by Charlotte McManus
With their unique blend of dancefloor-shaking synth-pop beats and singer Shannon Funchess’ unearthly heaven-to-hell vocals, Light Asylum are easily one of the most significant acts to emerge out of Brooklyn’s underground scene in the last ten years. Having just released their debut self-titled full-length, Flux caught up with the duo on the eve of their intense (and very sweaty) one-off gig in East London’s venue The Nest.
FLUX: Tell us about your upcoming album. What were the kinds of inspirations and influences behind it?
SF: We really wanted the album to be an introduction to the sound of Light Asylum, but in many ways, it’s a culmination of what we’ve been doing for the past three years; including ‘Shallow Tears’, which was the first song we ever released after Bruno joined the band, and ‘A Certain Person’, which was also featured on the [In Tensions] EP. We’re both inspired by so many different kinds of dance music – industrial, house, freestyle, new wave – and we really wanted to produce a body of work that would have the longevity of some the albums we were always inspired by. But the influences really come from everywhere, like the current state of the world right now, in the middle of political and cultural uprisings – that’s really inspiring, and it’s easy to admit that affecting us too.
FLUX: How was the process of putting the record together? It’s been a long time coming…
SF. A few tracks have been in the process of being born for two-and-a-half years, while others were new inspirations from spending last summer in Berlin. The actual recording of the album only took the time waiting to get into [Light Asylum’s label] Mexican Summer’s recording studio. It was booked until December 2011, which was when we were able to get in there. A month later, we had our debut full-length.
FLUX: Your earlier work (e.g. ‘Dark Allies’) had fairly tangible Christian undertones to it – and it seems like that influence has gone into a lot of tracks on the album too. What is it about the religious aspect that appeals to you, artistically?
BC: Since music can be a catharsis at times, these themes reveal themselves in the songs – but religion is only one part of a greater story being told throughout history that involves control and power in our society. We were both raised in devout Christian homes, and that may have started us questioning the world around us in a way that isn’t favoured by the powers that be, but is necessary to know oneself. There are so many forces at work that seek to suppress people’s expression and hinder each and everyone’s own personal pursuit of truth, because information is power – but they have used religion time and time again against the people in order to control them.
FLUX: Tell us something about Light Asylum that not many people know…
SF: We are not a Christian rock group.
FLUX: You’re set to tour the US this spring – are there any plans to extend that to Europe (aside from tonight’s show)?
SF: We’ll tour the U.K. and E.U. for most of June and August, as well as a fall tour October-November.
FLUX: What’s one of the most memorable moments you’ve ever had on tour?
SF: Performing an improvisational set with [experimental US performance artist/musician] Laurie Anderson in Austria for the Donau Festival this April was pretty memorable. She’s great, and we highly respect her as a legend and a person.
FLUX: You once said that there are “No laptops on stage – EVER” during your live sets. Is this still the case?
BC: Some of our favourite acts use laptops on stage, but we made a choice early on to make the most out of the live shows, and get up there and engage our instruments – even if that means sweating bullets into our keyboards, ’cause that’s what we were inspired to do.
FLUX: Your music is gaining a reputation for appealing to a whole host of different audiences. Is there ever any tension between making the music you want to make and appealing to a big an audience as possible?
BC: We really welcome a wide audience and are excited to have as many people as possible get the chance to hear us, but we’ve never made any sort of comprise in our sound.
FLUX: Shannon, you’ve done guest vocals for names like Teengirl Fantasy and Ford & Lopatin – do you have any more collaborations in the works?
SF: Yes – a song and writing collaboration with The Knife and Emily Roysdon that will appear on The Knife’s next album.
FLUX: What about other acts collaborating with Light Asylum? Can we expect anything along those lines?
SF: Hope so, but nothing in the works yet. Would have been great to work with Malcom McLaren, or have someone like FLOOD or Alan Moulder do re-edits/extended versions of our songs.
FLUX: Are there ever any drawbacks to working as a duo?
SF: Carrying all your own gear.
FLUX: And finally… what are your views on 2012’s impending apocalypse?
SF: Not sure what’s going to happen… just hope to be somewhere nice with loved ones if anything should actually go down.
Light Asylum’s self-titled album is out now. For details on upcoming UK tour dates, check out the band’s website at www.lightasylum.com
Music Article by Charlotte McManus