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Escape Velocity

Happy Accident: An Interview With Lunge
Zara Hedderman , April 3rd, 2023 09:03

Husband and wife Mark ‘Arp’ Cleveland and Viva Seifert speak to Zara Hedderman how “a pandemic and a horrendous accident” led to the formation of their new band Lunge

It’s 11am on a Tuesday morning and Mark ‘Arp’ Cleveland is finishing his breakfast; a Kinder Bueno. He shuffles into the Zoom window, and shimmies into his seat beside his Lunge bandmate – and wife – Viva Seifert. The couple are in Cornwall, which they’ve called home for eleven of the fifteen years they’ve been together. Not far away is a studio they’ve built in the middle of the woods. Its construction was not only essential for their musical practice, but a necessary means to reclaim their domestic space. “We worked out of our dining room for a while but we built this self-contained cabin for our studio which looks as if Darth Vader’s house is hidden in the woods,” Cleveland chuckles. “It’s my happy place and Viva’s slightly hated place, because I just make her do loads of takes when we’re there!”

This light-hearted exchange is followed by a swell of laughter from the pair, one of many that will punctuate the interview, and there are several points where one of them will either finish the other’s train of thought, or quiz the other about their perspective on their work. It’s extremely pleasant to be in their company, and shows an infectious chemistry that translates well into the five kaleidoscopic songs that make up their EP.

It’s been almost a decade since Cleveland and Seifert’s respective previous projects released records. In 2014, Archie Bronson Outfit put out the album Wild Crush, a year after Freakish closed out Joe Gideon & the Shark’s discography. Their work together as Lunge doesn’t attempt to pick up where either of their former bands left off, however; the only thing that carries over is Seifert’s distinct vocal style, making you feel as though you’re listening to the music made by an otherworldly entity. Coursing through the EP is an unwavering sense of melody. The release seamlessly shapeshifts between buoyant tropical numbers such as ‘Heavy Golden Swim’ and ‘Off With Their Heads’ to their atmospheric counterparts ‘This Idle Motion’ and epic closer ‘Moondrift’. There are glimpses of Of Montreal’s electro-infused pop sensibility in the EP’s brightest moments, which immediately transport the listener to a magical neon-coloured realm. Every so often, though, a line will catch you off-guard, drawing you deeper into these complex and multifaceted pieces: The words “You know you’re really on your own” linger in the listener’s ear, long after Seifert intones them in the record’s final moments.

Lunge is not the first time the couple have collaborated. Over the years, Seifert contributed vocals to various songs by Archie Bronson Outfit and Cleveland’s later band Loose Meat, and their acts regularly toured together. The prospect of them finally carving a space to create their own sound was not only inevitable but imperative. “I guess we’d just taken a bit of time off music,” Cleveland says, casting his mind back to the time preceding Lunge’s birth. “I don’t know if we ever necessarily planned to work together, but the short answer, and it’s a really boring answer that I’m really sorry to say, is lockdown. Suddenly we had all this time where we were at home and with a load of equipment. I was always a real Luddite with recording. With the Archie Bronson Outfit, we used to make music in analogue studios and I was always like, ‘I’m not gonna get involved in computers!’ When lockdown happened, me and Viv were trying to teach the kids different music bits and also trying to make our own space, and that space became recording.”

“It was planned but also not planned,” Seifert suggests. “We always thought that someday we’d do something together. Lockdown seemed like the perfect opportunity with no distractions to get on with it, basically. And then a massive thing happened that helped us progress further. I had a very bad accident when I dislocated my knee cap on a beach after a dog smashed into me. It was a pretty traumatic experience for me. I was stuck in the house for months after that, not being able to move. Arp plonked me behind a keyboard and we focused on the work we were doing. That really moved us on with the project and then ‘Heavy Golden Swim’ came together.”

“It was a pandemic and a horrendous accident that got us going with Lunge,” Cleveland concludes with a smile. Adds Seifert, “It’s a bit ironic that we’re called Lunge.”

