they watch me go. It's you I want and that they know, but I'm focused on myself right now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It examines the difficulty in sort of modern dating. And I'm just wondering, there's a lot of relationship songs in here. What's that about?

LEWIS JR: A lot of things are in the reckoning stage. And I think men especially are learning what an oppressive force that we've been in the world. This song is really this cry out to be better as a man. It's a cry out to say, I want to be emotional. That and "Get Closer."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET CLOSER")

LEWIS JR: (Singing) Don't love me anymore till you get closer. I'm walking out the door till you get older. I love a really good argument. Let's talk a little bit slower. Don't love me anymore. Get closer.

They both really, honestly, deal with the kind of two sides of the coin. And so when I say, don't love me anymore; get closer, I'm wondering in the song whether there is a place - a closer place than love.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm wondering, you know, why you decided to record in the DR and how you think that showed up in your music.

LEWIS JR: I needed a break from the American backdrop, which I think everyone who has the fortune to should as often as possible. And I'm not just talking about, you know, sitting on a beach blanket. I really needed a break from the backdrop because I couldn't quiet my mind down in America. Social media, the news media, everything that comes at you - it's this constant goal-oriented experience.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The way that we're constantly looking at what everyone else is doing and comparing our lives to them and perhaps, you know, the way that they show it on social media.

LEWIS JR: Exactly. America is this juggernaut of expectation. I'm already kind of, like, a million miles an hour in my head, and I just really needed to slow down. I need to not think is what I needed to do. And the DR is - those people who've been there know how magical it is. And people who are from there especially know how magical it is. I've never seen people really talk about their country with so much love as I do Dominicans. There is a tranquilness there that I haven't experienced in any other place I've been. And it might be because it's kind of home. I needed that quiet to start this record.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IS THERE ANY LOVE")

LEWIS JR: (Singing) Stop what you're doing. Stop what you hate. Stop with your reasons why you can't relate. Stop in your cruisers...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What's the significance of the name Twin Shadow?

LEWIS JR: I think that this is a record about nuance. I just felt like Twin Shadow is the picture of me and my many moods and my many styles. I felt very much that this album represented me as a creative person.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: George Lewis Jr., also known as Twin Shadow. That's the name of his new album, too. Thank you very much.

LEWIS JR: Thanks a lot. I appreciate you having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUGARCANE")

LEWIS JR: (Singing) In my head, there's a big white lie waiting for you... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.