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An Open Response to the Open Letter by “Life is a Hell of a Thing” about Jonathan Butler and #concernedstudents1950

Originally posted on rahmannoodlesoup:

Before reading ahead, please read the following blog post by a “non-racist, non-violent, white college student” for context: https://lifeisahellofathing.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/an-open-letter-to-jonathan-butler-concernedstudents1950/

All day, I had been thinking about the great examples of non-violent protests that had been held at Mizzou for the university president to resign. But of course, like with all great things, there’s always someone around to ruin it. In this case, it’s the author of lifeisahellofathing.wordpress.com. I don’t know who the person is, but it’s completely irrelevant. In fact, if you ever read this, please know that this is nothing against you, but entirely against your views, which I find to be ignorant and disappointing for a college student in 2015.

Your article got me thinking about why these problems happen, why there are white people who genuinely believe that racial conflicts don’t exist, that institutionalized oppression is not real, that black people are fighting for a “nonexistent” battle…

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The Importance of Being AQUÍ

I have always felt strangely disjointed while living in the Valley. With both of my parents from the Dominican Republic, being a first-generation American and living in the Rio Grande Valley created a singular yet slightly fragmented way of growing up. Dominican customs and traditions and American ideals intersected among the heavily-influential Mexican culture in the Valley. Even after living in the Valley for over 18 years and being active within our own Dominican community here, it’s an intimidating and overwhelming feeling when you know you’re on the same Latinx wavelength as the people around you, but there’s still a hiccup in your Valley identity because of your similar yet inherently different customs.

I had never been able to truly verbalize this discomfort or pinpoint where it stemmed from, but I knew this feeling of un-belonging to my own community is where my desire to leave Texas came from. As a child, I wanted to become an illustrious pastry chef and study in New York, working towards the ultimate goal of becoming a Food Network star. I had never felt tied down to my hometown with the exception of family, friends, and my pets, and figured I’d have nothing to lose if I left. Though times have changed and though my career interests don’t exactly line-up with my eight-year-old self anymore, I’m still fulfilling my childhood dream of attending school outside of Texas; I’ll be studying Journalism at Northwestern University in Illinois beginning this fall. However, I’m finding it harder than I ever could have expected to say goodbye.

At the beginning of this final summer (because for all intents and purposes, this is my final summer as an official resident of the Rio Grande Valley), I became involved with an internship with the wonderful people at Curando RGV, which describes itself as “an intersectional community organization empowering our people in a variety of ways through activism, the arts, local history, and culture.” I had grown involved with the social justice scene in the Valley, but wanted to find a way to make more of an impact and figured this internship would steer me in the right direction.

Though I selectively chose to involve myself in the Media and Reproductive Justice committees, the internship proved that I would be working in all aspects to help improve the Valley; I’ve been volunteering as a clinic escort at Whole Woman’s Health in downtown McAllen throughout the summer, and as a whole we’ve volunteered at the McAllen Nature Center, visited ARISE in Alamo and saw the powerful and important work they are doing to help low-income immigrant families, and helped collect clothing for Curando RGV’s donation drive for the Refugee Center at Sacred Heart Church. I’ve experienced the Valley in such an incredible way. However, I never thought that the social justice work we were doing would intersect with the one thing I admittedly love most:  music.

I witnessed the power and influence that comes from the intersection of music and social justice at Galax Z Fair — a two-day festival put on by Tigersblood.org that takes place during Spring Break — where the festival and a demonstration involving the Caravana 43 coincided. Galax Z Fair became a space for the family of those disappeared 43 students to speak to an audience of mostly high school and college-age individuals and to alert and educate them on the heinous situation they were enduring and what we could do as a community to get closer to the justice that their loved ones deserve.

“A border culture is a beautiful culture, and I wish more of us here, as well as other alternative media outlets, realized this.” – Patrick Garcia

 At the beginning of the summer, word began flying around that a new, two-day summer music festival was in the works for McAllen. AQUÍnceañera was to be a totally unique festival; a celebration of place and independent sound complete with a brand-new venue devoted to culture, creativity, and inclusion.  In my case, the initial announcement of the festival didn’t relay its immediate importance.  Of course I was excited that there was another festival happening quite literally in my own backyard, but I was expecting something along the lines of Galax Z Fair.

