From Monday, July 5, “Jardin du Luxembourg”, the debut single from The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, will be released July 5 & 6 around the world.
A side: Jardin du Luxembourg
B side: Comic Strip
Charlotte Kemp Muhl: vocals, Wurlitzer, Mellotron
Sean Lennon: vocals, guitar, drums
Mark Ronson: bass, producer
Matthieu Chedid, guest vocals & lead guitar on Comic Strip
After a handful of acoustic gigs, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger has undergone a metamorphosis in the studio, emerging as an electric band on their first single, “Jardin du Luxembourg”, recorded by bassist/producer Mark Ronson. Full of whimsical wordplay and eclectic instrumentation, this pop gem could almost pass for a mid-1960s relic. The b-side goes modern, re-imagining Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot’s 1967 recording “Comic Strip” as a tongue-in-cheek hip-hop romp with the help of French star Matthieu Chedid (aka M).
The GOASTT: Jardin du Luxembourg (live at SXSW)
The GOASTT + M: Comic Strip
John Lennon’s son Sean rocks out hard with new project Ghost of a Saber-Toothed Tiger
by Frank DiGiacomo, NYDailyNews
Sean Lennon will rock you − when he damn well pleases.
The son of the smart set’s favorite Beatle impressed an exclusive crowd at The Rose Bar on Friday night with his latest musical project, “The Ghost of a Saber-Toothed Tiger,” which consists of himself on guitar and vocals, a drummer, keyboardist and his longtime girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl on backup vocals.
The occasion was the premiere after-party for “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead“, a lo-fi vampire film that Lennon scored. (The film also served as the unofficial theme of Lennon’s Halloween party last year at The Wooly in the Woolworth Building.)
The all-original set was “pretty heavy indie rock,” says one reveler who caught the show, “and then for the last song he asked if he could play something softer.”
Unfortunately, the crowd, hopped up on free drinks and cinematic bloodletting wasn’t exactly in a mellow mood. “They were shouting, “‘No! More metal! More rock!’ ” reports our spy, but the young Lennon stuck to his guns, closing his set with an acoustic duet with Muhl.
“Some people were still bummed it was the way he finished the show,” our spy says, but others appreciated that “the song was reminiscent of his parents” – that would be John Lennon and Yoko Ono for anyone born recently or exceptionally clueless.
He wasn’t the only famous offspring Rose Bar-goers were rubbing elbows with that night: Jake Hoffman, who stars in “Rosencrantz”, was present to watch the performance.
“People were coming up to him and going, ‘I’m such a fan of your dad’s [Dustin Hoffman] . . . and you'” laughs an insider at the event. “He was really good-natured about the whole thing, and seemed to be having a great time.”
By Eiseley Tauginas, BlackBook.com
Sean Lennon is steadily expanding his musical horizons. He’s one half of indie/folk duo The Ghost of a Saber Toothed Tiger (GOASTT) —the other half is his smoking hot model/singer/girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl—and he recently wrote the film score for anther supernatural-sounding project, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead, a vampire comedy starring Jake Hoffman, Devon Aoki, Jeremy Sisto, and Ralph Macchio, out in New York theaters today. We chatted with the decidedly down to earth musical mastermind on his day off about the origins of his band’s name, his solo projects, and the truth about working with his famous mom.
What’s the new Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger album title?
I don’t know if I want to say, because basically we’re working on two albums simultaneously. One is coming out now and another one is going to come out at the beginning of next year. I don’t know which one is coming out first. I can’t say. I actually don’t know. We’re not sure which one we want to come out first.
Are you in the same stage of recording with both?
Pretty much, I’d say we’re about 70-75% there, maybe more. It’s a strange thing, I’ve never really done two albums at once. We did it that way because we had a bunch of different songs that we wrote at different times and wanted to represent in different ways so they would belong together.
Are there distinctively different sounds for the albums?
Pretty much. The first record is going to be more stripped-down, almost like a folk record, just acoustic guitars. The other record is a full band, like an electric album. Essentially we started just as a duet with one acoustic guitar and singing, so we wanted to have one record that represented the way we began.
How did you get involved in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead?
Jordan Galland is one of my best friends. I’ve known him for over a decade, maybe 15 years. I was a rotating member in his band for years and I used to play drums or bass, or whatever was needed at the time. Then we started writing songs together. We also wrote screenplays. Basically, he’s an old collaborative partner. He wound up making Rosencrantz and it just made sense for me to try to do the score, ‘cause I had done so much work with him in the past and I kind of knew what he wanted. I was always interested in doing film scores so I wanted to try it. It was almost too convenient because I was just starting a label at the time with some friends called Chimera Music. It was a good time to try releasing something on our own and it was kind of a perfect record to be a guinea pig to try our new system of making CDs and distributing them.
What range of instruments was used in the score?
