Continuing a month of shows on the British comics radio show Panel Borders looking at the connections between comic books and music culture, guest presenter Conor O’Grady talks to American underground cartoonist Jeffrey Lewis about his comics such as Fuff and The Worldwide Comix Scavenger Hunt. O’Grady and Lewis also discuss the latter’s various musical collaborations with Peter Stampfel Band, Diane Cluck and Schwervon!…
Born and raised New Yorker Jeffrey Lewis leads a double-life, as both a comic book writer/artist and a musician (or is that a triple-life?). His band also has a multi-faceted existence, restlessly exploring a stylistic swath from contemplative folk narratives to distortion-fueled garage rock to soundscape abstractions and more. Most often a trio (though occasionally just Jeffrey solo, or as a duo, and on some tours as a four-piece), the Jeffrey Lewis group has shuffled its name a number of times over the years, from Jeffrey Lewis & The Creeping Brains to Jeffrey Lewis & The Jitters, Jeffrey Lewis & The Jackals, Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard, Jeffrey Lightning Lewis & The Rain, and others, in 2014 becoming Jeffrey Lewis & The Jrams.
These various formations (often in the past featuring Jeffrey’s brother Jack on bass and Bronx-native David Beauchamp on drums) have toured the world from Los Angeles to London, Berlin to Beijing, Melbourne to Moscow, blowing minds all along the way and sometimes sharing stages or full tours with the likes of Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Devendra Banhart, Devo, The Mountain Goats, Thurston Moore, The Fall, The Vaselines, Roky Erickson, Pulp, Beth Orton, Frank Black, The Fiery Furnaces, Daniel Johnston, Scout Niblett, The Moldy Peaches, Cornershop, The Cribs, Dr. Dog, Kimya Dawson, Adam Green, Akron/Family, Black Dice, Au Revoir Simone, The Television Personalities, Jarvis Cocker and many other luminaries.
Live shows often incorporate “low budget videos,” Jeffrey’s large illustrations displayed to accompany certain songs, such as Jeffrey’s educational multi-part “History of Communism” or flights of fancy like “The Creeping Brain.” In 2001 Jeffrey Lewis signed to the venerable Rough Trade Records label (home to The Smiths, The Strokes, and many more alternative legends) and has since released six albums worldwide on Rough Trade/Beggars, the most recent of which is 2011’s “A Turn in the Dream-Songs” which was recorded at an all-analogue studio in Manchester, UK and features musical cameos from Dr. Dog, Au Revoir Simone and The Vaselines among others.
Jeffrey has been self-publishing a comic book series called “Fuff” since 2004, has lectured around the world on topics such as the Watchmen comic book and independently produced music, and in recent years his work has been featured by the History Channel, the New York Times, the Guardian, NPR, and elsewhere. As of 2014 his most recent projects have been creating the soundtrack for the film Radio Unnameable(distributed by Kino Lorber), illustrating Jaimee Garbacik’s academic book Gender and Sexuality For Beginners,writing/drawing a 9-page comic book biography of Woody Guthrie for the Paul Buhle-edited book Bohemians, writing/illustrating/publishing three installments of Sonnet Youth (an attempt to rewrite the discography of Sonic Youth in sonnet form), and finally publishing Fuff #9.
Jeffrey’s side-project band with Peter (Holy Modal Rounders) Stampfel released their second album “Hey Hey it’s… The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band” in May 2013.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.