With the mind-expanding psychedelic rock outfit Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Sean Lennon (the 38-year-old son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono) and his girlfriend, model and artist Charlotte Kemp Muhl, have tripped into an enchanting realm. Since their first album, 2010's Acoustic Sessions, the duo have explored a space where songs are grand and boundaries are barely visible, if they're visible at all.
The couple's recently released LP, the otherworldly Midnight Sun, has prompted Lennon and Kemp Muhl to add three musicians to the group in order to hit the road and bring the new songs to colorful life. GOASTT will be at Dada Friday night, and DC9 at Night with Lennon about sonic films, frontal lobes and the harmful effects of fracking. (But not about his parents, because that's been played out.)
DC9 at Night: What is it about psychedelic music that appeals to you as an artist?
Lennon: When a lot of people think of psychedelic music, they think of albums like Revolver or Sgt. Pepper's or even Their Satanic Majesties Request. But for us, it's not about matching the sounds of those albums or adhering to a formula. We want to make a mind movie or a sonic film that has a narrative structure to it and a longer form with surprising turns. The idea is to take the listener on a journey that's worth the effort for everyone. We're not trying to sound retro, but we obviously use our favorite bands as references at times. Also, we like to make something that's going to entertain us at the moment we're creating it.
Many of the songs on Midnight Sun, especially "Great Expectations" seem like they would be tough to replicate in concert. Was the live show a consideration when you recorded the album?
We didn't think about how the songs would sound live when we were in the studio at all. We decided to cross that bridge when we came to it. It's funny that you mentioned "Great Expectations," because that's the one song off of the new album we haven't played even once on this tour [laughs]. We want to learn how to play it for a show, but we haven't realized that yet.
Having a backing band seems especially necessary then.
We're really lucky though, because Jared Samuel, our keyboard player, is great at creating different sounds, and so is our other guitar player, Robbie Mangano. They both have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. I often find that I end up preferring the live versions of our songs because as we tour, we develop them and figure them out in new ways. "Great Expectations" just happened in the studio in a spontaneous moment and we didn't think much about it, other than to record it.
Another song on the album that has some complexity is "Animal."
I love that song because it feels like a puzzle to me. There's a trick to it where there's an odd number of chords and I find that compelling.
That song also has some religiously charged but humorous lyrics. You sing about Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches, and about praying for "Internet billionaires." What statement are you going for with this song?
I'm not against religion, because I think it serves a purpose in our society and it can be helpful to certain groups of people. But, for me, religion is mythology. It's not science, but more like a children's fairy tale than anything factual. So, people that find religious images on food items is really silly to me, but the song is really more about how absurd the world has become in many ways.
Do you feel there's a difference between religion and spirituality?
I do think we all have a spirit, and I think there's a lot more to life and human consciousness than science can explain. But I prefer looking to science for answers because it can be tested and vigorously logical. I think science and religion are trying to explain similar truths that are beyond our present understanding.
Then it's safe to say your practice of transcendental meditation isn't about a higher power?
Right. I don't think of TM as a religious practice, though I'm sure it can be for some. But for me, it's like a scientific method to calm my brain down and making my frontal lobe more active. It's an exercise, really. Its helps me to have about 10 percent more conscious thinking, which is good, because we make a lot of decisions in our subconscious that aren't always good, like the decision to smoke cigarettes or to eat bad foods.
Speaking of science, you've been a vocal opponent of hydraulic fracturing, which has become insanely big business here in North Texas over the past several years. What kind of change do you think you can help bring about in that realm?
It's not that I think that I, or any single group of people, can entirely stop fracking. Because of the momentum, money and power behind the fossil fuel industry, it's probably the most powerful institution on the planet. I do think we [Artists Against Fracking] can make more people aware of the damage fracking poses to our water supply, global warming and climate change. Methane is 100 times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and most people don't realize how climate change will be triggered by a globalized fracking industry.
So it's your hope to help spread that awareness.
I do think if more people understand that, they'll be more hesitant to allow any fracking to happen on their property. Any water supply is irreversibly damaged once it's been contaminated by one of the hundreds of different fracking chemical cocktails. I mean, once you frack, you can't go back.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.