How much is Jeffrey Lewis worth?
|Net Worth:||$16 Million|
|Date of Birth:||November 20, 1975|
|Country:||United States of America|
Who Is Jeffrey Lewis
Jeffrey Lewis is an anti-folk songwriter and comic-book artist from New York. Recording, often, in lo-fidelity, Lewis performs narrative songs of much humor and detail, owing an obvious debt to the likes of Jonathan Richman. Former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker has called Lewis “the best lyricist working in the US today.”
Taking a leaf from comic artists like Harvey Pekar and Joe Sacco, Lewis mixes autobiographical songs with ridiculous fantasies. “Some of the songs are very autobiographical, and some of them are about zombies and time machines,” Lewis told the BBC. “I guess with all my stuff there tends to be a pretty clear split. The stuff that’s true is, like, really true and the stuff that’s not true is really not true.”
Born: November 20, 1975, New York City, New York
Key Albums:The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane (2001), It’s the Ones Who’ve Cracked That the Light Shines Through (2003), 12 Crass Songs (2007)
Born Jeffrey Lightning Lewis to beatnik parents, Lewis grew up in a tenement in the East Village, reared on his parents’ record-collection —which was filled with records by East Village proto-punks like The Fugs and David Peel— and a steady stream of comics he bought in St. Mark’s Place.
“I’ve been drawing since before I could read,” Lewis said, in an interview with Comic World. “There wasn’t a TV in my parents’ apartment till I was about 12, so I just entertained myself reading and drawing comics. I only started writing songs to play at the open mic at Sidewalk after I got out of college.”
Lewis attended SUNY-Purchase, graduating in 1997 with a Literature degree and a senior thesis written on the comic book Watchmen. In 1998, Lewis began playing songs at the Sidewalk Café’s infamous open-mic night ‘Anti-hootenanny,’ from which the anti-folk movement grew.
Playing with acts like the Moldy Peaches, Diane Cluck, and Regina Spektor, Lewis was part of a burgeoning community. “In a way that was very disconnected from anything else in the city,” Lewis offered, at the time. “It’s all been very insulated in the sense that none of us are really involved or aware of the greater New York City band scene, and they’re not aware of us. The Strokes were playing every week at the Mercury Lounge, five blocks away, and no one had ever heard of them until the British press hype began.”
After the astonishing success of The Strokes reignited the Rough Trade label in 2001, the label branched out to other NY acts. After signing the Moldy Peaches, that band’s Adam Green and Kimya Dawson dubbed a cassette of key Lewis cuts and took them to the Rough Trade offices in London, leading to Lewis signing with the label.
In 2002, Lewis appeared on a Moldy Peaches-assembled, Rough Trade-released Antifolk Vol. 1 compilation, which cemented this ‘movement’ for the world. “I think it’s a cool title,” Lewis said. “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.”
Lewis’s first ‘proper’ release came with The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane, released by Rough Trade in 2001. Immediately, his wordy, witty songs —like the Leonard Cohen-riffing “The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song” or the LP’s title-track— drew significant critical acclaim, especially in the UK. There, his subsequent cover of The Strokes’ “The Modern Age” would soon garner a cult following.
“You get addicted to the compliments,” Lewis has said, of his steady critical acclaim. “You feel like, woah, if the day goes by and somebody doesn’t tell you that you did something brillant, then there was something wrong with that day.”
Lewis followed it up with 2003’s It’s the Ones Who’ve Cracked That the Light Shines Through, another lo-fi set. Many of its songs spoke of Lewis’s experiences after the release of his first LP; from “Don’t Let the Record Label Take You Out to Lunch” to “No LSD Tonight,” which detailed audiences offering him acid in the wake of his first record.
Touring, Lewis would perform “low-budget music-videos,” in which he’d sing to the accompaniment of giant illustrated comic-books; the subjects of which included those detailing the histories of communism, punk-rock in New York, The Fall, and Rough Trade.
