You’re not alone. Get to know the multi-talented musician Joshua Reuben Lewis on his patriotic protest with Gen Y and Z culture, and much more.
Hometown: Ft. Myers, Florida
Current Residence: New York, New York
Occupation: Multimedia Artist
In 3 words how would you describe your music? Urgent, Relevant, Soulful
You’ve been quoted as saying: “Who’s willing to step up and write songs that will lead us emotionally in a protest, and will lead us in a patriotic questioning; what’s going on here in ‘Generation Y&Z’ and how did this happen?” Could you explain this statement and what you see taking place in the Gen Y&Z era?
This is the first time I’ve been asked on-record to elaborate on that statement. There’s so much I could say regarding my general cultural and societal concerns. Gen Y&Z is obviously waist deep into the pool of Narcissus, impulsive consumption, and practically forgetting that the act of ‘Patience’ ever existed. We’re obviously so supercharged with attention deficit as the technological gadgetry get’s quicker by the day — I’ll just try and touch on my perspective of the present day creative-types. I believe Y & Z is blatantly sitting at such a generational vantage point.
Our influences aren’t especially tied to mega-star, ultra-famous, established canons. Within the internet age we’re able to incorporate elements from all genres, styles, and types of infamous art. The creativity is very much so the byproduct of people who live with instant access to anything they’re curious about, and the ability to sample and experiment with those discoveries. You’d hope that from this vantage point, all those within this generation would send out a positive message, something encouraging the world to see through the veneer of the past and (see through) its materialism as well. However, it seems we’re seated right inside a complex haystack of dichotomy and distraction.
I found your band name, NONVIOLENCE, to be so interesting. Does that name come from the statement mentioned previously? If not, what made you choose that name for a band?
Great question – this is one that gets thrown my way quite often. About a year ago I was reading a book called “The Art of Happiness” that a friend gave me for my birthday. It creatively explores the eastern psychologies and principles of Buddhism. There were two words that stood out immediately: non-violence and non-attachment (both equally as essential today). What I found so beautiful was how the book examined our present human evolution and created the argument that in order to succeed in evolving further, western culture would have to adopt the discipline, self control and psychology that are always related to Buddhism. It essentially became clear that it wasn’t a ‘religious’ thing at all! It isn’t about being “all for Buddha.” It’s just simply adhering , as an individual, to a higher sense of and understanding of the self.
The word, as a band name, a project name, et cetera, is just aimed to cast light on all that IS causing turmoil in our present lives – whether it be spiritually, financially, romantically, technologically, whatever; then using the power of art and community to allow those who support the project to eliminate the violent aspects in their lives. Also, I worked on a film in Southeast Asia at the beginning of this year, and after hanging out in a few pagodas, I reaffirmed my decision to bring the NV word to the West; perhaps my excitement caused the all-caps.
How were you able to mobilize your fan-base through RocketHub’s crowd-sourcing mechanism? And how would you advise other artists on using crowd-sourcing to reach out to their fans? Any 3-5 pointers?
I’d say that crowd-sourcing anything, through any sort of ‘mechanism’, is reliant on knowing your support system, deeply. I’ll always advocate the personalization of outreach and communication; taking your relationship with a present or potential follower to the next level requires more than just a mass email or repetitive ‘status update.’ It seems that so many ‘creatives’ looking to crowd-source jump into their campaigns with the mentality of “okay, so I have 700 followers across all my social media channels, I can definitely get at least half of them to respond to this,” the reality is that when you’re reaching out to people using social media, there is such a miniscule rate of exchange and people who actually open a message or click through to a link. What might also help is being clever with the rewards you’re offering a supporter. So many projects seem almost facetious to me, offering “a hug and I’ll like you forever if you give $10.” People want something that’s tangible, unique to them, and unavailable elsewhere. Write them a poem, take a photo and send them a print, make a keychain with their name on it. Lord knows I need more key chains, I’m always losing my keys.
When I listened to the album, the sense I got from it was that it was almost religious or moralistic. I say this because your lyrics carry many parables. Why do you choose to shape your lyrics in such a way? How do your lyrics affect your audience, in the way you described in the quote earlier?
These questions put a big smile on my face, a very big smile. It’s not often enough that this particular conversation comes to life. The age old debate, “Is it the lyrics or the music – lyrics or music? Which is more important?” It’s both! I’m sure of it!
Touching on religion, not sure I can keep that to a paragraph. It’s quite the conversation in itself, especially today amidst the growing rate of all the apathetic folks. As far as lyrical shaping, there is honestly no one process for me, it’s almost always something that I’m just feeling or dreaming about at a particular time. It’s a further discovery of the self or an open dialogue regarding my growth as a human hoping to make the world a better place. Perhaps within a meditation I hear words or phrases that I feel would make for great words sung alongside a melody line.
To speak of morals – if you’re observing my music as moralistic, I feel all the better about the direction this project is taking. Morals would be as tricky to elaborate on as religion. I’d definitely consider myself a ‘Modern Moralist’ if that’s acceptable. Just to touch on lyrics affecting an audience (particular to the quote), I think it goes back to mentioning apathy; there is absolutely no room for social neutrality, like lack of interest in or lack of concern for things in the world today. The human race is just evolving and expanding so rapidly, consciousness and wakefulness is so essential. I think that lyrically the music will always aim to get under the skin of the listener a little bit, perhaps flip a switch in the brain and ask exactly what it is they’re passionate about, concerned about, excited for, and able to actually impact amongst their surrounding habitat.
The music industry has been significantly changed by the technological advancements that have taken place regarding distribution platforms. these same advancements have also affected the way artists can self-promote their work so that fans can easily discover great music. In this dynamic landscape, in which areas do you think there is room for more improvement?
Another great question, one I could talk about for days. I’ll start by quoting the wonderful, innovative director Chris Milk – this is a quote that really inspires me and I’m aiming to live up to, “I have a philosophy about telling stories through multiple channels, and how we as humans are far-more-sophisticated media-consuming beings than we were 10 years ago. We can actually track these stories on multiple platforms for longer periods of time…”
The fact that content (music, video, otherwise) can be so freely exchanged, shared, and distributed is just cast in stone. The technological advancements are only getting more all-encompassing; how to be an artist, how to manage an artist, how to discover an artist, and how to support an artist. I can’t say too much in short that really expresses an area of improvement, but I am so excitedly behind the idea of adaptation. What we’re doing now is adapting to the advancements. Look at the ‘Cloud’ sharing and streaming model that has been set in motion by three mammoth-sized digital companies: Google, Amazon and Apple.
On a computer, content as data is air and invisible space, it’s data – whether it be videos, photos, or songs, what’s great about the present time is how we’re dealing with a value crisis over said content. I’m very eager to dive into the storytelling from the stance as quoted above, it’ll be really interesting to see how everyone individually or cooperatively find a successful way to create value, exchange, and distribute their storytelling tidbits.