However, AQUÍnceañera strayed far from any and all music festivals I’d attended in the past. AQUÍnceañera was an entity of its own, incomparable and immeasurable in importance to the countless other summer music festivals happening. There may be words in existence to describe what occurred AQUÍnceañera, but I don’t believe there exist words to describe how being at AQUÍnceañera felt.


“In the Valley, nearly everyone is a person of color. And if one throws a local fest, I mean, that’s ultimately what it’s going to be. But the idea of celebrating that element, as well as place, is a narrative I wanted to see revived, reminded, and asserted.” – Patrick Garcia

Walking into Yerberia Cultura for the first time was like walking into a friend’s backyard; it felt like home. Though I attended the first day of the festival alone, I didn’t feel alone in the slightest. I saw the familiar faces of those active in the local music/activist scene, I saw some well-known friends, but the electricity in the air of finally having a safe and familiar venue was intoxicating and enough to make being alone completely comfortable. Throughout the evening, which was filled with dancing to Selena out on the patio and complete with a Donald Trump piñata, I went around asking friends at AQUÍnceañera their thoughts on the festival, which allowed me to see that it wasn’t just me surging with feelings of love and community those two nights.

“It’s important because it’s really easy to lose your culture. […] Here, it’s everywhere. It’s expressed in all the art being made. You’re with your own people and your own culture.” – Myriah Acosta

“I think it’s important because you are celebrating what you are.  I feel like in the Valley we always try to be ‘we want to be like Austin’ or ‘we want to be like San Antonio’, and this is a counter to that. We don’t need to be that; we are something different. In my opinion better, but it’s definitely different, and I think it’s beautiful. There’s nothing like this.” – Edgar Gonzalez 

From Danica Salazar’s throaty pleas of “DON’T FORGET YOUR PLACE” during DeZorah’s final song to Victoria Ruiz’s constant affirmations of love for McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley throughout both Downtown Boys’ set and the days preceding the festival via social media, it was obvious that AQUÍnceañera stood for something far and beyond the music.


The festival did not occur in a vacuum in which music and social issues were mutually exclusive and where we would all return to our daily lives and recount the weekend’s events as just another concert. It became a space where important issues, such as the brutalization of black and brown bodies at the hands of police, feminism, immigration justice and reform, and the the Valley’s first-ever conference for queer people of color, were openly and publicly discussed within and alongside the music and persisted within the festivalgoers.  Before Malportado Kids exited the stage band member Joey DeFrancesco said, “We’ve been all over the country this month and this is the most special thing we get to do.”  In those moments was impossible to acknowledge the beauty and singularity of the place where we live.

I left the venue that night feeling warm and starry-eyed, and that warmth continued onwards into Aquí Estamos, the Rio Grande Valley’s first-ever conference focusing solely on LGBT people of color and the intersections that those identities bring about in the RGV. Full of insightful workshops, knowledge-sharing activities, and beautiful and positive individuals committed to making the Rio Grande Valley a safe and equal space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying people of color, Aquí Estamos was a learning experience and a chance to communicate with individuals who we may not necessarily see or hear about in our every day lives. Taking part in such a critical and pivotal movement was a reality check in the practices of what allies like myself should be doing in order to bolster the voices of these individuals and what we as a community must do in order to continue being an equal and safe space for everyone in the Rio Grande Valley.

The humid South Texas air blew slowly and quietly as Romeo Santos’ voice echoed throughout the patio of Yerberia Cultura. The venue was celebrating its opening eve by hosting the after-conference dance party for Aquí Estamos.  As I stood in the circle of dancers, swaying my hips and spinning in time with the music, I soaked in the moment. There was a feeling of lightness, of comfort, of pure joy that I felt dancing under Yerberia Cultura’s hanging lights. I felt a connection with everyone dancing with me, even if I wasn’t necessarily the closest of friends with anyone there. The hesitation and trepidation I previously felt of not being a “true part” of my community dissolved in the night.