In 2005, Lewis released the Kramer-produced City & Eastern Songs. Co-billed with his brother, Jack Lewis, the set was highlighted by “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror,” in which an imagined encounter with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy becomes a nightmare borne from Lewis’s artistic insecurities.
In 2007, Lewis released 12 Crass Songs, an album consisting of covers of the anarcho-punk legends that, surprisingly, became his most successful, highest-profile record. “Crass is one of the few bands that stood out,” Lewis told LA Weekly “as the sterling example of how moral it’s possible to be as a band, regardless of what kind of music you play.”
In 2008, Lewis started blogging for The New York Times, authoring essays on songwriting as part of their ‘Measure of Measure’ series. His his home-made video “A Quick Biography of Barack Obama,” in which he narrates a comic-art account of Obama’s life in song, grew a fervent online following in the Election Year.
In 2009, Lewis released ‘Em Are I, easily his highest-fidelity, most ‘musical’ record. Lyrically, it oft details Lewis’s public break-up with his girlfriend/keyboardist, Helen Schreiner.
“If there’s some place where it feels a little uncomfortable to go in a song, that’s where I have to go, where the powerful emotions are,” he told The Guardian. “Maybe it’s not even healthy, but it’s a way of stepping outside something. Turning it into something creative means that, at the very worst, you got a song out of it.”
‘Em Are I
When You’re Chewing Life’s Gristle, Don’t Grumble, Give a Whistle
Jeffrey Lewis’s wordy, quirky, strangely poignant songs have routinely detailed life’s dark clouds, but with an eye on their silver lining. In “The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song,” the center-piece of his first (and still best) album, 2001’s The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane, Lewis spends six whole minutes lamenting a missed romantic/sexual opportunity, before realizing that “all around the world there may be folks singing tunes/about the love of other folks that they barely knew,” meaning, logically, “someone somewhere might be singing about you.”
Eight years, countless tours, and at least, well, a couple of kissed girls later, Lewis is no longer the awkward, musically-shy figure he cut when first coming out of New York’s anti-folk scene. Yet, though his music has grown loud, rockin’, and more “accomplished,” Lewis’s songwriting model is similar: pick an insecurity, explore it, find the optimistic angle.
On his latest longplayer, there’s “Whistle Past the Graveyard,” a rumination on mortality whose roots could stretch back to his early classic “Life.” Here, Lewis takes optimism to near Ned Flanders-esque extremes, singing: “if I was in hell/I’d be happy knowing other people were in heaven/it’d make hell not so hellish.”
Heartbreaker, You Got the Best of Me
Taken as whole, ‘Em Are I is a kind of silver lining unto itself. The dark cloud is Lewis’s break-up with Helen Schreiner, ex-girlfriend and ex-keyboardist. Lewis has previously, publicly chronicled the end of their relationship in his New York Times blog, scrawling a comic called “My 2008 In a Nutshell,” that begins with him in love on “the best Valentine’s Day ever!” but ends with Lewis a heartbroken zombie, possessor of “a ruined life.”
Suitably, ‘Em Are I is an ultrasound on Lewis’s faltering emotional health, the songsmith self-diagnosing a “Broken Broken Broken Heart.” Of course, inevitably, he has to see the glass-half-full; that song finding him singing “thank you pain for teaching me.”
Eliminate the Unnecessary So That the Necessary May Speak
Contrasting with his personal problems, Lewis’s career is on the grow. Recorded in high-fidelity, stacked with large arrangements, and even sporting a special-guest guitar solo from Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis, ‘Em Are I could turn out to be the album that introduces him to a larger audience. Fittingly enough, it’s also his least satisfying album; one that foregrounds music over lyrics, even though the latter is Lewis’s strongest suit.
With its multi-track’d arrangements and ‘rocking-out’ vibe, the disc forsakes the simple joys of hearing Lewis’s words in their most direct, effective setting. In his own Dylan-goes-electric moment, Lewis has lost a lot of his original charm; his once-fervent desire “to make something that was good because of the simplicity, not in spite of it” gone the way of his past relationship.