TWIN SHADOW with POOLSIDE at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday and Tuesday (July 30-31), doors 8 pm. $20-$25. HS, RT, SS, TM. See listing.
While explaining how motorcycles are integral to his life nowadays, George Lewis Jr., aka Twin Shadow, quickly finds himself on a slippery metaphorical slope.
"It's what I've found solace in," he says during in an interview at Toronto's SoHo Metropolitan Hotel. "The last record, I found solace in women, perhaps, who will always interest me, but they're becoming less and less the centrepiece.
"There's a heavy emotional cost to enjoying a lifestyle of sexuality or strong sexual desire, I suppose. There's a lot that comes with that. There's less of a return than...."
He stops abruptly, realizing the dead-end street he's on.
"I mean, let's not compare sex and motorcycles. Can we scratch all this? I think it's really corny when people compare sex to anything else."
Better to compare motorcycles and music. Last year, the Dominican Republic-born musician relocated from New York City to Los Angeles to record Confess (4AD), the follow-up to his critically adored 2010 debut, Forget. He moved in large part because California's wide-open spaces are more conducive to his hobby.
Lewis started riding eight years ago while living in Boston. A self-described "irresponsible kid," he knew nothing of how bikes worked and regularly drove drunk. Today it's a different story. The more his life as a touring musician fixated on hard partying, indulgence and recklessness, the more working on his 1972 Triumph Bonneville - his dream bike - became a respite.
"When you're doing music constantly, you start to need slightly mundane hobbies," he explains. "Cleaning out your carburetors is like heaven."
What does making music feel like in comparison?
"It's like a constant anxiety attack. A really positive anxiety attack, but nonetheless your heart gets pumping. I'm a leg-shaker so I shake the leg a lot. It gets stressful."
Anxiety is all over Confess. Much like Forget, it's an album of urgent and sentimental pop ballads, though slightly more aggressive in tone. Lead single Five Seconds is paced like a high-speed chase.
Writing the lyrics was the most stressful aspect, Lewis says. Right before he was due to mix the record, he freaked out and postponed the sessions for two weeks in order to fine-tune his lyrics and strip excess details from the arrangements.
"A good lyric is the difference between an amazing pop song that's a huge hit and a pop song that's a flash in the pan," he says. "The beauty of good lyrics is, if you do it right, you can attract people who read lots of books or even people who can't read at all, and that's perfection right there. That's the goal."
The defining lyric, from hidden track Mirror In The Dark, is the only thing printed in the centre of the LP artwork: "The finest words I ever wrote to you are just a mirror in the dark, seeking a long lost look for you."
"Mirror In The Dark is me trying to reflect the truth about something and someone not seeing it," he says. "A lot of the record deals with these moments when you're giving someone a lot back and they're not seeing it."
Much of Confess wrestles with the emotional fallout that occurs when one party in a sexual relationship wants out.
"With sex you're like, ‘You're hot. Want to be friends for a night? Maybe two? Maybe three? Maybe four? Maybe five? Maybe six? Maybe seven?'" Lewis says, grinning. "All of sudden you're connected to this person because sex is such an easy way to connect people, and then you're trying to pull away and it's an even bigger deal."
Does he learn from his mistakes?
"I never learn from my mistakes but I'm trying to learn. Or trying to distract myself by doing something else."