Lennon and Muhl make sweet music as The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

Charlotte Kemp Muhl calls the music she and Sean Lennon make a “hybrid of our two minds.’’ Charlotte Kemp Muhl calls the music she and Sean Lennon make a “hybrid of our two minds.’’ (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
By James Reed
Globe Staff / January 2, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

If you heard nothing about the backstory, you’d still know how Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl recorded their new debut album. “The Acoustic Sessions’’ is the obvious and intimate product of a couple hopelessly in love, inspired by late-night bouts of songwriting and watching the sun rise as they finally wrapped up a recording session at 5 in the morning.

Lennon and Muhl record under the moniker The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, a name as whimsical as the nine songs that make up their new album, which hums along with classic ’60s pop and psychedelia influences.

As part of Fenway Recordings Sessions, Lennon and Muhl make their Boston debut together at Great Scott on Thursday. We caught up with the pair recently on the phone from New York to see why they finally took their songs out of their bedrooms and into the studio.

Q. It’s hard to believe that this album isn’t the soundtrack to an imaginary movie. The songs are full of cinematic overtones and capricious rabbit holes. Do you hear that?

Muhl: Well, we’re wannabe directors.

Lennon: The goal is to make music that feels filmic, because that means that it’s taking you on a trip. My favorite songs by other artists make me see things, whether it’s John Coltrane’s “Africa’’ or Miles Davis or even the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper.’’ You just close your eyes and listen to the music and it takes you somewhere.

Muhl: There’s also a narrative arc in film that you can capture in music. But instead of characters, you have instruments and counterpoints.

Q. The lyrics are very surrealistic at times but still cohesive. How does the songwriting process work for you two?

Lennon: All these songs on this record we wrote together.

Muhl: It’s a real hybrid of our two minds, late at night in bed writing together.

Lennon: It was right before we started our label [Chimera], so we didn’t have the administrative work that we have now. So we had a lot of time to hang out, write songs and demo them at night, and maybe do fun stuff like see movies and go to museums during the day. It was really a creative time.

Muhl: Every morning we’d go to a cafe and read the newspaper and get inspired by the articles we’d read.

Q. I heard the original intentions for this new album were more electric.

Lennon: Actually, the original intentions were acoustic. Three years ago, before we had a label and had just started dating and life was about building our relationship, we were an acoustic band. We’d write songs in her bedroom or my bedroom, and it was kind of innocent and simple. Then we started playing shows as a band, and our music evolved. Our friends were like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Before you put out this electric stuff, you’ve got to put out the acoustic record we heard before you became a band.’’ Literally, 15 out of 20 of our closest friends said that independently.

Q. You’re a couple, but when did you realize you were compatible enough to make music together?

Lennon: It was a year after we were dating, and it was one of the most shocking things that ever happened to me. I’ve never known anyone to hide any talent, let alone a musical one. She really kept it from me. I think she felt like everyone I knew was a musician, and she didn’t want to be another, “Hey, check out my demo.’’

Q. Charlotte, are you modest?

Muhl: Um, yes, about certain things. I’ll run around naked; I’m not modest in that sense. But I’m modest about my abilities, not about typical things.

Q. Charlotte, what did you learn about Sean from playing music with him?

Muhl: I’ve learned he’s incredibly generous in the studio, more than any other area of his life. He’s a feminist in the studio. He’s very supportive and great to work with. I’m learning better studio etiquette from him.

Q. Did you previously have bad studio etiquette?

Muhl: No, I’m just really impatient, like a little Napoleon. He’s so elegant and wise and calm in the studio.

Q. In the history of pop music’s great boy-girl duos, who are some of your favorites?

Lennon: I think it’s actually one of the genres that’s been least exhausted. Sonny & Cher — they were all right. We don’t feel too intimidated by “I Got You Babe,’’ do we?

Muhl: [Laughs.] Obviously Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. They’re aesthetically an influence but not the way they worked together. We look more to Sonic Youth or the couple from Talking Heads.

Lennon: Definitely Kim [Gordon] and Thurston [Moore, from Sonic Youth]. Even though they’re friends of mine — so I hope they don’t read this — I kind of think they’re my heroes. They’ve been together so long, and their music has never been compromised. I find them to be pretty amazing.

James Reed can be reached at

THE GHOST OF A SABER TOOTH TIGER At: Great Scott, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $15. 617-566-9014,