Sean Lennon talks about the numerous projects keeping him busy: running a record label, helping out with his mom’s music and his own project, GOASTT.
|Fitting, perhaps, before Valentine’s Day: from the beginning of our conversation, it’s apparent that Sean Lennon — singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, record label president and of course, progeny of John and Yoko — is passionately, madly in love with his girlfriend.||
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GOASTT | The World Was Made For Men
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She is Charlotte Kemp Muhl, the beautiful, 22-year-old model, actress and Atlanta native who is now his co-conspirator in the couple’s latest musical venture, GOASTT. (The name is an acronym for “Ghost of A Saber-Toothed Tiger” and the story behind it is just as endearing as Lennon’s effusive amorous proclamations for her; it was taken from a play Muhl wrote when she was eight years old which Lennon came across one day as he looked through her old writings.)
“When I met Charlotte,” Lennon says, “I was touring with (2006 record) Friendly Fire and we fell in love and started our relationship. I knew that it was clearly gonna be a part of our daily sort of existence and wanted to see if we could start a band — I didn’t want to live this life where I was on the road and she was working and we were spending our time apart 60 percent of the time.”
At the time, Muhl did have something of a musical background — she could sing, casually play the guitar and had dabbled in a bit of songwriting. “One of the reasons I kinda fell for her was that she had written this song called “Cold Sun” and when she played it for me, I was blown away,” Lennon says. “I knew I was hooked on this girl.”
In his 34 years, Lennon has proven prolific and diverse in his own musical career, having released several solo albums on his own and collaborated with his famous mother as well as artists like Albert Hammond, Jr. and Japanese rockers Cibo Matto. (Many of the GOASTT work was produced by his childhood friend, Mark Ronson). He began informally giving his lady bass lessons and soon, a collaborative writing effort was underway. GOASTT was born and evolving.
So far, the songs the duo has released and played at a handful of shows in the past year are soft, dreamy, and simultaneously borderline-psychedelic and folksy. The two sing in tandem and their voices blend beautifully, Muhl cooing in a lovely upper range that’s perfectly complemented by Lennon’s own soothing harmony. Production-wise, tracks like “Rainbows in Gasoline” and “The World Was Made For Men‘ have a sonic texture as if they’ve been glazed in a 1960’s feel.
Of course, many of these elements — the â€˜60’s quality, the visual image of a young beautiful model and older, already-established male musician — have garnered comparisons to legendary songbirds Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. While they’ve been photographed, stylistically, like the duo, Lennon says the comparisons are much, much further off.
“It’s really not like that,” he says. “Serge was the maestro and he had his muse and vehicle that he was conducting everything musically through. Charlotte and I do everything equally, we work as equals.”
He continues discussing their songwriting process: “We sit and we do it as a team — it’s 50/50 for the most part. It depends a lot where we are. When we write songs on guitars I tend to be playing generally, but sometimes she’ll write a bassline and we’ll write a whole song around that. There’s no real system, really, but it definitely collaborative.”
Along with GOASTT, there’s another major endeavor that’s been keeping Sean Lennon busy: the naissance of Chimera Records, a company he’s running with friends and family, including Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto. Some of the projects Chimera’s spearheading include the soundtrack to buzzed-about indie film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (which Lennon composed on his bedroom computer) and the resurrection of his mother’s Plastic Ono Band (heâ€™s put together the recent POB show at BAM that featured not only his mother and her band, but several others — Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, Kim Gordon, Bette Midler, Thurston Moore , to name a few — playing tribute).
“Yuka helps me with the mixes, Charlotte will do the packaging, we basically do everything like that. We’re a team and we help each other with all the projects we’re talking on. Yuka’s the keyboardist in GOASTT. We’re kind of incestious that way.”
In the first half of this year, Lennon will be scoring a French film produced by Luc Besson and Vanessa Paradis as well as playing a few gigs with friend Vincent Gallo and collaborating with Greg Saunier from Deerhoof.. After all this, his next focus is mixing and mastering a GOASTT record, and releasing it, naturally, on Chimera.