Sean Lennon is excited about his new band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, really. The only reason a yawn punctuates the end of every sentence is that he just got off a red-eye to Paris, and he has to go to rehearsal for a fashion party, and he's still recovering from a show he played with his mom and Lady Gaga and RZA in Los Angeles.
In addition to the band, he's also the head of his own label, Chimera Records, which has released three albums and a 7-inch, and will also release GOASTT's debut, "Acoustic Sessions," on Oct. 26.
Lennon says he started Chimera with his musical and life partner, Charlotte Kemp-Muhl, and their friend Yuka Honda with the vision of the label serving as an artist collective. "We want it to have the feeling of being a little mom-and-pop shop," he says. "Right now, we are keeping it all in the family. Eventually I'd like to sign some other bands, but my first goal is to get the label on its feet."
He also admits he had an ulterior motive for starting the band and label with Kemp-Muhl, a move that might raise some eyebrows, given the conflicts that can arise when romantic partners play music together. "The band and the label were ways for us to be together," Lennon says. "It was a way for us to spend time with one another, and I think we do better work when we are both working on something."
David Newgarden, who manages GOASTT in addition to overseeing the day-to-day functions of Chimera, says everyone decided to launch the label two years ago and release an album by the Plastic Ono Band in September 2009. After that initial release, which has sold almost 4,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, Chimera released Lennon's score of the indie film "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," a GOASTT 7-inch and an album by Honda's project Floored by Four.
While the label's catalog is still small, Newgarden says there's a solid upside for the acts it has released. "It's definitely a benefit to have artists who have a broader knowledge of the big picture," he says. "And it's also refreshing that the artist calls all the shots as far as marketing-it means never having to find compromises between label and artist. As a manager, a great deal of my time is spent when the goals of label and artist don't align, and it's a time-consuming and thankless task trying to find a co mpromise. Also, I think the quality of the artist's work comes through much more and it's much more unified."
Lennon agrees, but adds that certain aspects of being in control can be challenging. "We really want to make videos, but since we do everything in-house, it's hard to do video production on top of everything else," he says.
"Even if we were to do a video, I'm not sure who we'd be doing it for," he adds. "It's changed a lot since MTV stopped playing videos. Our audience is really hard to define-people who like indie and experimental music, like we make, come from all corners of the world and all age groups."