The truth is that it was such a small project that the budget for the soundtrack was like $700 or something, so basically I played everything myself. It’s just me playing keyboards and then guitars and drums and bass. On two songs I had a guy named CJ Rodriguez play trumpet and a friend of his play French horn, so I did have two horn over-dubs. And then on one song, my friend Stuart Zender played bass on the end of one song, the very finale. My girlfriend Charlotte (Kemp Muhl) sang on a couple of songs, but basically everything else is just me playing. It had to do with the budget being small but it also just had to do with me wanting to do it really quickly. It was the first time I had ever really composed anything that was arranged or difficult, so it was just easier for me to keep everything in my head as l hacked out all the parts one by one, so I wouldn’t forget what I was thinking. I’m really am proud of the whole record. I have to say, it was probably the most archetypal, inspired experience that I’ve ever had in terms of just feeling that thing of like “Wow I’m really having a breakthrough!”
How’s the new system working out so far?
I think its working out quite well. We had some glitches trying to get the CDs into a couple of bigger stores, but it was just a question of shipping boxes to the wrong cities by accident. For the most part, everything turned out great. We put out my mom’s record for the Plastic Ono Band and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead around the same time and they showed up pretty much everywhere in the world.
Who else is on the label?
The Ghost of a Saber Toothed Tiger, there’s my mother’s Plastic Ono project with Cornelius, and then my friend Yuka Honda, who also runs the label. I used to be in her band, Cibo Matto. They were like a Japanese/New York band. She now has a band called, If By Yes. The album will come out at the beginning of next year with this girl, Petra Haden. Her dad was in Ornette Coleman’s band, the same band that coincidentally recorded with my mom in 1959. We’re not like a real record label; we’re more like a collective of a few friends who wanted to self-publish. We’re not a label; we’re not really signing people. We’re not funding other bands, we’re just self-publishing. It’s really small, only three people actually.
Do you plan to keep working with your mother?
I think my mom and I are going to play a show in September. We just did a huge Yoko Ono tribute show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I helped organize and produce, that was really fun. We had people like Eric Clapton come, ‘cause he used to play in the original Plastic Ono Band with her. It was the first time they played together in the Plastic Ono Band in like 35 years, so it was really special. We also had a bunch of other really hip artists like Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth. Bette Midler was there. People were wondering: What’s the connection? It doesn’t seem like Bette would be influenced by my mom’s music, but she wound up coming because they’re just good friends. Everyone covered one of my mom’s songs and Bette covered a song that was from Double Fantasy called “I’m Your Angel” that my mom had written, kind of a love song. And she did such a really amazing vaudeville job; she turned it into sort of a comedy routine. That was really successful so we’re gonna try to do something, like a friends of Yoko/Plastic Ono Band tribute concert thing. I think in L.A. at the end of the year. I’ll be working with her then, and hopefully we’ll be putting out another Plastic Ono Band record on Chimera because that record turned out to be really great. I’d like to do another one.
Do you read your reviews?
I read what people write about me, although I’ve been advised not to. Bette Midler recently told me, “You should never read anything they write about you; it’s never good. It just doesn’t do any good. It’s always bad for you.” And I’m sure she’s right, but I guess I’m still sort of intrigued enough by what people think. So yeah I tend to read what people write, and for the most part I’ve noticed that there’s a pattern. I tend to remember the things that people say that are negative more than I remember the things that people say that are positive. I think it’s a psychological thing. We tend to remember trauma more than we remember a nice day. The thing I find really interesting about when someone is really mean, or says something really nasty, is that I always find that I cant really disagree with that person’s point of view. I find that to be disturbing, because usually when someone is really putting you down, there’s some sort of truth to what they’re saying. What’s interesting about criticism is that it’s all on some valid level. It’s hard enough to put yourself out there and then if you’re confronting everyone’s insights it’s kind of stifling, but I can’t really help it. I’m just too curious. I try to take everything with a grain of salt and see if I can see where people are coming from. A lot of people who hate me tend to say, “Oh he has a really nasally singing voice,” and you know I can’t disagree with that. I’ve never actually really thought of myself as a great singer, but I try to sing my best and when people criticize me for not singing well I sort of take note of it and think, “Alright well I’ll definitely try and sing better, but I can’t really sing beyond my means. I can only sing as well as I can sing.” Sometimes it’s helpful for people to be critical because it pushes you to try to be better.
Where did the name Ghost of a Saber Toothed Tiger originate?
I’d just started dating Charlotte and I was in her old apartment and I was just being nosy, looking through her journals and her old papers. I wasn’t doing it without her there, she saw me. And I found something really old. It was a play that she had written when she was seven and it was called the Ghost of A Saber Toothed Tiger, about these people running from the ghost of the saber toothed tiger in a Natural History Museum setting. It was supposed to be scary, but it wasn’t, it was obviously very sweet. And I thought, that’s a really great title, I think we should start a band called The Ghost of A Saber Toothed Tiger, just so that we can have a cool band name.