I realized a had a true and established home here, even when it didn’t feel like it sometimes, and realized I would miss everything about the Valley. I would miss these South Texas nights. I would miss raspas and elote and marranitos and spiropapas and conchas. I would miss the manager at my local Walgreens that sees me so often he’s started calling me “mija”. I would miss the electricity that erupts and overflows from the crowds at Cine El Rey. I would miss being a part of this community. And within the realization of everything that I would miss, that evening, I felt more present than ever. I felt powerful and whole and at home.

Me sentí AQUÍ.

“The Afterglow of Graduation” — A Playlist

Originally posted on Fresh U on May 31, 2015

It finally happened. You closed an AP study guide for the last time. You trudged home, arms laden with the bulky contents of your locker, but with the biggest, dorkiest smile on your face. You donned your cap and gown and strut across the stage, Pomp and Circumstance proudly echoing your freedom from high school. YOU DID IT! And what a better way to bask in this newfound freedom and begin the summer before freshman year of college than with a killer playlist? I’ve put together some of my favorite recently-released songs that I’m going to be without a doubt blasting this summer, and hopefully you’ll feel the same way after listening to them too.

1. “Call it Off” — Shamir Start your summer right by “calling off” being a high school student! Shamir Bailey, a 20-year-old Vegas native, has commanded the Internet with his brash, bouncy electronic pop. Probably one of the most promising young musicians out there right now, his debut album “Ratchet” is already receiving rave reviews, as is this song. Shamir released the music video for “Call It Off” in late March, a seriously colorful and creative video where he turns into a puppet. He also created a hilarious “Call It Off” Relationship Hotline, where you can actually get a chance to vent your relationship problems to Shamir in a voicemail and he’ll get back to you or you can listen to the song over the phone. Pretty. Freakin’. Sweet. (The number is 1-844-4SHAMIR if you’d like to call!)

