For the past 12 years, Dan Avidan and Brian Wecht, better known as Danny Sexbang and Ninja Brian of musical comedy duo Ninja Sex Party, have put in the work to make their way up the ranks of the comedy music game as they’ve captivated their audience with musical tales of fantasy, adventure, love, and a whole lot of dick jokes along the way.
Now, while the dick jokes still abound through their latest genre-spanning album, The Prophecy, which dropped late last week, the duo have made a conscious effort to not only continue to crank out funny, non-stop musical energy that gets the blood pumping the same way it did when they first started out, but to also build onto what they have to offer as songwriters and creative visionaries after more than a decade in the game.
We had a chance to get on the horn with the guys to chat about their new album, what made this project so different from their past work, and how Boston holds a bit of a milestone in the band’s journey. Check it out.
Jason Greenough: Let’s start with the reason why we’re here, and that is your new album, The Prophecy. What are your thoughts on the album now that it’s done and ready to set out on its own journey in the world?
Brian Wecht: We’re very excited. We love the album, and to us, it’s the best thing we’ve ever done, and we’re just excited for people to hear it. We always try to mix it up with a bunch of different styles, and try some new stuff., and we’re trying some new things with a ‘90s-type slow jam, a Metallica-y song, and a bunch of other new genres too. I’m really psyched for people to hear it.
Dan Avidan: Same. We put a ton of effort into this one. I mean, we always have, but this one finally sounds like what we hoped the band would someday be when we started.
What was the vision going into the studio to record this album? What was it, in your mind, that was going to set it apart from the previous four original albums?
Wecht: Well, first of all, thank you for thinking we had a vision. We’ve always had the ‘hey, we should do this someday’ kind of thoughts, but really, we just write whatever songs we’re feeling in the moment. The writing for this album took almost two years in total, so the only coherent vision was to make good music that was also funny, and hopefully we did that. That’s as close to a coherent vision as we have.
Avidan: Yeah, as the album writing goes on, we always try to think about what it is that we haven’t done before. A lot of the songs are based on situations we put these characters into, so at some point, you put a character through every situation they can be in, ya know? We just wanted to make sure we didn’t repeat ourselves.
Going back to what Brian said about having that one coherent vision of making good music that’s also funny. That’s been your goal for your whole career as a band, but how has that one singular mission evolved over time for you?
Wecht: The biggest evolution was when we went from being just the two of us, to having more people to work with, with the most notable being TWRP, who are basically our session guys and our backing band when we perform live, and our producer Jim Roach. We went from all the music, with a couple tiny exceptions, being stuff I was doing digitally with very few instruments, to a sound that is driven primarily by real instruments. Also, we went from having no producer while we were just functioning with no real experience in that type of thing, to having a super legit, awesome producer in Jim Roach. As its evolved, the sound is more like a real band now, than just a bunch of digital instruments. I man, I love all of that stuff, I don’t want to say I don’t like it, but this sound right now is the sound we’ve always wanted to have.
With this being your eighth album overall, and your fifth original, how does this one feel in terms of it adding to the prophecy, if you will, or the lore of Ninja Sex Party, and this universe you’ve created with your songs and music videos? How does this one feel in terms of adding to what you’ve already built?
Avidan: I think we have to credit our fans with being so creative themselves that they can piece together a lore with the random stuff we’ve thrown out there. So much of it has been ‘what is the funniest thing we can do at any given moment?’ and retroactively, the fans come together and discuss the songs before forming it into one big tapestry. But with the exception of maybe one or two songs, there’s never been any real thought on our end as to what the larger mission of these characters might be. Danny is just a superhero with no powers, and Brian is just a homicidal ninja.
Wecht: It’s kind of like writing for comic books in a sense, where you can kind of put any plot you want into any overall narrative if you really want to work for it, but like Danny said, it’s not really a super conscious decision. We don’t have a band bible where it says ‘well, Ninja Brian can only teleport twice in either direction.’ It’s not that precise.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed seeing how you guys up your last project with the next best thing over the years. Now, in that spirit, was there anything from the last original album that you took into consideration for the process of creating this one, where you felt you did something well on such and such an album, but you could also do it even better this time around?
Avidan: The only thing I can really think of was we realized with “Danny, Don’t You Know”, which is a song from our last album about going back in time to tell your nerdy, thirteen-year-old self that everything is going to be okay as an adult, that people responded to that song differently than they had of any of our songs before, because it was relatable. I think a little bit of that carried into “Wondering Tonight”, where a character gets broken up with and now they’re who that person is with now, which is another fairly universal experience. That was kind of a thought where this certain thing connected because people could relate to it, but outside of that, I don’t know if there was too much connection between albums.