What are your go-to places?
My favorite New York restaurant was this place called Shopsin’s General Store. It used to be on Morton street. It was owned by this guy Kenny Shopsin and there’s actually a documentary that came out recently about them. They were the last family-run restaurant in New York. I used to go to 7A a lot in the East Village when I was younger, but I just don’t really go out to drink much because I guess I’m not single and I have a lot of work to do. I used to go to Beatrice when it was open, ‘cause I was friends with some people there, but that place closed, I just haven’t been out in like a couple years. I like to go to LifeThyme, the health food grocery store, because they have really good produce. I mainly go out if I’m with my mother, just because she and I like to go out to eat at a nice place. We like to go to Sushi of Gari. Actually she really likes to go to the nice Italian restaurants, like the fancypants ones. There’s a place called Il Nuno’s uptown. I took her there on Mother’s Day.
About The GOASTT
The GOASTT is two people, Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl. It is, in itself, a chimera; a fabulous creature made with parts of two distinctly different creatures.
Having driven my Ducati to Sean and Kemp’s house through the darkened October streets of 4 am New York to type these words, I realize the absurdity of my task. If I wrote a novel and gave its protagonists stories of origin like the ones from which the two parts of GOASTT arose, people would say I was a fabulist in need of a hyperboectomy. Or an artless sophomore. But life is allowed a liberty with plotlines that novelists are not. Take these two: Sean Lennon is a man of many hats. Like an alien who fell to earth and had to quickly assimilate humanity, he is a vast rolodex of accents, facts, farce, a myriad of motor skills (from archery to sketching) and can play any musical instrument (as if all undertakings are merely transposable keys to a song he knows by heart).
Hyper-aware, there’s almost nothing he isn’t good at… This may be the result of his legendary genetic endowment, or simply the enormous pressure of his parentage; his father was perhaps the most accessible and experimental songwriter of his century. But, just as he reached the age of 5 when his father might have reared him with the milk and honey of nurture rather than the iron fist of nature, Sean’s father was assassinated. As a consequence of this huge event and other shadows, Sean’s life has been strangely both circumscribed and exaggerated. To the insouciant improvisational “Art is a Verb!” nature of his parents was added a welter of natural anxieties that would have made Woody Allen feel at home.
When I briefly encountered Sean’s mother as an avant garde artist at Wesleyan University in January of 1966, I thought she had the most original mind I’d ever met. Later as she was dragged across the yawning screen of American hypercelebrity, I didn’t know what to think, save that she, and all around her, seemed improbable.
And improbable was the first word that came to mind when I met Kemp Muhl almost exactly 40 years later.
Though her background was as unlikely as Sean’s, hers was as private in its peculiarities as his was public. And her origins as the Georgian daughter of a military lieutenant colonel who had been nipped off to be a supermodel in New York, at about the tender age improbably beautiful girls are usually abducted – which is, chronologically at least, almost criminally young – did not in any way explain the fact that she has the other most original mind I had ever encountered.
After meeting Kemp, I followed her around- to the extent that I could move quickly enough- not, like most others, for the scenery, but because I found her casual triple-entendres, her “Kempisms,” to be so improbably delicious in my mind…
She is such a free-running spring of cool creativity, that it didn’t surprise me much when, shortly after she paired off with Sean and began to experience the musical ecosystem that is his unique mind, she revealed herself to have an utterly original sense of melody and lyrical realization as well. Her lines are like Borges short stories. I might have known.
As a symbol of her transformation for Sean, she now goes by Charlotte (her first name), much like a Native American who gets a new name upon having killed their first buffalo. Erstwhile Sean, (since his past chapters of turmoil and Shakespearean tragedy,) has shed the dark scales of his brooding artist skin for that of a newfound composer and puckish poet of an invincible fiber.
My great fortune lies in being an audience very close at hand to the gestation, birth, and early being of The GOASST. It is beautiful and strange and new. Let us watch it grow together.
-John Perry Barlow
The GOASTT Live
The score to an idiosyncratic vampire flick, composed on Lennon’s bedroom computer, Undead is dramatic and wild, inspired by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai circa early ’70s. Featuring Kool Keith and Miho Hatori on ‘Desire’. Available at the Chimera Music Store.
Romantic Comedy that connects Shakespeare, Vampires and the Holy Grail, starring Jake Hoffman, Devon Aoki, John Ventimiglia, Kris Lemche, Joey Kern, Geneva Carr, Chip Zien, Waris Alhuwalia with Ralph Macchio and Jeremy Sisto. Music by Sean Lennon. Produced by Mike Landry and Carlos Velazquez. Distributed by Indican Pictures.