2. “Bang That” — Disclosure This is the first song that the electronic music duo, Disclosure, has released since their wildly popular song Settle in 2013, in addition to some one-off singles and collaborations that came off of the deluxe version of that album, and it rules. It’s a blaring house anthem that sounds like the background music in the typical teen movie scene where the kid throws a crazy party and everyone is dancing in slow motion (see: Project X). Maybe you could make that happen too with this song.
3. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” — Unknown Mortal Orchestra Goals are important to set throughout our lives, but some of the goals we set before college will be pretty meaningful ones. Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds, confess your love to the person who’s been your chemistry lab partner for the past two years or maybe you want to try and do something as simple as checking your phone a little less — I think we should all aim to do that this summer. UMO’s newest album “Multi-Love” is a funk-packed LP full of psychedelic pop and this song is probably one of the best — and the most relatable — on it.
4. “REALiTi” — Grimes I personally can’t think of a better song to include in a post-graduation playlist than this one. I mean, the lyrics: “When I get up this is what I see / Welcome to reality” sum up how we’ll all feel after that first disorienting morning waking up in our dorm beds, still a little unfamiliar with it all.
5. “Dodi” — Yumi Zouma New Zealand’s Yumi Zouma is a wonderfully bright dream-pop group and listening to their music is pretty much the sonic equivalent of those moments where you’re so happy you just can’t stop smiling. Need proof? Play this at your beach hangout and watch as everyone’s shoulders start swaying.
6. “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” — Jamie xx feat. Young Thug and Popcaan Okay. Stop right here. I know this whole playlist is all ~songs of the summer~ and things like that, but this is THE song of the summer. Jamie xx, founding member of The xx, is releasing his debut solo album “In Colour” in June and by the numerous singles he’s released already, it looks like it’s going to be full of total dance anthems like this one. Just try blasting it at the first party of the summer and watch everyone go wild.
7. “Pedestrian at Best” — Courtney Barnett At some point, the summer is going to get muggy, hot and you’re going to find yourself exasperated with the hair sticking to your neck and the fact that your popsicle is melting all over your hand. And yes, this song perfectly encapsulates that feeling and is a total shredder. Courtney Barnett rules and her album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Think” is easily one of the year’s best rock albums.
8. “Used To” — Drake feat. Lil Wayne This track actually first appeared on Lil Wayne’s “Sorry for the Wait 2,” but really took off with the surprise release of Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” (the only real difference is an added verse by Drake *prayer hands emoji*). Even though we all knew it was going to happen, the Internet collectively lost its shit and sent the album into a storm of critical acclaim and record-breaking sales. Pretty impressive for a mixtape if you ask me.
9. “Chateau Lobby 4 (in C for Two Virgins)” — Father John Misty For many of us, this is going to be the summer of flings and short-lived romances and for some, this is going to be the last bit of time together before the relationship becomes a long-distance one. Regardless of your situation, let Father John Misty croon to you until you have hearts in your eyes — it won’t take long, I promise — and cuddle up with your lover.
10. “Ok” — Madeon The perfect windows-down-driving-to-the-beach track. Honestly! It’s like this song was made to be played on a beautiful, cloudless, sunny day with all your friends in your car.
11. “Blue” — Marina and the Diamonds Looking for a sassy sing-along while catching some rays at the pool? Marina and the Diamonds’ album “Froot” is one of my favorite albums of 2015 so far and “Blue” is the perfect summery bubble-gum pop anthem with a hint of melancholia.
12. “Let it Happen” — Tame Impala From the moment you grab your diploma and say one last goodbye to your high school classmates to the moment you unpack the first box on move-in day, a lot of things are going to change. In a few months, most of us will be away from home in some way, shape or form and away from a lot of the familiar comforts (i.e. a private bathroom) and the people we’ve grown up around. The summer is going to involve a lot of decisions and potential changes in the relationships and friendships we have, but if there’s any advice I have, it’s this: let it happen. (Also, dance to this song while you’re letting it happen. Should make a good combination.)

Isabella’s Favorites of 2014

Another year’s come and gone and 2014 has definitely been a memorable but difficult one.  From interviewing incredibly awesome artists like Frankie Rose and Twin Shadow at the beginning of the year, nearly losing my mind thanks to school, visiting Houston, Boston, and road-tripping to Big Bend over the summer, starting senior year, seeing Outkast live at Austin City Limits in October, turning 18, and getting accepted into my first universities this past fall (!!), a lot of pretty big things have been happening for me, and many of these albums served as the soundtrack to those moments.  While I didn’t quite fawn over albums this year the way i did in 2013, 2014 didn’t leave me disappointed in the slightest.

I never like ranking albums because I can never create criteria within myself to accurately judge them, so in no particular numerical order here are my favorite albums from 2014, along with my favorite songs (sometimes you can’t pick just one) from each.


1989 // Taylor Swift // Favorite song(s):  “Style”, “Blank Space”


Alvvays // Alvvays // Favorite song(s):  “Next of Kin”, “Archie, Marry Me”


Angel // Pure X // Favorite song(s):  “Valley of Tears”, “Heaven”


Aquarius // Tinashe // Favorite song(s):  “Bet on It (feat. Dev Hynes)”, “2 On (feat. ScHoolboy Q)”

Are We There

Are We There // Sharon Van Etten // Favorite song(s):  “Your Love is Killing Me”, “Every Time the Sun Comes Up”


Atlas // Real Estate // Favorite song(s):  “Crime”, “Had to Hear”

Black Moon Spell

Black Moon Spell // King Tuff // Favorite song(s): “Sick Mind”, “Eyes of the Muse”

Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Burn Your Fire for No Witness // Angel Olsen // Favorite song(s):  “White Fire”, “Stars”, “High and Wild”

Doss - EP

Doss EP // Doss // Favorite song(s):  “The Way I Feel”, “Extended Mix”


