New York-raised anti-folk troubadour and master of the dark art of alt comic books Jeffrey Lewis recently released a rethink of 12 songs by 80s British poli-punks Crass, appropriately titled 12 Crass Songs. Lewis invades Lee’s Palace Friday (May 16) with British Sea Power, then u-turns a week later to support Los Campesinos! (May 23), also at Lee’s. www.myspace.com/jefflewisband.
What’s the difference between record geeks and comic book geeks?
Either way there’s just that unfortunate DNA strain of collectorism that some of us are doomed to have infused in our genetics, that collector’s lust. I love comic books, I’ve read them my whole life and I love making them, but I don’t have the same kind of urge to dig out lost comic books the way I do with old records.
Full-time comic book artist or musician?
Given the choice, I would definitely be making my living doing comics. But music is such a bigger part of culture, such a bigger part of people’s lives. Even among the people who are really into comic books, an even tinier subsection of people are into black-and-white alternative comic books.
Why do comic book artists always come across as so neurotic?
Because you have to be something of an outcast to spend the amount of time it takes to make comics and get good at them. Maybe being alone for hours at a time is the cause of being less socially connected, or maybe it’s the result of it, or both. But music is just so much more social.
Do Crass fans ever get in your face about covering their favourite band?
Any negative reactions have been from hardcore Crass fans who don’t like me messing with the material, which I can agree with. If somebody else had, maybe I would have trashed it. Crass members themselves have been super-friendly and cool about it. A couple of them even got onstage with us and performed.
You’re opening for British Sea Power and then Los Campesinos! Which show should your fans go to?
I don’t think my fans should go to either. I feel bad doing these support tours, because my fans come out and the ticket prices are higher for the headlining act than for my normal shows.
In your video for Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror, you’re beaten and raped by someone who might be Will Oldham. How do you think this went over with him?
It’s been pretty weird. My interactions with him lately have been third-person, in that there’ve been multiple times when someone’s contacted me to play an event or show because Will Oldham suggested me as an alternative. For whatever reason, whether he’s being nice or throwing me the crap gigs he doesn’t want out of a sense of vengeance, I’ve had a couple of great shows because I was his choice for a fill-in somewhere he didn’t want to play.
Talking about the critical reception to his album 12 Crass Songs:
Explains the point of covering an album's worth of Crass: