Original Post: High Times: Ninja Sex Party Is An Orgy For Your Ears
[Canniseur: Ninja Sex Party sounds like it’s something it’s not. This is a great rock duo with a phenomenal sense of humor that comes out in their music as well as their costumes. And they have a social consciousness about them. You can’t ask for more; great music, great costumes, and great concepts. Terrific group and terrific music in old school rock n’ roll!!! Even trying some Van Halen moves on the guitar in “Danny Don’t You Know.” What an eargasm they are!!!]
Dan Avidan and Brian Wecht—known professionally as Ninja Sex Party—are two highly skilled musicians who also happen to be funny. Their formula for success follows a similar philosophy: create amazing music that also happens to be funny. When we connect by phone, Dan and Brian are prepping for the release of their latest album, “The Prophecy,” dropping October 16th, and our conversation is largely centered around the album’s creation, the band’s formation, and how a mutual creative trust is at the core of their achievements.
Musical comedy is very specific. Was it something you always wanted to pursue?
Brian Wecht: When Danny and I met in 2009, I was a full-time theoretical physicist who had long been performing comedy on the side. I was fully on the academic track, hoping someday to become a professor. It wasn’t until we started NSP [Ninja Sex Party] that I thought musical comedy could be a career.
Dan Avidan: I’d been pursuing music for my entire twenties and was in various bands in New York and Philadelphia but couldn’t get any traction. Music was in this weird space where the label system had sort of collapsed and everyone was downloading music for free. Platforms like Spotify and YouTube didn’t exist yet, so there was no real way to get your music out there. When I was twenty-eight or so, I actually stepped away from music, needing to do something else for a year, which is when I started pursuing comedy. Around that time, Lonely Island became famous, Fight of The Conchords were wildly popular, and it was sort of this lightbulb moment where I was like, “Oh, comedy music can be great music.” I knew I was good at two things [comedy and music], so I focused only on those two things. While in comedy school, I started asking my friends if anyone knew a funny musician, and I was pointed to Brian.
Was there an instant connection when you first met?
Dan Avidan: Our first meeting was by phone and we certainly hit it off as people. I think by the time you get into your thirties, there’s a healthy skepticism to everything, so I certainly felt as though there was a possibility things could go somewhere with Brian, but I’d also felt that way about previous bands. It was years into the process until we both started feeling, “This can actually be something that pays our bills.” I remember thinking the early returns were good because Brian’s a very “together” kind of guy, and certainly a great musician.
Brian Wecht: I think we felt really early on that we’re very much on the same page musically and comedically, but it was definitely a while before we thought, “Okay, this can be a career.”
From a music standpoint, was there a target you were shooting for?
Brian Wecht: It was pretty general. Our first songs were all over the map in terms of style, but pretty quickly we realized synth rock was the natural way to focus because that’s what we could do effectively ourselves. I was creating all of the instruments digitally using Garageband and Logic and it was like, “Well, Logic has shitty guitar and amazing synth, so I guess [synth] is what we’ll do.”
So the band forms, things are starting to click. Was there an “ah-ha” moment that validated all of your efforts up until that point?
Dan Avidan: There are two different moments that I can remember. The first one is when we released our second video, “The Decision,” and it got passed around our little comedy community in New York City. After ten years of doing all kinds of music, it was the first feeling of, “Oh, people like a thing I did.” It was that basic a level of feeling.
Three years later, and much larger in terms of scale, I joined a YouTube show called “Game Grumps,” which already had an established following, and it really raised the stakes for NSP. In our next live performance, there were about a thousand people there chanting for us, which was different from say the 15 people at our shows, all of whom we knew personally. Those two moments contributed to our realization that [NSP] could be a real thing.
When you’re crafting an idea for a comedy song, how does that process start?
Brian Wecht: Now we write all of our songs along with our producer, Jim Roach, who’s become a big part of Ninja Sex Party. More often than not, Jim or I will come up with an instrumental hook, and then we’ll figure out how to structure a funny song around it. The number one thing we want is for the music to be legitimately good. That’s why we now work with a producer and a backing band. As we’ve been able to do more, we want to keep the music—and the quality of the music—front and center, while also making it funny.
