'We're king of like weird evil twins of each other.'
Sean Lennon hasn't exactly shied away from associations with his famous parents. He works with his mother, Yoko Ono, in her Plastic Ono Band. With his own band, the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, he courts comparisons with his late father, John Lennon, by creating psychedelic music reminiscent of late-period Beatles.
Sean has inherited his dad's vocal timbre, along with his penchant for surrealism, both in lyrics and videos. But perhaps his most significant parallel with John is his decision to team up artistically with his longtime romantic partner. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (or GOASTT) represents his mind-meld with model and musician Charlotte Kemp Muhl. She shares his eccentric tastes, just as Yoko shared John's.
Given Sean's strong ties with Mom and Dad (and really, he couldn't have escaped their shadow if he'd tried), it's impressive that he's emerged as an artist in his own right. You'll see real musicians, not just a celebrity couple, when he and Muhl showcase their idiosyncratic album Midnight Sun at the High Noon Saloon on Saturday, May 31, at 9:30 p.m.
Sean and Charlotte began their own epic romance after meeting at the 2005 Coachella music festival. "For about a year we wrote letters because Sean was touring [his album] Friendly Fire," says Muhl. "He would send me homemade postcards, and we would write and text and email nonstop."
Lennon and Muhl realized they could make beautiful music together -- literally. The sweethearts collaborated on 2010's dreamy Acoustic Sessions, which they considered merely a warm-up.
"We always wanted to be a psychedelic rock band," Muhl says. "But we decided to put out the acoustic record because we weren't ready to tour and perform as a rock band. We hadn't figured out the sound in the studio."
With Midnight Sun, they've figured it out. The couple spent five years on the project, communing with one another via guitars, drums, piano and accordion.
"We're kind of like weird evil twins of each other," Muhl says of their collaborative process. "We're like brother and sister in the studio. There's a lot of tug and pull and bouncing ideas off each other."
Listening to the album is like sinking into a pleasant hallucination. "Moth to a Flame" creates a phantasmagorical soundscape with keening guitar and languid harmonies. On "Animals," Lennon shares a vision of "messages from Jesus in the grease upon the grilled cheese" over gusts of synthesized noise.
Lennon and Muhl play all the instruments on Midnight Sun. But for the tour they've put together a full-fledged rock band, including keyboardist Jared Samuel of Cibo Matto. It will be interesting to see how well the group pulls off the album's multilayered tone poems, which, according to Muhl, are strongly influenced by Pink Floyd.
I can't help asking if they're influenced by the Beatles, too.
"Yeah, I'm sure," Muhl admits, "but no more than your average band is influenced by the Beatles."