MOUTHY ISSUE ONE
interview by Ian C Stewart
London's Naevus was formed in 1998 and features Lloyd James (voice, acoustic guitar etc) and Joanne Owen (bass etc) and released their first album, Truffles of Love, the following year on their own label, Wooden Lung. Their live debut followed in Bochum, Germany. The second album, Soil, came out on SPKR in 2001. The ghoulish, dramatic, hypnotic Behaviour is their latest release, recalling the sparse beauty of Swans.
Can you introduce us to the band?
Lloyd: Naevus is Joanne and myself. I sing, play guitar and produce various other sounds in various other ways.
Joanne: I play bass guitar and occasionally make additional noises with keyboards, and we share the writing of music. We are often joined by other musicians when we play live, most recently by John Murphy (Knifeladder, Shining Vril, Death In June's live lineup) providing drums and percussion, and Greg Ferrari playing additional guitar. Pretty much all of our recorded music is performed by the two of us, although our latest album Behaviour features some drums and percussion from John and some electric guitar by Karl Blake (Shock Headed Peters, Sol Invictus).
Where did the name Naevus come from?
Lloyd: I had a birth mark removed from my right arm when I was seven or eight years old. I used to be very fond of it and I was slightly sad when it was removed. I came across the term ‘Naevus’ in my doctor’s surgery while looking through my old medical notes at the time when we were trying to decide on a new name for the band and it just seemed to be very appropriate. The medical tone of the term suited our first batch of songs.
When did the band form?
Lloyd: Joanne and I had played in a band together for a couple of years before forming Naevus, so when that band came to an end at the end of 1997, we started planning our next.
How do your songs come to be?
Joanne: We don’t have a set way of writing songs. Each is formed in a different way. Some might begin with Lloyd having a lyric which needs suitable music, others might start with one or other of us writing a melody, creating a sound or just having an idea which we set about developing. A few songs have come about from playing together in an improvised way, and others have been written as we record them, so the piece is built gradually.
Lloyd: The lyrics are usually assembled from the notebooks I can often be found scribbling furiously in as I go about my daily business. I usually have one core idea in mind, note down various thoughts on such an idea from time to time, and finally hammer the various pieces into a coherent shape.
Who are your five biggest musical influences and why?
Joanne: the Slits, the Raincoats and Lydia Lunch for getting on with what they wanted to do, not letting their initial lack of musical knowledge hold them back, and creating some brilliant albums. Lemon Kittens for their intensity, intelligence and inventiveness, and Nico for her unparalleled vocal and musical purity. It’s unlikely that anyone would hear the direct influence of these artists in Naevus’ work, but at some level it’s there in how I approach writing and performing.
Lloyd: The biggest musical influence upon me has definitely been Magazine. Never have there been such skilful, sublime songs created as by Magazine. Second comes Luxuria, the band formed by Howard Devoto after he left Magazine, for the same reasons given above. Both of these two bands have not had a great deal of musical influence on me, their music is never less than brilliant. Howard Devoto’s lyrics are unparalleled. Third would be anything by Karl Blake, again, for his masterful lyrics. The fourth and fifth places would be taken up by Wire, Swans, Psychic TV and Death In June, but I can’t decide on an order.
What's the biggest show you've played so far?
Joanne: I think our performance at the Leipzig’s Gotik Wave Treffen in Germany in May 2002 was our biggest to date. It was in a great outdoor venue set in a park. After that, probably Rome, November 2001.
Lloyd: The Leipzig performance stands out for me too. I never thought I’d enjoy playing in the blazing sunshine, but it ended up being quite an elemental experience.
What kind of hilarity ensues when Naevus hits the road - Spinal Tap-scale lunacy, right?
Lloyd: Nothing funny ever happens to us. We’re far too serious for that.
What's next for the band?
Joanne: We are releasing two 12” singles. "Sail Away" is a four track single featuring three new Naevus songs. As well as "Sail Away" and "The Body Speaks In Tongues" it will also include the new songs "Knee-Deep" and "Occasional Table." The other single is "London," a split live 12” shared with Andrew King and David E. Williams which is being released to commemorate a performance held in August 2002. We also plan to play a few more concerts outside the UK and to work on material for the next album.
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