Dunes // Gardens & Villa // Favorite song(s):  “Domino”, “Bullet Train”, “Echosassy”, “Purple Mesas”


Four // One Direction // Favorite song(s):  “Night Changes”, “No Control”, “Fireproof”, “Stockholm Syndrome”


LP1 // FKA twigs // Favorite song(s):  “Lights On”, “Pendulum”, “Kicks”

Mr Twin Sister

Mr Twin Sister // Mr Twin Sister // Favorite song(s): “Rude Boy”, “In the House of Yes”, “Blush”

Salad Days

Salad Days // Mac DeMarco // Favorite song(s): “Let Her Go”, “Chamber of Reflection”

Run The Jewels 2

Run the Jewels 2 // Run the Jewels // Favorite song(s):  “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) [feat. Zach De La Rocha]”, “Love Again (Akinyele Back)”, “All Due Respect (feat. Travis Barker)”

Ritual in Repeat

Ritual in Repeat // Tennis // Favorite song(s):  “Night Vision”, “I’m Callin'”, “Timothy”


Piñata // Freddie Gibbs & Madlib // Favorite song(s):  “High (feat. Danny Brown)”, “Broken (feat. Scarface)”, “Uno”

No Mythologies to Follow

No Mythologies to Follow // MØ // Favorite song(s):  “Maiden”, “Slow Love”, “Pilgrim”, “XXX 88 (feat. Diplo)”

Say Yes to Love

Say Yes to Love // Perfect Pussy // Favorite song(s):  “Dig”, “Big Stars”


Shriek // Wye Oak // Favorite song(s):  “The Tower”, “Glory”, “School of Eyes”


Singles // Future Islands // Favorite song(s):  “Seasons (Waiting on You)”, “Doves”

St. Vincent

St. Vincent // St. Vincent // Favorite song(s): “Birth in Reverse”, “Prince Johnny”, “Huey Newton”, “Rattlesnake”


Sucker // Charli XCX // Favorite song(s):  “Sucker”, “Breaking Up”, “Need Ur Luv”

They Want My Soul

They Want My Soul // Spoon // Favorite Song(s):  “Inside Out”, “Do You”

The Voyager

The Voyager // Jenny Lewis // Favorite song(s):  “Head Underwater”, “She’s Not Me”, “Just One of the Guys”

The Pinkprint (Deluxe)

The Pinkprint (Deluxe Edition) // Nicki Minaj // Favorite song(s):  “All Things Go”, “The Crying Game”, “Get on Your Knees (feat. Ariana Grande)”, “Four Door Aventador”, “Trini Dem Girls (feat. Lunchmoney Lewis)”, “Anaconda”, “Shanghai”, “Truffle Butter (feat. Drake & Lil Wayne)”

The Moon Rang Like a Bell

The Moon Rang Like a Bell // Hundred Waters // Favorite song(s):  “Out Alee”, “Innocent”, “Xtalk”

Sun Structures

Sun Structures // Temples // Favorite song(s):  “Shelter Song”, “Mesmerise”, “Colours to Life”

Tough Love

Tough Love // Jessie Ware // Favorite song(s):  “Want Your Feeling (feat. Dev Hynes)”, “Kind of…Sometimes…Maybe”


Warpaint // Warpaint // Favorite song(s): “Keep It Healthy”, “Hi”, “Disco//Very”

White Women

White Women // Chromeo // Favorite song(s):  “Come Alive (feat. Toro y Moi)”, “Lost on the Way Home (feat. Solange)”, “Somethingood”

What Is This Heart_

What is this Heart? // How To Dress Well // Favorite song(s):  “What You Wanted”, “Words I Don’t Remember”, “Very Best Friend”

You're Dead!

