We Chat To Jeffrey Lewis Ahead of His Appearance at The Foolhardy Folk Festival

Photos: Nic Chapman
Interview: Gemma Cockrell
Wednesday 23 August 2023
reading time: min, words

The Foolhardy Folk Festival is back for the third year at Nottingham Arboretum for its all day affair on Bank Holiday Sunday, with a lineup curated by Beans on Toast. Joining him will be native New Yorker comic book illustrator and cult sensation Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage, who we caught up with ahead of the festival…

71Cd5c22 01 Jeffrey Lewis The Voltage (Photo By Nic Chapman 2022) HORIZONTAL Min

Hey Jeffrey! Are you looking forward to playing the Foolhardy Folk Festival in Nottingham in August?
Do you get a wide range of responses to a question like that? 

What should people expect from your performance at the festival? 
Lo-fi folk, sci-fi punk, and low budget videos!

Which other artists on the lineup are you looking forward to seeing on the day?
I don’t know many artists from the 21st Century so it will all be a surprise to me.

Beans on Toast curates the festival. How did you first get in touch with him and how did you end up on the festival bill? 
Festival gigs are mysterious to me, it’s not like a club gig where I have a list of places I’ve had contact with in the past, and I can reach out and ask about available dates and assemble a tour. Festivals are, for me, the other way around, it’s like I’ll get an email saying a festival is interested in having me play, then I have to decide whether I’d be able to do it. From year to year I have no way to predict or control which festivals might reach out! It’s always something of a surprise and nice to be contacted.

What memories do you have of performing in Nottingham? When were you last here?
I did my tenth gig in Nottingham in January 2020, that was an in-store album release thing at the Rough Trade there. Before that I think I was mostly doing gigs at the Social, but I’ve also played at Rescue Rooms, the Maze or the Bodega. Lots of good times playing with bands I was friends with, like Nottingham gigs that I did with the Wave Pictures, or with Schwervon or with Herman Dune, or with Danielson.

Alongside your music, you're also a comic book artist. How does this co-exist with your music and what is the relationship between the two like?
Songs are relatively quick to write, compared to the time it takes to create a whole comic book. The best thing about drawing comics is that I can listen to music for hours and hours while working, which is much better than when I’m trying to make up songs, because of course I can’t be listening to records when I’m trying to make songs. So, with comics it’s a lot of work but it’s very enjoyable work because I can listen to tons of records.

The best thing about drawing comics is that I can listen to music while working, which is much better than when I’m writing songs, because I can’t be listening to records when I’m trying to make songs

In 2021 you released the Complete Fuff Comix Collection. Have you been working on any more comics since then?
I’ve done a couple issues of my new comic book series Statics, there’s a bit of a delayed release on the second issue but it’s been finished for a while and it should be out later this year. I’m starting to work on writing the third issue, but the tour schedule for my band is starting to get a bit busy so it may take me a while to focus on it. But I’m very happy with the new Statics series, I feel like I’m in a good place with my ability to make comics, and I just want to keep getting better and doing more.

2021 was also the last time that you released any music (2021 Tapes: Suddenly it's Been Too Late for a Long Time). Are you working on anything new?
I recorded a new album with my band a couple months ago, in Nashville, working again with the producer Roger Moutenot because we loved working with him on our Bad Wiring album that came out in 2019. There’s a few decisions to make about the song order and the album art and things like that, but hopefully that will be ready for release sometime before too long. And I try to get in the habit of writing a new song every week, to play at a local open mic, and then by the end of each year I have a little pile of songs.

In the past few years, I’ve been releasing a bunch of those home-recorded solo songs as the ‘tapes’ on my Bandcamp page, like that ‘2021 Tape’ that you mention. At this point, I’ve done four of those annual releases of home recorded songs, for 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, but I don’t know if I’ll keep doing it every year. 

The Foolhardy Folk Festival will take place on Sunday 27 August at Nottingham Arboretum

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