Little NemoGreetings to everyone and welcome to ‘Little Nemo’s backstage’!
For those who might not be aware of, Little Nemo was a French group internationally renowned for its melodic new wave sound. Moving along similar ‘sound-lines’ like those of Sad Lovers & Giants and the Chameleons, the group during its almost 10 year period of existence (1983-1992) produced a series of astonishing works; works, that still remain an absolute exemplar of new wave music’s most sentimental aspects.
Recently (2008) and to the happiness of many, the group re-united and celebrated its re-union by performing both nationally (Paris) and abroad (Vicenza, Italy). Lost Echoes, readily welcoming Little Nemo’s return after so many years decided to get in touch with the band and ask for an interview exploring the group’s story, present status and future plans.
Hope you will enjoy it!
IT >> Greetings! It is a real pleasure having you with us for this interview! You may as well start by telling us a little bit about Little Nemo’s ‘formative’ years. When did you meet and how did you decide to form the band? Moreover, why did you call yourselves Little Nemo? Is there any relation with the hero starring in McKay’s comic strips?
Vincent and Olivier met in highschool in 1981 in the southern suburbs of Paris. Vincent had a musical training and they shared many influences. Maybe the decision to form the band was a reaction, a seek to escape their too logical and scientific studies. The first years were mainly devoted to “home made music”, and after a few months of covers, this work evolved towards original songs, written with a common inspiration. Then came the first published works in 1985.
The name and early spirit have been inspired by MacCay universe. That was clearly one the arty source of the beginning for Olivier and Vincent, and the dreams of this little boy was certainly an echo to their own goals at this time. The funny thing is that the name of the band was found before the band even existed ! The pictorial or poetic themes have been the conceptual origin of different eras.
ΙΤ >> Which do you consider are among your strongest influences and what are the basic elements that define your sound? Apart from the musical synthesis there also exists the literary part. Which are the main sources of inspiration concerning your lyrics?
It is very difficult to list all our influences, since each of us has a different background … of course the Beatles, the Doors, from the 70’s the Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, then the Cure, the Stranglers, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen are within our main early influences. Then came a few contemporaries that we liked during the 80’s : New Order, Sisters of Mercy, the Smiths, Pixies.
It is a complex mixture since Vince and Ron also have ties with classical composers : Chopin, Debussy, Erik Satie …
Nowadays, some of us like bands such as She Wants Revenge, the Killers, MGMT …
Our sound, even now, has always been a balance of our various musical backgrounds, with a specific interest in melody. Our lyrics express feelings, sensations, memories, and are sometimes inspired by French or English speaking writers, such as Baudelaire, RL Stevenson, or TV dramas from our childhood (like “the Prisoner” or “the Persuaders”). But here again, it’s hard to list everyone !
ΙΤ >> I imagine that your Touching Pop live show along with Babel 17 and Mary Goes Round back in the eighties must have been among the most exciting ones. This, since you also performed altogether under the name of Teepee! However, which would you recall as your best live performance? When / where did it take place and why do you think of it as the best one? Furthermore, can you recall the strangest thing that has ever occurred during one of your gigs?
We also played a lot of concerts with Asylum Party. Lots of memories came from after shows with Babel and others !
Our best live memories are our performances in Angers and Lille during the Turquoise Fields tour : the crowd was really noisy and enthusiastic, and we played at our best. Also, our appearance at the French festival “Eurockéennes de Belfort” was a very impressive moment with a huge crowd of approximately 10 000 persons (who were fleeing the rain !) just in front of us.
Of course we have some souvenir of very funny things, such as a concert in Le Creusot, a place in the center of France. At that time Little Nemo was quite a big machine (6 on stage + crew). Our guitarists Georges and Bill had planned to come together but they were stopped on the highway by a car engine breakdown. The organizers managed to send the city mayor’s chauffeur bring them to the concert location, and they arrived in a luxury limousine from the city head office and police escort just about an hour after the due start of the concert.
About music, the most intense emotion has been the return on stage of Vincent, although he had decided one year before to stop all public performances. This was in Bataclan in Paris in 1990 Vincent climbed on stage to sing “A une passante”, based on a poem by Baudelaire. Very moving.
ΙΤ >> Really, if you had the chance of performing live with any other group in the world independent to whether it is still active or not who would that be and why? Suffice to say, you can name more than one!
(Yves) Resistance. I love that music and this is strangely the music I listen when I feel nostalgic. Their albums are still available at Infrastition but they don’t play anymore as far as I know.
(Ronan) The Cure, just to spend some time with Robert Smith !
(Vince) The stranglers, to share their wild energy.
(Bill) Bat the Lashes, because I loved their last concert in Paris (at the famous Olympia) !
ΙΤ >> Most of the ‘80s new wave fans were and still are familiarized with the new wave / dark wave terms. However, there has recently been a trend and the cold wave term -though an old one- has resurfaced. What do you believe is cold wave? Is it just music journalists’ by-product? Perhaps, a term denoting the French new wave movement of the ‘80s or does it stand for a totally different sound than that which prominent UK groups such as Sad Lovers & giants, The Chameleons, And Also The Trees, The Comsat Angels and others exemplified?
