Interview: Jack Lesser Lewis’ Awkward Energy
Published on May 8th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Rocksucker was rather taken with Jack Lesser Lewis’ Awkward Energy’s album Lvov Swims the Willamette (click here for our review), so we fired some questions to Jack Lewis himself in order to find out a little bit more about the whole operation. First though, do enjoy this choice cut from the album…
How much of the album’s instrumentation did you handle yourself? What’s the line-up of your band?
I play all the bass and sing, but I can’t play guitar. Never learned. The strings are too close together. So any guitar you hear is done by a friend. I think there are at least seven or eight different guitar players on different tracks. I tell myself I’ll learn to play guitar before I die. The band line-up varies from track to track. It’s all in the liner notes. In Portland I play with my band called Awkward Energy with my friends Vinh, Mike and Jesse.
How would you describe your music, if pushed?
For a few years I’ve described it as “typical white-guy indie-rock”.
There are points on the album where you sound strikingly like Stephen Malkmus. Is he a big influence or is this just a coincidence?
He is a big influence, but I don’t try and sound like him, maybe the sound of our voices are similar. Though I think he sings in key more often than I do.
I’ve gotten this comparison a few times over the years. I find it flattering. Pavement and Malkmus and the Jicks are two bands I’ve listened to for ten years, but I’ve also listened to just as much Yo La Tengo and Ween and I don’t get compared to those singers so I guess our voices might sound similar. I feel bad saying that, because I struggle to sing in key a lot and I think Malkmus has a nicer smoother voice.
I will say my brother and I were lucky enough to play a tour with Malkmus and Jicks a few years ago and I wrote a long essay about Pavement and ’90s indie-rock. I wouldn’t say Pavement are my favourite all-time band, but they’re special. I really love a lot of Malkmus’ post-Pavement albums, even more than the Pavement stuff. I really respect the effort he keeps putting in year after year. He lives in Portland (or he used to, he just moved) and I get quite star-struck when I see him. But it’s nice that sometimes he knows who I am. It’s weird when you have the chance to try and be friends with someone you’re a huge fan of.
Whose kitty did you eat? What did you have it with?
Ah, you mis-heard that line. It says: “What does it matter that ain’t your kitty, my home’s across the street, but I’m ready to eat” It’s about a neighbourhood cat who would also come to our house (before we moved).
Who or what are your primary inspirations for music-making?
They’ve changed a bit over the years but the general list goes: Herman Dune, Wave Pictures, Unicorns/Islands, Jonathan Richman, Galaxie 500, Dr Dog, Malkmus, Yo La Tengo, Ween, Lou Reed.
Where can we hear your music online?
Which have been your most exciting gigs so far?
There have been so many. Just recently (April 11th) I played a show with my brother opening for Pulp at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. It felt really special to do that. Our parents and uncle came and other friends.
Other shows that spring to mind:
Midi fest (with friends the Wave Pictures) in Southern France 2009.
John Peel Session with Jeff 2002, on our first big trip to the UK.
Playing with Herman Dune in 2004 at Eurockéennes, Belfort, France to thousands of people (and kissing a girl for the first time on tour) and with Herman Dune in Colmar and Mofo fest and on their American west coast tour in 2003.)
My first show with Jeff in London at the Rough Trade Shop in Nov 2001, I couldn’t believe there were fans there.
Opening for the Cribs and the Thermals with my own band in around the UK 2008
You’ll soon be on our shores. Have you played much in England before? Do you enjoy our sketchy weather and bland cuisine?
I’ve been touring the UK mostly with my brother Jeff two to five times a year since 2002. So, yes I’ve played all over the UK many times. The weather is ok, similar a bit to where I live now in Portland, OR. The food can be rough, but I love cheap Indian food which there is a lot of in the UK. Also although I’m not sure of their labor practices everyone in the band loves Marks and Spencer at road stopes. The food at rest stops in the UK is bad, but still head and shoulders above the food at rest stops in America (but Europe beats them all).
Are there any other up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Local bands not so well known: Brainstorm, Little Lord Font Leroy, Campfires, Wampire
Bands that are known, but still not huge: Wave Pictures, Starfucker, L.A.K.E, The Beets, Carter Tanton, Fishermen Three/TheWowz
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire back catalogues of five different musical artists along to tide you over, whose would you take?
Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Lou Reed and Herman Dune.
Jack Lewis, thank you.
Lvov Swims the Willamette will be released on 28th May through Ample Play. For more information, including a free download of “Whitey”, please visit ampleplay.tumblr.com/jacklewis
Jack will play the following UK dates in June:
Weds 6 – Preston
Thurs 7 – Lancaster -The Yorkshire House – www.theyorkshirehouse.co.uk
Fri – 8 – Durham
Sat – 9 – Bristol – Cafe Kino – www.cafe-kino.com
Sun – 10 – Leeds – Brudnel Social Club – www.brudenellsocialclub.co.uk/#
Mon – 11 – Nottingham – The Chameleon
Tues – 12 – Hull – Adelphi – www.theadelphi.com
Weds -13 – London – Old Blue Last – www.wegottickets.com/event/165113
Thurs – 14 – Cardiff – The FullMoon/The Moon Club
Fri – 15 – Sheffield – The Redhouse – www.wegottickets.com/event/165151
Sat – 16 – Manchester – The Castle – “Carefully Planned Fest”