The Austin Chronicle

SXSW Music Interview: Peter & Arwen Lewis

Moby Grape dad and daughter make new music together

By Raoul Hernandez, March 17, 2017, Music

All the San Francisco all-stars of the Sixties sprang from folk, blues, and country, but none crystallized Americana as succinctly as Moby Grape. My Morning Jacket's psychedelia, Drive-By Truckers' triple guitar front, and Band of Horses' deep harmonies all owe royalties to a Bay Area roots collective whose catalyst, Skip Spence, died in 1999. Peter Lewis reveals that his group's "consortium of songwriters" survives.

"As a group of musicians it's still functioning today on some level," reveals the singer-songwriter of "Fall on You" and "Sitting by the Window," short-listed Moby Grape classics. "I just put a part on [drummer] Don Stevenson's record, so we help each other when we can."

There's a finished Moby Grape LP languishing for a label, but not only does Lewis have a solo album ready for summer release, his daughter rounded up a dozen ripe Grape classics for her 2015 debut Arwen.

"The Lord of the Rings," affirms Dad. "That book was our Bible in the Sixties. I wanted to have a daughter so I could name her Arwen. And I did."

Co-produced by Austin's Freddie Krc for his local imprint SteadyBoy Records, and backed by the drummer's Explosives bandmate Cam King on guitar and Layton DePenning manning bass – all of whom played with Lewis at the Austin Music Awards during SXSW 2010 – Just Like Jack spotlights a co-write by Peter Lewis and Skip Spence titled "Sailing," written in the lost years prior to the latter's death.

"During which time, I'd go stay with him in Santa Cruz and play music all weekend," says Lewis. "In the middle of all that, 'Sailing' came up in one of our jam sessions, and I wrote this bridge to it, about a guy sitting on a beach looking at the ships. 'Cause Skip could write a hook, he just didn't have any verses. The bridge just sort of finished the song.

"Skippie was like that Joseph Conrad character, Kurtz, where he was a very charismatic person, so everyone made him their leader. He was able to actually become someone other than who everybody thought he should be. Someone who saw the whole survival syndrome as a drive toward uniqueness, and that being more God-like than anything.

"Skip had that."

Peter & Arwen Lewis

Fri., March 17 @ Stephen F’s Bar, 10pm

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