Creatively, what’s different about “The Prophecy” from your previous works?
Dan Avidan: As an opener, this album has a twelve-minute long song about wizards. This is our fifth album of original material, and we just tried to do things differently than before, like making everything bigger and accomplishing a lot of things instrumentally that we wouldn’t have been able to do until we had a full band behind us. Every song is kind of its own story.
We tried different modes of operation for harmonies and chords, and we really just tried not to repeat ourselves. We would much rather put all of our good ideas into every album as they come, and when we no longer have any more good ideas, we’ll call it quits, instead of making one album too many albums of lame, half-ass quality. The goal here was to push ourselves as far as we could and make the best album we possibly could.
You make the best music you can, and the rest will take care of itself.
Brian Wecht: Pretty much. Because we’re solely indie, we have our own YouTube channel that we totally control and we can put stuff out entirely on our own schedule. Our number one rule since the start has been, “Put stuff out because we’re happy with it, not because it feels like we need to put another thing out.”
Dan Avidan: One cool thing is that the band is just Brian and me. I’ve been in bands with six members and everyone has a lot of ideas, there’s a lot of jostling for position, and that’s hard. But for us, we’re very considerate of each other’s feelings when we write and we’re also very honest. If one of us isn’t feeling something that the other one is excited about, we’ll usually defer to the person who’s more excited. It’s like, “Well, if you can see it, I trust you and let’s go for it.” We’ve both gotten so many of our ideas out by this point—a decade in—that there’s really a good feeling when we enter the studio. We don’t feel stifled creatively, we feel like we can open ourselves up and let it flow. At the risk of sounding “hippie-ish,” you find that these songs are just sort of there when things are really cooking. If we really have to grind to make a song work and make it funny, it’s generally not going to end up being the best song anyway, so we usually just scrap it and move on.
Brian Wecht: We’re not perfectionists. We want to make awesome stuff, but we’re not micromanaging each other nor the people we work with.
Is the creative trust between the two of you the element that’s allowed your partnership to thrive?
Brian Wecht: While we might not always agree artistically, we trust each other implicitly. I don’t think anyone’s walked away from a writing or recording session mad. I can’t even tell you how many times one of us has been like, “I really want to do this,” and the other one is like, “I don’t see it,” and it’s like, “Okay, I’ll make it happen.” And then, sometimes, the other one is like, “Okay, cool,” or goes, “Nope, still not working,” and then we just move on.
Dan Avidan: I think it’s almost impossible to do anything for ten years with someone you don’t love or trust. It just wouldn’t last in any kind of aspect of life. The fact that we’ve gone this long without an end in sight is a pretty good sign.
Brian Wecht: What makes [NSP] a success as opposed to many other people doing other stuff, I have no idea. But certainly the fact that we continue to create—and enjoy creating with each other—is one hundred percent [a huge factor].
Dan Avidan: And we’re also really appreciative of the fanbase. We don’t really have tons of advertising money or the support of a major label, so the way we try to make up for that throughout the years is by going the extra mile for the people who buy our albums and support our music. We’re very aware of the people who have gotten us here and we just want to do right by them.
At your shows, is there a “cloud” that tends to filter up above the audience?
Brian Wecht: Honestly, only in Denver.
Dan Avidan: Denver likes to party.
Brian Wecht: When we got on stage we were like, “That’s a different smell.”
Dan Avidan: We’ll occasionally see a big puff go up somewhere in the audience, but nothing like Denver.
How about in your own lives?
Brian Wecht: I’ve smoked weed five-to-six times total, the last time being twenty years ago. But, I’ve strongly considered starting again.
Dan Avidan: I was an everyday smoker for like ten years, and I stopped years ago. Something within me changed chemically, where it went from relieving anxiety to causing anxiety, at which point I was like, “This isn’t working.” But I’m grateful for weed when thinking about my life as a whole because there certainly was a point where I had crazy anxiety and couldn’t get my brain to slow down, and weed really helped. I also love the way it made music sound and love the way it made chicken nuggets taste.
Follow @ninjasexparty and check out their new album “The Prophecy” available everywhere October 16th