HE GREW up in a counterculture atmosphere on New York’s Lower East Side, surrounded by music, comic books, and alternative ways of looking at the world. He is Jeffrey Lewis - singer, songwriter, lyricist, artist, storyteller, and comic book creator.
Jeffrey was born in 1975 when the Lower East Side was a centre for bohemian life and activity. On the walls of their apartment, Jeffrey's parents had hung pictures of Beat writer Jack Kerouac, Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, and trade union activist Joe Hill.
“It was like Sesame Street,” Jeffrey told me when I interviewed him in 2013. “You could lean out the window and say hello to the neighbourhood drug dealers, everybody was very friendly and neighbourly. It was dangerous but you knew everybody in the building and knew everybody on the block, a real community. Now it’s not like that.”
Jeffrey began recording and releasing his own music in the late 1990s via cassette, before signing with Rough Trade and in 2001 he released his debut proper - The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane, the start of a run of excellent albums (2009’s ‘Em Are I in particular ) which have embraced folk, country, indie-rock, psychedelia, and punk, with a quirky, infectious, melodic sense.
As well as music, he also creates the comic-book Fluff, and combines music and comics in his celebrated 'illustrated song lectures' such as 'The History of Communism' or 'The Life of Barack Obama'. His illustrations have been featured in The Guardian and The New York Times.