Sean Lennon didn’t expect that when his band, The Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger, got the opportunity to open a tour last summer for Primus that it would lead to anything more than a little more exposure for his group and a chance to get to know Les Claypool and his band.
That tour ultimately led to a new band called Claypool Lennon Delirium, an album — the newly released “Monolith of Phobos” — and a creative partnership between Claypool and Lennon.
Looking back, Lennon saw the signs of musical and personal compatibility the first time he jammed with bassist and singer Claypool on the 2015 tour.
“It was really funny because he was like, ‘Hey, we’re having a jamboree.’ I was like, ‘Cool,’ ” Lennon recalls during a telephone interview. "But Les was the only one there, just playing his bass. I went from thinking we were going to have some kind of like community drum circle to realizing it was going to just be me and Les jamming in a little room. I was kind of nervous because he was somebody I looked up to. Apparently that jam was what got me in the door, because he was like, 'Hey, you're playing some cool stuff.'
“It makes sense because we share a lot of tastes in terms of certain kinds of notes, like minor, flat fives and flat nines. These are the kinds of notes a lot of people try to avoid, though we tend to like them a lot. So I think there is a sort of camaraderie of weirdness."
Of course, what’s weird to one person may seem normal to the next. It's true that Claypool and Lennon — the son of former Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono — have frequently been perceived as a bit offbeat with their music.
Primus is known for the idiosyncratic bass work of Claypool, the quirky melodies of the group’s music and the odd characters and stories that sometimes populate that band’s lyrics.
Lennon, especially in The Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger, has shown a talent for accessible pop melodies, but he’s also done his share of musical projects that were a bit off of the mainstream path, including working with Ono on a variety of her projects and doing stints in the group Cibo Matto and improv duo Mystical Weapons.
Claypool Lennon Delirium will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 22, at the Britt Pavilion, 350 S. First St., Jacksonville. Tickets are $39 for reserved seats and standing room only, $29 for lawn seating, $19 for ages 12 and younger, and can be purchased online at brittfest.org, at the box office, 216 W. Main St., Medford, or by calling 541-773-6077. Patrons will not be permitted to bring alcohol to this performance.
Looking back on the recording of “Monolith of Phobos,” Lennon says he can see why his musical sensibilities blended well with Claypool’s.
“I think there is a natural chemistry between Les’ rhythmical, rhythm-forward, stompy instincts and my more songwrite-y chordal instincts,” he says. "That fused in a good way. I felt like there was a salt-and-pepper balance going on in terms of what I could offer the music. I felt like it was something that balanced well.”
The music the duo made — most of the instruments on the album are played by Claypool and Lennon — sounds like a true blend of the two men behind the project.
Like Primus — as well as Claypool’s various other projects — there is an off-kilter quality to songs like “Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, The Delirium),” “Mr. Wright,” “Breath of a Salesman” and the title track. The edges are softened by melodies and pop hooks that suggest Lennon inherited some of his father’s musical gifts. The result is a sound that blends psychedelic and progressive rock elements that is more accessible and inviting than the jagged and jumpy music for which Claypool is known.
Taking the music into live settings, Claypool Lennon Delirium will be a four-piece with drummer Paul Baldi and keyboard player Money Mark.
"Certainly it's going to sound different to that degree," Lennon says. "Baldi is an amazing drummer. He makes everything sound incredible. Money Mark is an old friend of mine. He used to play with Beastie Boys. I've wanted to be in a band with him since I was like 18. He's definitely got his own flavor. Les and I played most of the stuff on the record, and the band is bringing a different, bigger energy to it."