We don’t really know … there is a perpetual need and will to tag and classify music, and this is just another tag. We’ll leave it to specialists. But we have never thought that our music was close to some of the bands usually designed as “cold wave”. Maybe the themes of our lyrics were close to certain basics of the cold wave culture, but that’s all there is.
Yet, we have listened to and loved all those bands, they are part of our culture and we have bonds with some of them in France … So it’s nice to “come back to the ages”, but we’re in a different mindset now.
ΙΤ >> Taking into consideration numerous important French acts (at least those that finally managed to release a musical work apart from limited circulation cassettes) such as Clair Obscur, Opera Multi Steel, L’Enfance Éternelle, Die Bunker, Gestalt and Opéra de Nuit, to name a few, do you believe that Little Nemo share something in common in terms of sound & aesthetics?
Maybe that in a way; each of us, with its own sensitiveness, tried to express related ideas, such as building a music out of pictures. We like most of them as some more recent bands such as Dorcel or Hide and Seek. But we also feel close to other musical branches.
ΙΤ >> Thus, as a final word, would you say that Little Nemo is a cold wave act or does it bear more resemblances with the British new wave sound?
We have strong roots with British new wave sound, but with probably a French “cabaret” touch. British new wave is certainly closest to our music and we really feel “pop”. We also like cold wave Minimalism, but once again the band members have different musical backgrounds, from “progressive” rock to new wave with a set of French singers like Serge Gainsbourg … the span is wide !
ΙΤ >> You released most of your works through the Lively Art label. Lively Art was among the few record labels that managed to have a large number of releases. Is there something in specific that made the Lively Art different from other older French historical labels like V.I.S.A., Divine or Contortion for example?
We cannot tell about the others you mention. Lively Art had a coherence and there was a strong will from the management to release the Little Nemo LPs. This, added with the new term “Touching Pop”, gave it an identity and maybe attracted some curiosity from journalists. Although the bands on Lively Art were different – musically speaking – we all knew each other, and even had personal bounds between us (e.g. Asylum Party, Mary Goes Round and Babel 17).
ΙΤ >> Concentrating on the present now, there seems to be quite a mobilization with regard to reunions. Clair Obscur have recently decided to give a series of gigs and they also released some new material. Guerre Froide, Complot Bronswick and Babel 17 have been mobilized too while Opéra de Nuit were close enough in re-forming so as to perform live. In your case, what was the basic drive that made you decide for a re-union?
The envy to do it !
In fact we never completely stopped playing music, even if it was in different ways and combinations, and we all kept seeing each other, even Olivier who lives abroad. Vincent recorded 2 unreleased solo albums and appeared in compilations, Olivier is known as Doctor Olive , Yves played in a covers group closer to his rock roots. There was a first “reunification” in a same band of Vince, Ron Yves under the name Aqualites, but the musical style was different.
Still, there was a growing envy to play together, and especially on stage … and it came real during a private party in December 2007. After that, we realized we missed playing live and writing, so we discussed of a reunion and there it was !
ΙΤ >> How did you feel playing live after almost two decades? Describe us a little bit about the experience during the ‘La Locomotive’ concert in Paris and how did the audience respond?
It was a great experience, a moment of pure emotion and we enjoyed it very much. It was nice to speak with fans after the show, some of them came especially from Spain and Italy ! (and we thank all of them for their fidelity !). We felt very happy to have this opportunity to enjoy live performance, as it matched what we were looking for …:
The audience responded positively, from our point of view, although some of them may have been surprised by our more “rock” sound … it’s just the way we plan to play, with energy and emotions.
ΙΤ >> Apart from your forthcoming shows in Italy what are your plans for the future? Are you in the process of recording some new material?
Little Nemo has been a long story with some change of people, Vincent has gone for a while, and now Olivier is not in that re-forming. And even though our first motive for this reunion was live shows, we’re now willing to go further and work on new songs. We recorded drafts during summer holidays and we’d like to finalize this new album next year.
We will focus on new songs but we’ll also join the Movement One Volume 3 compilation with a cover from Dorcel, and probably a surprise from the roots with Infrastition.
ΙΤ >>Have you ever been in Greece? Are you familiar with any Greek new wave acts and would you be interested in performing live in our country?
We’ve all been to Greece as tourists and always spent great time there. Crete, Delphes, Santorin are must-sees and there are so many things to see and do on mainland and on the islands. We really enjoy people who are very welcoming to strangers, and the weather too. Also some of us are very fond of Greek mythology. We’d be very pleased to play in Greece ! why not within a “mediterranean tour” ?…
ΙΤ >> Would you like to send a message to your Greek fans?
We reserve you a surprise !
IT >> Finally, I want to thank you for this interview and of course. …the last words are yours!
Thank you to you Lost Echoes team for that interview. Adio !
Interview by Ioannis Τheodorakis