A lesser mortal would curl up in the fetal position if his girlfriend cheated on him with his best friend—who then died. Sean Lennon made a record about it. We caught up with the New York resident and son of John and Yoko to chat about his new album, Friendly Fire, and the art of airing one’s dirty laundry.
Why did it take eight years to write your new album?
As a musician in the industry, I just feel like the inherent character of what it means to promote yourself feels a bit tacky. I do want people to know my record is out, but there’s just something uncomfortable [about] being sort of publicly investigated.
So it’s not the touring?
No, I love touring. That’s the thing: Anything that’s musical, I love. It’s just the feeling like there’s pictures and articles of me…It starts to feel embarrassing.
It’s funny you say that, because your record focuses on what we would assume is a really private story concerning your ex, Bijou Phillips.
That’s not so bad, though. Because that’s really me and people get a chance to actually experience me in a true way. I feel comfortable with that.
It must have been awkward working with Bijou in some of the videos on the record’s accompanying DVD.
I’m used to hanging out with her but it was a gutsy decision. I wanted an actress that could play her part and there wasn’t anybody else who could do it. Of course, it was emotional. But at the end of the day, we felt closer because of everything.
Bijou cheated on you with your childhood best friend, Max LeRoy. The traditional response to this sort of thing would be to cut her out of your life. You did the opposite.
Yeah, I don’t really believe in cutting people out of my life. I don’t think it’s worth it. What happened with Bijou and Max and I was kind of like this drama and I’m not hung up on it. I just pretended to be more hung up on it for the record to make more of a story. But music and art are fantasy. It’s not a documentary. It’s not supposed to be a diary; it’s a song. I can deal with it and now Bijou is an important person in my life.
After all this time, why include a cover, let alone a T. Rex song?
Well, Marc Bolan wouldn’t even know he wrote that song if he heard it because I changed it completely. I’m a huge fan of the Marc Bolan aesthetic. And it fit in with the sort of questioning-of-relationships lyrics that I already had with the record.
Both of your parents are incredible, if very different singers. Did you ever get tips from them on using your voice?
I have a weird memory but I can’t even articulate it. You know, we play a lot of music together so my mom says a lot of things about music.
In addition to your mom, are there others from the estate who try to have a say as to how your records sound?
No. I’ve constructed my career in my own way. I go out of my way to make a point about not being this projected fantasy that people expect me to be.—Matthew Lurie
Sean Lennon plays Park West Tuesday 12.