MAR 28, 2012 – JTMP has been blogging on the freethinker event and concert Rock Beyond Belief this Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the Fort Bragg, NC military base, and JTMP got a chance to interview one of the musicians Jeffrey Lewis that will be performing. This event is being held in response to a 2010 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association “Rock the Fort” event that was heavily evangelical in nature. The activist organizers of the event, such as Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, wear the uniform but spoke up as citizens and wanted equal access, and wanted to promote non-discrimination towards freethinking people such as agnostics, atheists, secularists, humanists and people who just want to be left alone when it comes to religion. (photo: Sonya Kolowrat and courtesy of TheJeffreyLewisSite.com)
Jeffrey Lewis is a musician who describes himself as anti-folk, but also does animation, video, comic books, illustrations and more. Here is the interview, and check out Jeff's cool website here.
JTMP: I love your anti-folk style, very interesting. I have to confess I was not very aware of this genre. Can you describe what the anti-folk means to you?
Jeffrey Lewis: “Anybody who was playing music at the Sidewalk Cafe in New York City in the 1990s or 2000s was automatically labeled "antifolk" no matter what kind of music you played, so the term doesn't really mean anything other than that. But it also makes sense for me, more than for some other people, because it describes a certain attitude towards writing and recording and performing that the term "singer-songwriter" would not describe. I had never heard of antifolk before I started playing at Sidewalk in 1998, but I already would not have thought of myself as a "singer-songwriter," I was more into music as a raw expression in words and sound, NOT so much the delicate craft of piecing words and melodies together. So I'm glad there's a term that already existed that seems to be some sort of description of that, a description of songwriting that falls outside of the normal image. So that's what "antifolk" means to me, if it means anything. I don't mind it, because no matter what you play there will be people who come up with a genre tag for it, you can't escape that, so at least antifolk is a more unique and mysterious tag than "indie rock" or "alt country" or "post punk" or whatever. If people want to call me antifolk I won't fight it.”
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JTMP: How did you got involved with freethinking and Rock Beyond Belief?
Jeffrey Lewis: I was raised without religion, from a long family line of people for whom religion was not much of a concern, people who were more involved with activism and social justice issues. Navigating life with a post-medieval, post-religious worldview has its own challenges, but the basic philosophical challenges of living remain the same for all people through all ages and cultures. Many philosophies and beliefs have arisen over the past few hundred thousand years, and I think there's been a general progression in human outlook from various grasping-in-the-dark explanations for the causes and effects of the world up to the modern usage of scientific method to more accurately make predictions, and to make more accurate and helpful use of the information around us. A lot of these generally atheistic thoughts come out sometimes in my songs and artwork, so I suppose this may be one reason why I was asked to play Rock Beyond Belief last year. When that festival fell through I was again asked to participate in the re-planned event, and again I agreed. So here I am!
JTMP: What are you looking for the event to do, and what do you think lies in the future for the freethinker's movement?
Jeffrey Lewis: I think separation of church and state is essential to liberty, justice and progress. Any institution, be it a school or a job or a branch of the armed forces, must not give undue weight to certain religious beliefs regardless of the personal beliefs of the people in power within that institution. I'm not a supporter of military action but if there's people in the military without religious beliefs who are being put in uncomfortable or unfair situations because of the over-reaching influence of other people's religious beliefs, then I'm glad to stand up and help these folks give voice to their situation. This helps give voice to people in similar situations who make their money in other ways too.
JTMP: Thanks for the chance to interview you, and good luck with the event and we look forward to hearing about how it went.