Jeffrey Lewis (born November 20, 1975) is an American singer/songwriter and comic book artist. Lewis was born in New York City and grew up on the Lower East Side. He attended State University of New York at Purchase, New York, graduating in 1997 with a degree in Literature. His Senior Literary Thesis was on the comic book Watchmen.
Lewis also lectured on the topic of Watchmen at the Institute For Cultural Studies at the University of Leuven, Belgium, in 2000, and the text of his lecture ("The Dual Nature of Apocalypse in Watchmen") was published in the book The Graphic Novel, edited by Jan Baetens, in 2001.
Starting in 2000, he spent about 2 years living in Austin, Texas, playing open mike nights, working odd jobs and distributing his autobiographical comics to local coffee shops.
Several of his musical influences have been acknowledged in his songs such as "Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror", "The History of The Fall" and "The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song", concerning the song by Leonard Cohen. Lewis' lyrics are complex and literate, often combining a nihilistic world-view with a hopeful message and sharp wit. Growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, his songs are also highly informed by his home surroundings, with songs name-dropping places such as Williamsburg, the FDR Drive and the East River.
Lewis is often regarded as part of the antifolk movement, foremost because he was one of the many bands and performers (including The Moldy Peaches, Major Matt Mason USA and Lach) who played in the 1990s at New York's SideWalk Cafe and its biannual antifolk festivals and open mic events. His music also possesses certain traits of a perceived antifolk style - a downbeat self-deprecating humor, an off-kilter singing style, a mixture of acoustic and 'punk' songs which feature themes of everyday occurrences and feelings. Lewis himself does not mind the 'antifolk' tag: "I think it's a cool title. The fact that no one knows what it means, including me, makes it kind of mysterious and more interesting than saying that you're a singer/songwriter or that you play indie rock."
After being signed by the British record label Rough Trade in 2001, Jeffrey Lewis released his first official album The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane. Also that year (in February), Lewis was visited by Kimya Dawson while living in Austin, Texas. Over the week she stayed there, they wrote five songs. These songs were later re-recorded with a full band and released by K Records under the moniker "The Bundles," on an album of the same name, in 2010.
In 2003 Rough Trade released the album It's the Ones Who've Cracked That the Light Shines Through, credited to Jeffrey Lewis with Jack Lewis and drummer Anders Griffen. His third Rough Trade record, City and Eastern Songs, was released in the UK in November 2005 and in the US in September 2006. Most of Lewis's albums also include his brother, Jack Lewis, who wrote or co-wrote and sang and played bass on a number of the songs. In October 2007, Rough Trade released 12 Crass Songs, a Jeffrey Lewis album consisting entirely of songs written by the anarcho-pacifist British punk band Crass, reworked to match Lewis's antifolk style.
He has also performed and collaborated with Kimya Dawson of The Moldy Peaches as well as Diane Cluck. Some of his hand-drawn comics appear in the cover art of his CD releases.
In June 2008 Jeffrey Lewis with his brother Jack were the support act for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks in Europe. Other well-known acts that Lewis has performed shows or whole tours with include Devendra Banhart, Jarvis Cocker, Black Dice, Adam Green, Thurston Moore, the Fall, Kimya Dawson, Beth Orton, Frank Black, the Fiery Furnaces, Daniel Johnston, Scout Niblett, the Mountain Goats, Dr. Dog, the Moldy Peaches, Cornershop, Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Wooden Wand, the Cribs, Danielson, Herman Dune, Los Campesinos, Roky Erickson, and Super Furry Animals.
The New York Times has published his writings and graphic works.
The New York Times online Op-Ed page "Measure For Measure" hired Jeffrey Lewis to write a number of short essays on the topic of songwriting, some of which he drew in comic book form. All went up on the New York Times website at intervals from 2008 to 2013.
Lewis has created a number of illustrated historical songs, usually sung while flipping through accompanying books of color drawings, including ten such pieces which are in use by The History Channel on their website.
In November 2011 The New York Times ran a feature article on Jeffrey Lewis in the Arts section of November 23, written by Ben Sisario.
In January 2013, Lewis gave an interview with Audio Antihero's Jamie Halliday for GoldFlakePaint, where he revealed that there would be upcoming releases by himself and Jack Lewis and another record with Peter Stampfel.
Lewis published a comic strip in The Guardian newspaper in London. It was entitled “What Would Pussy Riot Do?” and it was printed on the occasion of a new release of a single with the same title.