Having already been in a band with her brother, Seifert is used to the tricky navigation required when working creatively with someone she already has a deep personal relation to. “It’s interesting. On the one hand the majority of it is great, really,” she laughs. Cleveland chimes in, feigning concern, “What was the other hand going to be?” Seifert continues, “Ultimately, you don’t have any inhibitions or awkwardness. You don’t have any self-awareness because you’re so comfortable with that person. In that sense, it may enhance your ability to experiment. I think it certainly makes me feel freer to experiment. With my brother, we’re very close, and then when you spend so much time together making music, that can naturally lead to arguments which ultimately is maybe why we stopped doing it and decided to just be brother and sister! With Mark, we’ve been together for almost 15 years so I tested him out for a while before getting fully into this project.”

As for Cleveland, “It’s really fun!” he says. “Often, when you’re in a band, you’re vying for particular ideas. That’s inevitable. It’s not really like that with Lunge, it’s quite egoless in that sense. The roles are equal because I know Vivia’s strengths are sitting at the piano doing the hard bits like writing melodies. It’s like you’ve got Carole King in the living room and I just stay out of it. I’m not going to ruin that because that’s not my skill. Once she’s got the hard bit done, we can go and produce it and she hasn’t got any interest in sitting at a computer. Our skills are very complimentary.” Seifert turns to Cleveland, “I enjoy handing a song over to you,” she says, “and seeing how you change it and warp it. Put it through the ‘Lunge Mangle’, as we call it.”

The ‘Lunge Mangle’ involves Cleveland intricately layering Seifert’s melodies (which begin on the piano) with a wash of synths, guitar riffs and commanding beats. Combined with Seifert’s acrobatic vocal performances, it’s reminiscent of another closely-tied twosome; Sparks. Like the Mael brothers, it’s maximalist electro-pop that doesn’t overwhelm the listener, but instead is like the sonic equivalent of a gallery wall in someone’s living room, full of colour and texture, peppered with hidden stories within the bigger picture. They attribute any likeness to Sparks as being nothing more than “a happy accident,” however. “For me, my basis for songwriting stems from musicals,” Seifert reveals. “I grew up on musicals and I think that’s what inspires a lot of my melodies.” Cleveland adds with sense of genuine awe, “I’ve never known anyone to write with so much melody!”

The aforementioned ‘Lunge Mangle’ can also be said to incorporate the way Seifert’s singular vocal style adds new dimensions to Cleveland’s words. “I find lyrics all over the house and poetry on pieces of paper or he’ll WhatsApp ideas to me. Sometimes I go to sit at the piano and there’ll be a new piece of writing waiting for me,” Seifert says. “His lyrics lead me down a different melody road than the one I had in my head.”

Her husband elaborates, “I write lyrics in quite a psychobabble way. When I hand them over I'll often forget some of the things I’ve even written and then she’ll get a lot more in-depth with them and interpret them her way.”

Cleveland cites the Bee Gees as a guiding force when it comes to narrative structure. “My favourite lyrics on the EP are from ‘This Idle Motion’. ‘I guess I'm not lucky, I'm just the joker but the laugh’s on me.’ I like it because they’re a nod to the Bee Gees classic line, “I started a joke, that started the whole world crying.” They felt kind of classic or universal and were therefore a bit removed from “me”, per se. When discussing the idea for the video for ‘This Idle Motion’ with the director Simon Owens, I laughed off a suggestion because it seemed too emotional and he came straight back to me and asked, ‘What's wrong with conveying emotion?’ My answer to Simon was a bit of a joke in itself, really. I quoted those lyrics. That was a bit of an epiphany and made me question myself afterwards. I realised the truth in that line and, therefore, that the lyrics are really quite personal, but sometimes the meaning takes a while to reveal itself! That has very much informed the writing we've done since.”

He asks his wife how she views the situation. “I feel like I’m singing you, your words,” she says. “I quite like the twist you put on them. Then, sometimes, you might give me some lyrics, ‘Dolphins’ for example, [which contains the refrain “maybe it’s time to call it a day”] and I’m like, ‘Hmmm…interesting’. Like every couple we did have a rocky month where we weren’t getting along particularly well.” Laughs Cleveland, “I can send you not even subliminal messages but direct messages in the songs!”

Seifert surmises, “It’s our kind of therapy, in a way.”

Lunge's debut EP, EP 1, is released on April 7