You’re Dead! // Flying Lotus // Favorite song(s):  “Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”, “Siren Song (feat. Angel Deradoorian)”


Z // SZA // Favorite song(s):  “Julia”, “Hiiijack”, “Warm Winds (feat. Isaiah Rashad)”, “Childs Play (feat. Chance the Rapper)”, “Sweet November”

Picture You Staring

Picture You Staring // TOPS // Favorite song(s):  “Way to Be Loved”, “Blind Faze”,  “Superstition Future”, “Change of Heart”

Aside from these albums, I really enjoyed a lot of singles that were released this year (I’m now an unashamed and avid fan of PC music) as well as singular songs off of albums released this year where the album didn’t quite do it for me, but the song did.  Click through the songs to listen to them (all links are Souncloud/Youtube).

Beautiful // A.G. Cook

Every Other Freckle // alt-J

Lipstick // Ariel Pink

I’ll Be Stoned for Christmas // Dent May

How About Now // Drake

Tear the House Up (feat. Zebra Katz) // Hervé

Going Out // Hospitality

Heavenly Father // Isaiah Rashad

With You (feat. Kelela) // Kindness

Boom // LE1F

Asleep // Makthaverskan

Froot // Marina and the Diamonds

Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars) // Mark Ronson

Another Night // The Men

Champions of Red Wine // The New Pornographers

Breakdown // Peaking Lights

Fall in Love // Phantogram

Gust of Wind (feat. Daft Punk) // Pharrell

Dragons // Princess Nokia

Hey QT // QT

Lifestyle (feat. Young Thug & Rich Homie Quan) // Rich Gang

Noetic Noiromantics // Shabazz Palaces

Touch // Shura

Hard // SOPHIE

Bassically // Tei Shi

Sweet Spot // Wild Beasts

Aaaaaaand that’s all for 2014!  I’m sure throughout this year I’ll find gems from 2014 that I’ve missed out on or fall out of love with some albums or songs, but I’m extremely excited for what 2015 has to bring both music-wise and life-wise.

Austin City Limits 2014

Originally published in the October issue of InkArt, a collaborative student-run literary magazine published between Sci-Tech and Med High

Music festivals are pretty scary places.  Between the throngs of strangers, the ridiculous amount of bands present (and the set conflicts that ensue – EEEK!), rampant cultural appropriation (PSA:  bindis and Native American headdresses are NOT fashion items), and the very real possibility of you not making it to a port-a-potty in time, it becomes fairly clear why people avoid these massive concert events.  However, Austin City Limits consistently continues to be one of the best ways for people (especially teenagers in high school who don’t live fairly close to big cities) to see multiple bands in one place in the span of one weekend.  Complete with a breathtaking view of downtown Austin from the park, incredible food from local eateries, and plenty of activities to participate in when you need a break from the crowds, Austin City Limits truly holds its own among the countless other music festivals in the festival circuit.

Weekend two’s festivities were made special by the fact that many of the sets were being livestreamed on YouTube, giving the artists a little push to do something that would want to make people tune into their particular set.  Childish Gambino’s late afternoon set on Friday drew a massive, energized crowd that danced and rapped along at every moment, even when he performed a new track less than one week old.  He lit up the stage with both charisma and pyrotechnics, and surprised the crowd by closing out his set with by premiering the music video for his song “Telegraph Ave.”.  The day closed out with one of the most heart-wrenching set conflicts of all time – Beck vs. Outkast – but Outkast brought the party with them, tearing through hits and classics such as “Ms. Jackson” and “Hey Ya” while having their fun with the crowd at Zilker Park.

Saturday brought a fair amount of rain and more mud than was appreciated, but that couldn’t stop the party.  Mac Demarco’s mid-day set drew one of the most engaged crowds of the whole weekend, with everyone dancing along as he played songs like “Freaking Out the Neighborhood.”  He crowdsurfed, he joked, he even pulled up a guy from the crowd and got them to do the guitar solo for his song “Ode to Viceroy,” and he killed it!  He then met up with fans at the side of the stage after his set and was all in all a really great guy and a great performer.  The night brought out the party animals as big name EDM artists like Major Lazer and Skrillex dominated the late night slots, and Zilker was bathed in neon light and thumping bass.


