Black and white photo showing the heads of the two members of LUNGE facing in opposite directions

My Life In 10 Songs: LUNGE

It’s one of those conversations with music-loving friends that most of us have had at some point – what would it sound like if a member of one of my favourite bands made a record with one of my other favourites? All good fun, but we rarely get the opportunity to test our theories. LUNGE are that conversation made flesh and the results are everything we’d hoped they would be.

Comprised of married couple Viva – who played drums, keys and guitar (often all at the same time in elastic limbed live performances) in Joe Gideon & The Shark and before that was a member of Bikini Atoll – and Arp, drummer of Archie Bronson Outfit, all of whom were regulars within these pages. To further enhance the fantasy band experience they’ve also drafted in Arp’s former bandmate S. Windett, Slowdive’s Neil Halstead and Benjamin Woods of The Golden Dregs, and to cap it all off invited producer Dan Carey (Wet Leg, Fontaines D.C., Squid, Warmduscher, Black Midi, Kae Tempest and many more) behind the controls. The result? Something that sounds little like any of these bands, but instead inhabits its own wonderful space of vibrant, propulsive odd-pop that draws on an eclectic range of sounds from across the musical spectrum.

As they release their debut EP, we caught up with Arp and Viva to find out about the music that has shaped their musical journey.

1) What is your earliest music-related memory? What do you remember being played at home when you were a child?

Viva: My dad was a massive fan of musicals. Every Saturday morning he would wake me up at 6am before anyone else was awake and we’d creep downstairs, sit on the sofa and watch a musical that he had recorded that week on VHS. Rita Hayworth, Fred and Ginger, Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, the list goes on. And I remember my brother and I pretending to be Olivia Newton John and John Travolta dancing and singing to the Grease soundtrack. My dad was the manager for various artists, including Marianne Faithful, so I remember albums like Broken English soundtracking that time..and Elkie Brooks’s Pearls.

Arp: Earliest big impression on me was ‘Pass The Dutchie’ – my mum wasn’t that into music, but she’d gone on a date to watch Musical Youth and I remember her bringing this back and I just loved it (still do).

2) What was the first record that you ever bought? Where did you get it and do you have any recollection of the experience? 

Arp: It was either Tiffany’s ‘Think We’re Alone Now’ (incidentally mine & Viva’s first dance at our wedding reception) or George Harrison’s ‘Got My Mind Set On You’ – which I just re-lived on youtube and have transported myself back to….  Hemel Hempstead high street, 1987.

Viva: Alphaville – ‘Big in Japan’. I bought it from a shop in Stockholm. I was visiting my Swedish cousin in the 80’s. She was older than me and it was playing at all the teenage parties. I remember scrunchies, big blouses, lace and legwarmers and watching them all dance and snog. I just had to buy the record. It wasn’t the same when I got back to London.

3) When did you really start to develop a passion for listening to music? How did that come about and what were you into at the time?

Arp: When I was 11, my mum – struggling single parent – crow-barred my sister and I into a boarding school in Bath (which was quite a bohemian place then). None of my family had experience of boarding schools (or bohemian places) and although we were fortunate because it was mostly subsidised by bursaries – I was a fish out of water and really home-sick. So for a fair few years, my Walkman was my nighttime solitary sanctuary.

I started staying weekends at my mate Richard’s house, whose older brother was deep into vinyl and in a band. We’d sit in his room on weekends digging into all sorts of music and then during the weeks I’d lie in a dormitory, headphones glued, listening to cassettes on repeat for hours. I never watched tv, I missed out on that, but once a week I could go into town and spend pocket money on a cassette. Sometimes these were random and sometimes recommends. Touchstones like Beach Boys, Donovan, Love, Doors, then Talking Heads, Cure, B-52’s, Blondie, Stranglers, The The, Specials, New Order into Madchester (was a big scene for me), Spaceman 3, Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack I remember on repeat – Wayne Fontana Game Of Love!!! De La Soul – first foray into hip-hop and I was obsessed with that, Pixies into Grunge and classic rock like Cream, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, Zep, also remember a shoegaze-y period in there; Chapterhouse, 5:30, Ride etc.

