Jeffrey Lewis performing at Super Happy Fun Land, Houston TX, January 2018.
November 20, 1975 |
New York City, United States
|Genres||Anti-folk, folk punk, indie rock|
|Schwervon!, Kimya Dawson, Major Matt Mason USA, Jack Lewis, Adam Green, Diane Cluck|
Lewis was born in New York City and grew up on the Lower East Side. He attended State University of New York at Purchase, graduating in 1997 with a degree in Literature. His Senior Literary Thesis was on the comic book Watchmen.
Lewis also lectured on the topic of Watchmen at the Institute For Cultural Studies at the University of Leuven, Belgium, in 2000, and the text of his lecture ("The Dual Nature of Apocalypse in Watchmen") was published in the book The Graphic Novel, edited by Jan Baetens, in 2001.
Several of his musical influences have been acknowledged in his songs such as "Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror", "The History of The Fall" and "The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song", concerning the song by Leonard Cohen. Lewis' lyrics are complex and literate, often combining a nihilistic world-view with a hopeful message and sharp wit. Growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, his songs are also highly informed by his home surroundings, with songs name-dropping places such as Williamsburg, the FDR Drive and the East River.
Lewis is often regarded as part of the antifolk movement, foremost because he was one of the many bands and performers (including The Moldy Peaches, Major Matt Mason USA and Lach) who played in the 1990s at New York's SideWalk Cafe and its biannual antifolk festivals and open mic events. His music also possesses certain traits of a perceived antifolk style - a downbeat self-deprecating humor, an off-kilter singing style, a mixture of acoustic and 'punk' songs which feature themes of everyday occurrences and feelings. Lewis himself does not mind the 'antifolk' tag: "I think it's a cool title. The fact that no one knows what it means, including me, makes it kind of mysterious and more interesting than saying that you're a singer/songwriter or that you play indie rock."
After being signed by the British record label Rough Trade in 2001, Jeffrey Lewis released his first official album The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane. Also that year (in February), Lewis was visited by Kimya Dawson while living in Austin, Texas. Over the week she stayed there, they wrote five songs. These songs were later re-recorded with a full band and released by K Records under the moniker "The Bundles," on an album of the same name, in 2010.
In 2003 Rough Trade released the album It's the Ones Who've Cracked That the Light Shines Through, credited to Jeffrey Lewis with Jack Lewis and drummer Anders Griffen. His third Rough Trade record, City and Eastern Songs, was released in the UK in November 2005 and in the US in September 2006. Most of Lewis's albums also include his brother, Jack Lewis, who wrote or co-wrote and sang and played bass on a number of the songs. In October 2007, Rough Trade released 12 Crass Songs, a Jeffrey Lewis album consisting entirely of songs written by the British punk band Crass, reworked to match Lewis's antifolk style.
In June 2008 Jeffrey Lewis with his brother Jack were the support act for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks in Europe. Other well-known acts that Lewis has performed shows or whole tours with include Devendra Banhart, Jarvis Cocker, Black Dice, Adam Green, Thurston Moore, the Fall, Kimya Dawson, Beth Orton, Frank Black, the Fiery Furnaces, Daniel Johnston, Scout Niblett, the Mountain Goats, Dr. Dog, the Moldy Peaches, Cornershop, Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Wooden Wand, the Cribs, Danielson, Herman Dune, Los Campesinos, Roky Erickson, and Super Furry Animals.
The New York Times has published his writings and graphic works.
The New York Times online Op-Ed page "Measure For Measure" hired Jeffrey Lewis to write a number of short essays on the topic of songwriting, some of which he drew in comic book form. All went up on The New York Times website at intervals from 2008 to 2013.
Lewis has created a number of illustrated historical songs, usually sung while flipping through accompanying books of color drawings, including ten such pieces which are in use by The History Channel on their website.
Lewis published a comic strip in The Guardian newspaper in London. It was entitled "What Would Pussy Riot Do?" and it was printed on the occasion of a new release of a single with the same title.
In a January 2018 "MusicMakers" interview with Adafruit, Lewis announced he was working on numerous new projects, including "Writing a new issue of my comic book series, mastering an album I recorded of covers of Tuli Kupferberg songs, mixing an album I recorded in collaboration with Peter Stampfel, and working on writing and recording new songs with my band for my own next album. Remastering and repackaging my old 2005 album "City & Eastern Songs" for a deluxe vinyl re-issue."
Jeffrey has his own comic book series titled Fuff (formerly called Guff).
In March 2009, he designed the cover to the sixth issue of Bearded magazine.