Unloading with Mystical Weapons
ABOVE: GREG SAUNIER (LEFT) AND SEAN LENNON
Mystical Weapons, a band that has only played five shows so far, is significantly adding to its résumé this weekend with engagements tonight and tomorrow at The Kitchen. But the band is comprised of two members who cumulatively have played thousands of shows: Sean Lennon (Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Plastic Ono Band) and Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), alongside video artist Martha Colburn. The band feels seasoned—a barrage of noise, a flaying drummer, and a hallucinatory display of improvisational video projections.
Interview sat down with Saunier, who offered the history of the band, some heartfelt remarks, and his boasting love of improvisation and collaboration.
ADAM O’REILLY: How long have you been playing together?
GREG SAUNIER: Our first show was about two years ago; the Plastic Ono Band was in Oakland, California, when all the members of Deerhoof were still living in the area, and they asked us to open this big show. Sean’s other band (Ghost of Saber Tooth Tiger) had another show at a smaller club, and he was looking for a local opener. A couple other bands on his label were playing the show, too, and he was playing in those bands as well; and in some kind of Sean-like logic, he was like, “Oh I know who we can get to open, me and the drummer from Deerhoof, we can just do some sort of improv or something.” And so we met the night before the show, he had some ideas for structure, and they sounded great! We got up for sound check and he turns on his guitar, and instantaneously we completely drop the ideas we had been talking about, and we go into the most brutal noise, he had millions of amps turned on, and I was bashing away. [laughs]
O’REILLY: It sounds like it just worked immediately; did you end up retaining the improvisation element from then on?
SAUNIER: Instantly, we had this rapport! Though if anything, I had to talk him into the improv element. At the end of that first sound check he was like, “Well, that was cool, but maybe I will try and write something before actually go on.” He had just made up three different songs on the spot, which sounded like real songs. For him, improvisation isn’t just an experiment or exploration. He is a composer. It’s instantaneous. It’s very wonderful, because he had so much music inside of him—it’s great to see it him come out of him.
O’REILLY: And where did you take it from there, with the two of you living on different sides of the country?
SAUNIER: I decided I was going to move to New York two summers ago, and part of it was that Deerhoof was playing a show here and I was going to be in town a few extra days. I ended up going with Sean to his mom’s estate and we recorded an album’s worth of material. It was really fun because I barely new him, he’s just a very trusting person. Once we each had a gut feeling that this was going to work, we just pressed record. Suddenly, I was so welcomed into his life and his friendship.
O’REILLY: How did Martha Colburn come become a part of the group?
SAUNIER: She is someone I have known along time through Deerhoof; she did one of our music videos. When Sean was talking with me about what sort of images we wanted to use for an album cover, he showed some images he was thinking of, and I was like, “Oh you have to see this artist I know, Martha.” Instantly he fell in love, so blown away, we called her right away. It is amazing how much he trusts his instincts—I really admire it. Once he decides that somebody he cares about someone or desires to have them around him, he doesn’t hold back, he is not guarded and is just extremely open. Martha was just invited into the band it was instantly became one-third of the band. She is completely incredible, she has such a uncanny ability for it, I have never seen anybody VJ like that with a improvisational concert, she can anticipate where we are going to go with the music. It is just incredible!
O’REILLY: For a band that has only played five shows, it has really taken off.
SAUNIER: It’s really surreal, nothing about this band seems realistic; that little club show seemed real, that was our first show, but everything since then has been on some big festival showcase or playing in Iceland, all these crazy opportunities. They are the kind of shows that a beginning band is not supposed to have. We have been really fortunate with what we have been offered, let’s put it that way.
MYSTICAL WEAPONS WILL PLAY AT THE KITCHEN IN NEW YORK TONIGHT AND TOMORROW.