I kind of hoovered up whatever I found /read about in NME /swapped and was constantly on the hunt. You figured out the other music heads and would loan or trade. I remember once swapping an inch of Kia-Ora for a copy of Brothers in Arms. By 15 we were hanging out at another mate’s house, whose dad was a relaxed art teacher (and lenient on the cheeba), which became more a King Tubby, Little Fluffy Clouds era. I was tuning into people like Lady Levi then via a Bristol pirate station. By about 16 I was into Acid Jazz and soul music. I loved artists like Roy Ayers, Terry Callier, Stevie W, Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott-Heron. The one pub that’d let us drink was a great boozer called The Farmhouse, literally old guys playing live jazz, we became regulars and would sit on Saturdays watching and listening to jazz and drinking it all in. That morphed as we got a bit older into these nights in Moles nightclub where we’d funk it up to stuff like Fatback Band, The Gap Band etc.  That’s where I first sat behind some congas (in public) which were unattended by the DJ. We were funky little fuckers thinking about it.

Viva: I came very late to music. I was an obsessive rhythmic gymnast and dancer. If any music came on, I would spiral off into pirouettes and split leaps and start choreographing new routines in my mind.  However in my 20s my body started to get injured and my brother invited me to join his band Bikini Atoll as I had also played a lot of piano when I was younger. We started going to the All Tomorrows Parties festivals in Camber Sands. It was there my eyes were opened. I couldn’t believe all this amazing music was being crammed into a Pontins. Mogwai, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Shellac, Bonnie Prince Billy, Stereo Lab, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, TV On The Radio….etc etc. Here I had my musical education all under one roof. It was beautiful. We even saw John Peel there and nervously handed him a CD of ours. It was only years later that I found out he played it on his show! (Of course we hadn’t put any contact details on the CD).

4) What was the first gig that you went to? Where was it and what was it like?

Arp: Happy Mondays headlining at Elland Road (Leeds’ stadium) in 1991. We were 14 and got a coach up to Leeds, it was beyond exciting. Aside from all the bands and Happy Mondays being everything we’d dreamed of (and doing our best Bez-ing), I remember gorgeous ladies walking around with trays attached to them, handing our Marlboros and a very high punter who climbed up a floodlight structure and got told to “get back down to earth” by Stereo MC’s. It was a magic, eye opening day.

Viva: Toyah at the Hammersmith Apollo 1982. It was great because my dad was managing her, so we had front row seats up in the balcony. I remember her mop of red hair flying around the stage and my friend and I jumping around dancing, dressed up like her. We were so young but allowed to be on our own during the show. My dad even gave me the wig she wore in her ‘Thunder in the Mountains’ video. It looked really bad on me.

5) What are your memories of starting out making music? What was the first song that you learned to play?

Arp: I started pretty late, at 17, 18. I wanted a band but had no ability or plan beyond; learn drums, start a band. Once I left school I got a job in a restaurant kitchen and between shifts, I’d cycle home – where in the garage I had a set of drums a mate had leant me. I started by drumming along to Neil Young albums. It was lone, laser focus learning. Then I persuaded mates (Sam & Dorian) to start a band and I kind of learned more as we jammed. 

Viva: I started even later than Mark. My brother Gideon convinced me to play keyboards for him. I was a dancer and in my late 20s but recovering from a knee injury so I thought why not? I’ll just do it for a bit to kill time whilst I was healing. We borrowed a Korg M1 to get going. I would go over to his flat in Shepherds Bush and play basic chords and that was it, I was hooked. I never went back to professional dancing and our band grew from there. I can’t remember what our first song was but it wasn’t very good. Of course we thought it was brilliant.

6) What was your first band? What music was influencing you at that time? What are your memories of playing your first gig and are there any recordings out there?

Arp: Archie Bronson Outfit. Our debut was at a birthday party for Sam (singer & guitarist), we set up outside his house (the basement of which we rehearsed in) and inflicted a short set on friends. Our first proper gig I think was in the King’s Head in Putney. We were quite rock-y, lots of Woodstock influences floating around – I was well into the Santana set – particularly Michael Shrieve’s drumming (we had a copy of Woodstock on vhs and would watch it in rehearsal breaks), lots of Neil Young, G Dead, as well as some slacker American influences, Palace Brothers, Songs Ohia, Pavement, some folk folks were in the mix too like Sandy Bull, Fairport… Blues, psych, more electronic music etc all came in later.