Wecht: I’d say the more behind-the-scenes thing is that we got more used to writing with Jim Roach, who is not only our producer, but also our co-writer on all of these songs. I mean, I love the songs we wrote with him on our last original album Cool Patrol, but I felt like we’re all more used to each other’s styles now. For example, we have the song “The Mystic Crystal”, which is this 12-minute epic, proggy-ish medieval fantasy song, and that’s a song that we could not have written together a year or two years before we did, and that really comes from the three of us becoming a more experienced songwriting team.
That definitely shows on this album. Even with having all of this work beforehand, there still is this obvious creative growth. Now, in terms of putting the album together, what was your favorite part of the process overall?
Wecht: For me, it’s always being in the studio, and laying down the tracks. That’s the best part, hands down. We got to record the album at a legendary studio in LA, Sunset Sound, where all these incredible albums like parts of Zeppelin 4, a bunch of Van Halen and The Doors, Elton John — all of these incredible artists have worked there, and being in that space and doing our songs about wizards and dicks and stuff felt like we were really a part of history. Not to mention, it’s just fun to be in the studio with a bunch of great musicians.
Avidan: For me, it was the process of writing “The Mystic Crystal.” It was really big for me just because that was always a song I wanted to write, and Brian and I, since we started the band, we’ve taken stabs at doing longer songs that tell a story, and this one really started to come together in a cool way, better than it had before, so that was really thrilling.
Along with the music you guys put out comes the excitement for your music videos and the other digital content. With the music videos that accompany this album, did they also have that sort of thing where you felt you had to try something new this time?
Wecht: With the videos, we’re always looking for cool, new locations that we haven’t shot in yet and do cool things. The video for “Wondering Tonight” was done mostly on the Oregon coast, the video for “Thunder & Lightning” is all stop-motion animation, and that was all because we met this awesome team of stop-motion animators at Apartment D, and we’re always looking to do new things and balance live-action and animation. That’s something we’ve done for years, and we just keep trying to find new and interesting ways of doing it, and expand our repertoire of what we can do with a music video.
Avidan: It’s strange, because every song I sing will be my voice, and at some point you’ve used every instrument you’re going to use. It’s not like we’re going to bust a dulcimer out of the back of the studio, and try to do that. Like Brian said, we shot the ‘Cool Patrol’ video in a roller skating rink, so we wouldn’t want to do that again, so it’s just a matter of trying to create scenarios that haven’t been seen before. We’ve been in this band for almost 12 years now, and we’ve really covered quite a bit of ground, so it’s sort of amazing to think about.
You mention 12 years as the band. If you had a chance to talk to NSP of 12 years ago, what would you say to them about the road that was ahead of them and getting to this point in your career?
Wecht: We certainly went in with high hopes, but relatively low expectations, at least initially. We were just performing as a two-man act in comedy clubs in New York, and I would just say ‘you guys have no idea where this is going to go.’ It’s certainly surpassed any goals that i ever initially had with it, and the fact that we can have this as a career is pretty remarkable. I would tell those guys that it’s going to happen someday, so get ready.
Avidan: I guess also to enjoy it and try to relax a little bit. We’ve certainly been driven by the idea that the next album we do might be the last, but now we feel like our fans are just with us. They’ve proven themselves to be so loyal, that I think we feel pretty secure now. But the thought for the first few years was that it could go away at any moment, and it was such a new experience that I think it’s fair to say we spent a lot of time stressing about how to keep this going, rather than just enjoying the fact that it was happening. That’s been big for us recently, to just take stock and realize that it’s gone on for this long, and it’ll probably go on for a while longer, so I’d tell them to just stop and smell the roses a little bit.
That’s the last question I had for you guys. Is there anything else that goes along with the release of the album that you guys wanted to mention?
Wecht: The only thing that I can think of, as it’s relevant to you guys being Boston-based, is that I was the music director at the Improv Asylum for a few years. I’m not sure if that’s relevant to your readers, but I was performing at ImprovBoston and Improv Asylum for many years. I met my wife there, actually.
Avidan: We started in the comedy scene in New York City, and we did all of our shows there, but I think the first show we did outside of New York was in Boston.
Wecht: Yeah, it was at Geek Week at ImprovBoston in 2010, I think.