Mac Demarco at Austin City Limits 2014

Sunday morning brought an early, electrifying performance from Danish songstress MØ, whose solid voice and exciting stage presence made her show all the more memorable.  The electronic duo Chromeo gave festival-goers their dose of funk for the weekend, treating the crowd to hits like “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” and “Fancy Footwork.”  The night ended with perhaps what enticed most people to buy a weekend two pass:  a breathtaking performance from Lorde.  The New Zealand seventeen-year old commanded the stage Sunday night, her incredible voice filling the night air and her spastic yet calculated stage movements capturing the attention of all who watched.IMG_0492

Lorde at Austin City Limits 2014

Though the festival has long been over, the afterglow of those three days still lingers, whether in the form of post-concert depression, the lingering taste of those kimchi fries from Chi’lantro, or the comfort of your commemorative t-shirt.  The experience of Austin City Limits is not one that is easily forgotten, but one that is eagerly awaited for as soon as you step foot back home.

Interview: George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow

Originally posted on Ouch! My Ego on March 7, 2014

Dancing in the Dark: An Interview with George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow

The very first time I heard of Twin Shadow was back in my eighth grade year, and it just so happened to be because of one of Urban Outfitters’ LSTN mixtapes — a free monthly compilation of songs that UO published back in 2010 in order to further it’s hipster credentials.  Though the mixtapes spanned only 15 volumes and abruptly stopped, my love for Twin Shadow has only grown since I first heard “Slow” through my tinny, pink gummy headphones.

The music of Twin Shadow is incredibly unique:  chock-full of dark, groovy guitar riffs with strong R&B undertones and accompanied by Lewis’ amber voice, giving every listener vivid images of lost love and longing through his poetic lyrics.  I had the chance to see him for the first time at the 2011 Austin City Limits Festival, and then exactly one year later in McAllen, where I got to meet him and briefly speak with him about his music and his life (shout out to Patrick Garcia for making this happen!).  It seems that my story with Twin Shadow is a continued one, as I got the opportunity to speak with him the other day and ask him a couple of questions.

When I called him, he was driving through Los Angeles, where he’s now living.  He recently moved to Hollywood from Brooklyn in order to finish polishing up details on the third album, which will no doubt live up to the standards that its predecessors have established.  Throughout this morning drive, I got to speak with him about video games, dancing bachata, and Kendrick Lamar.

You visited McAllen the first time in September of 2012, and now you’re back to headline Galax Z Fair III.  What made you want to come back?

I always feel like our Texas shows are our best shows.  It’s kind of weird, in a way.  It was especially nice to go to McAllen and to go to this kind of off-the-beaten path place and have so many people enjoy our music.  We always like going to smaller towns to play shows because it’s really worth it.

What’s changed between then and now?

I can’t even remember when we were there.  I know we were there, but I don’t remember at what point in Twin Shadow we were there.  I know it was after the second record came out, but not too much has changed.  I’ve been working on this new record.  The band hasn’t been playing out too much.   We’ll probably play a couple of new songs while we’re there, maybe two or three.  We’ll be testing out all our new material on you guys, and then say to the crowd in Austin that it’s the first time anyone’s heard it.  So you all will actually be the first to hear it.

In regards to your new music, do the songs sound anything like “Old Love/New Love”?

It’s kind of interesting.  That song is much more dance-y, and so far that hasn’t happened much on the record.  But it could change, the record is still not done yet.  We’ll see what happens.

“Old Love/New Love” was recorded for Grand Theft Auto V, and you also lent your voice for the radio host of the “Radio Mirror Park” station in the game.  How did you become involved with Rockstar Games?

I’ve known those guys for a while now, and we’d always talked about doing something.  I’ve kind of become friends with a bunch of those guys over there, and we just talked about doing something together for a long time, whether it was soundtrack work or whatever, and they had the new Grand Theft Auto they were developing, and they reached out to me and were wondering if I wanted to host the radio show and do songs for the soundtrack, and that was it.

Do you play Grand Theft Auto?