Viva: The first band with Gideon was called Basement and I was being influenced by him. He was a mad Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention fan, Jefferson Airplane, Gong and all bands psychedelic. Our first live show was a rip roaring success at The Orange in West Kensington. It was a Tuesday night and we invited everyone we had ever met, their dogs and then some….and unbelievably they all came. The place was rammed and the bar staff couldn’t cope. In those days I would step out from the keyboards, balance my high heels on my nose and fall into a backwards walkover. (The girl was still in a musical!) Something I was mortified about for years afterwards, but something I sure do wish I could do now! I’m happy to say there are no recordings of that show….

7) What are your memories of starting to play as LUNGE? What was the first song you wrote together and what do you think now when you listen back to it?

Arp: The first completed song we wrote and liked (i.e. not including ideas we discarded) was ‘Heavy Golden Swim’. It sounds pretty rough around the edges and (dance) punk-y – I’m really fond of it.

Viva: It was finally time for us to start playing together. We had talked about it for years and collaborated with one another on our various bands but not just us, as a 2 piece. I remember setting up all my keyboards on the dining room table and Mark set up his drums and then I thought… what do I play? We started jamming but it was awkward to say the least. Sort of like seeing each other naked for the first time! I had to lose my inhibitions as I’d never had a microphone in front of me like that before. I didn’t like my voice and certainly didn’t think I could sing, so I did a lot of loops and spoken word in the beginning. We managed to cobble together a couple of complete songs which was exciting but then disaster struck and I was hit by a dog on a beach and dislocated my kneecap…that’s another story….but it meant I was glued to my keyboards for a few months and Mark more and more went to the computer to learn recording and programme drums etc . Thus ‘Heavy Golden Swim’ was born and it was only then that we found our sound. Torch songs with a pumping bass line. I still love that song as it opened up the LUNGE method.

8) Which band/artist do you think has had the biggest influence on your music over the years? What is it about them that inspires you?

Arp: Probably Talking Heads, I always return to them. Masters of the avant and mainstream, groovy and angular. I love what each member does. I love the way they fused other musical cultures too (I appreciate some problems with that also) – but if ever I can’t think of what to listen to or need inspiration, it’s usually T.H’s to whom I return.

Viva: Mark Cleveland. He constantly drip feeds me songs on a daily basis to listen to, be inspired by, influence my next song. He doesn’t stop. His thirst for all music new and old is insatiable.  Without him I would still be in a musical/post rock scene if that even exists?

9) Who are some of your favourite current artists? What do you like about them?

We’re big Cate le Bon fans in our household, love how timeless her albums feel, she’s amazing. Jockstrap I really admire that album, some genius production and her voice is beautiful. Thundercat and Blood Orange still, beautiful groove music, Eddie Chacon – also love the production (John Carroll Kirby) – feels effortlessly simple, but sonically rich and melodically groovy. I really dig the Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul album that came out last year. Forever love Bonnie Billy (who incidentally has just sung on a LUNGE song that we’ll hopefully get out later this year ! ). Our daughter is obsessed with music now and I’ll often hear songs through a wall and discover things through her such as Steve Lacy – who I really love – and Childish Gambino. Sleaford Mods are amazing and are kind of in a league of their own for some cultural truth serum; love them live too. Pigsx7, the Golden Dregs new album we’re loving (the singer for whom features on our upcoming ep !). Los Bitchos. Oumou Sangare. Lonnie Holley – so much beauty and weight. I love some of the new releases on Light In The Attic and Now Again – though that’s cheating a bit as they’re mostly not current artists – though Witch reformed, so Witch !!

10) You have a new record out soon, how has your approach to making music changed since you started out, and how has your sound developed over that time? Is there a particular song on the record that epitomises what you’re aiming to achieve or that is particularly special to you for any reason?

Arp:  When we started LUNGE we were just dabbling for fun and feeling our edges, jamming things out and finding our thing. Then we bought some recording gear and had to learn how to record. The whole process has altered and streamlined over the last 2 years or so. The writing is now really focused and we’ve figured each other’s strengths out. I give lyrics to Viva, who then writes the chords/melody on a piano, before we plug in and morph it in our home studio together. ‘Moondrift’ from the EP is a good example of our process, as its finished state is a long way from its voice / piano origins and although I wrote most of the lyrics on a blistering January dog walk, on a headland in Cornwall, these ones mean the most to Viva as they remind her of her late father. So it’s a good example of our writing interplay.

EP1 is available now on CD and digital download via Bandcamp

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Interview by Paul Maps

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