BY TONY ABRAHAM Anti-folk singer/songwriter Jeffrey Lewis has been beavering his way across the globe since the October release of his superbly idiosyncratic new album, A Turn in the Dream-Songs. Lewis’ music can appear bizarre and unsettling at first, but eventually his casually-voiced surrealistic ramblings suck you into his Technicolor comic book mind, where everything is animated and absurd, and nobody has thoughts, just thought bubbles. That is no coincidence, because Lewis doubles as a comic book artist, a visual storyteller, and a damn good one at that. He came up from the phantasmagorical mean streets of the Lower East Side, where even the mundane and the quotidian is an unfailing catalyst for imaginative youth. Just coming off of tour dates in South Korea, China, the UK, and Europe, Lewis performs tonight at Cha-Cha-Razzi.
PHAWKER: What’s the first record you bought with your own money?
JEFFREY LEWIS: Escape by Whodini. It’s an absolute lost classic of 80s rap. I have no idea why but you never hear Whodini mentioned in the same breath as Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash, etc. But in my mind, Escape is the first phase of rap. That album has so many classics on it. So many hits were on the streets on New York and when I was a kid I would love all those songs because I would hear them in the streets all the time. That album is still a joy. I still have it at my house somewhere, I listen to it every once in a while. It’s got “Freaks Come Out At Night,” “Big Mouth,” “Five Minutes of Funk,” it’s got “Friends,” yeah that album was full of fuckin’ awesome early mid 80s rap hits.
PHAWKER: What’s the last book you read?
JEFFREY LEWIS: I’m like halfway through reading Habibi by Craig Thompson.
PHAWKER: What’s the best thing about being Jeffrey Lewis and what’s the worst?
JEFFREY LEWIS: The best thing is when I feel like I do something I’m very proud of, the worst thing is when I do something I don’t feel so good about.
PHAWKER: Which came first, comic books or writing music?
JEFFREY LEWIS: Definitely comic books, I’ve been doing comic books my entire life, as long as I can remember. Music I’ve only been more seriously involved in since my early 20s.
PHAWKER: Do you have a preference?
JEFFREY LEWIS: I would like to say I prefer drawing comics but I definitely make music more hours out of the year than I make comics nowadays, that’s just the way it works out.
PHAWKER: Do you ever get an idea for a comic and decide it would be better in song form or vice versa?
JEFFREY LEWIS: Yeah, it’s usually the other way around, like an idea for a song or a topic that seems like it might be better discussed or better unfolded in comic book form.
PHAWKER: Occupy, for or against?
JEFFREY LEWIS: I’m one hundred percent for it. I was down at Occupy Wall Street a number of times before we left on this tour, we visited some other Occupy sites on the tour. There’s only one percent of Americans who are millionaires or more but fifty percent are more representatives of millionaires. There’s a complete disconnect there between the people who make decisions that affect our lives and the actual people’s lives, so we need to address that balance and if there aren’t politicians who are going to address that balance then we need to take it to the streets.