Haha!  You know, they gave me a copy of the game for the Xbox.  I’m one of those people who I’ve always been bad at video games, and I hate being bad at something.  I’m really awful  at video games; always have been, always will be.  I played it a few times.  I still haven’t heard my songs playing in the game, so I don’t have that experience yet.  I play it time to time, but often times with video games I’ll find myself playing it for a day and then never playing again.

I just recently heard the cover of The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” that you did with Samantha Urbani for your UNDER THE CVRS series.  Which song did you enjoy recording the most?

Probably my 112 cover of “Cupid”.  That was like, my favorite song when I was in high school.  That song soundtracked my high school years.  That was really cool, and I liked that one the most. But they were all really fun to record, it was fun to record other stuff.

Was one of them more difficult to do than the others?

 I mean, reinterpreting a Smiths’ song isn’t easy.  I think all of them were kind of a challenge in a way because they’re all really, like, big huge amazing songs.  And it’s always pretty easy to fuck up a cover.  But it was fun, I didn’t really have to think about it.

What were your high school years like?

Ha, well I didn’t really go to high school.  I basically dropped out of high school when I was in my sophomore year.  So my high school years were actually pretty exciting.  I wasn’t in school, I made a bunch of friends.  Well, two of my good friends dropped out kind of alongside with me; they dropped out first and I was like “That’s a good idea!” So I dropped out and I just hung out with a lot of older kids, and it was exciting.  I don’t recommend it for everybody, but for me it made a lot of sense to leave high school.  A lot of it actually I can credit music to doing that, because when I dropped out I used to hang out this little club called The Blue Parrot, and I met this older guy Zach who really just taught me so much about playing guitar and songwriting.  I wouldn’t have had that if I had stayed in school.  So I really kind of became a musician by doing that.

My mom was funny [when I dropped out].  Since I was so young, I actually had to get signed out, like officially I had to have my parents sign for me so that I could drop out of high school.  My mom actually said to me, “Well, Bill Cosby dropped out of high school, so I guess you can.”  So I got the OK.  She’s the best.

You were born in the Dominican Republic, and you just recently played a show in Santo Domingo at the Isle of Light Festival.  What influence has being Dominican had on your music?

I grew up in America; I was born in Santo Domingo but I really grew up in Florida.  I think being a Floridian has more to do with my music than being Dominican at this point.  The more I spend time down there and the more I reconnect, the more influence I do think it has.  I’m very interested in Dominican music, and I want to learn what I can kind of take from it, because it really is very unique and I’m very drawn to it.

So can you dance merengue?  Are you a good dancer?

I can dance merengue and I can dance bachata.  My salsa is not so great, though.

As an artist, is fashion and the way you present yourself a big deal to you?

 I always say that it’s just like a life thing, I don’t think it has anything to do with being a musician or being in Twin Shadow.  I care about presentation in everything.

Do you have any favorite designers or collections?

Right now I’m working closely with this company called the Public School.  They’re doing really well; I’m a huge fan of theirs and a huge believer.  I just did the music for their runway show [at New York Fashion Week].  They’re amazing.  What they do is really inspiring.

Are there any artists or bands that you’re liking at the moment?

I just met up with these guys called Milo Greene, and I’m excited about new things that they’re working on.  I’m super excited by Kendrick Lamar.  I think he’s gonna save music.

What do you think of the apology text Macklemore sent Kendrick after winning a Grammy?

I don’t think anyone should apologize for winning an award.  I mean, awards are such a joke anyways.  All that matters is the impact that the music has on people’s lives.  It’s nice to win an award, of course.  It’s definitely a musician’s dream to win a Grammy because we all grew up thinking, “Oh, that’s the pinnacle of getting the credit you deserve,” I suppose.  I think Kendrick’s music has had a much bigger impact in a real way.  I know for me, listening to Kendrick’s music, it’s a given to me that he’s probably one of the greatest artists of the last ten years, and he’s just going to continue making amazing music.

Can we expect to see you in the crowd for some of the sets at Galax Z Fair III?

Yeah, for sure!  I want to see what’s going on there.  I’ve been kind of checked out for a while.