"We wrote the lyric "There's a plague going around this town", we didn't know how true it would be!" - In Conversation with Asylums
Like a scream inside a wind tunnel, Asylums have recorded one of the best albums of 2020. An album infused with the soul of Joe Strummer in its punkier elements, the flamboyance of a Brit pop era Damon Albarn at the height of the Brit Pop reign and the political wail of an on form Rage Against The Machine. We sat down and chatted with lead singer/guitarist Luke about Fatherhood, the loss of conversation in 2020 and having your dad model for the band...
We are deep into lockdown in the year of our lord 2020, a year most people want to get over and done with. How are things in Asylums at the moment?
Good question, we are best friends, our gallows humor is getting us through at the moment. We share the positives like a radio play or good reviews. Ultimately we don't take it seriously outside of the music. Pretty excited as well, we realize and hope that the album resonates and finds its audience. There's a lot of ideas on the album and weirdly they kind of match up with whats going on in the real right now. There's a line in the song Platitudes that says "there's a plague going around this town". I mean come on! We never expected to get to a third album with the financial implications of the music industry right now but here we are and we recorded it with a hero so there's that.
What are the emotions in the Asylums camp like at the moment, this close to the record?
Its more of a relief than anything else, to get to this point is a real achievement and we've put everything into this. We don't take ourselves too seriously outside of the music and we thought it would be good to put art out into the world and give something to our fans. We need to stay inspired and this record gives us that.
Let's dig deep into the creative process and journey, where does it begin and end for you?
I'll usually conceive of an album and write around that thought structure.I know when I'm bored of the themes of the record its time to move on. Bored might be too strong a word but its that type of emotion. For example on the second record which was a 'space rock' style record and we wanted this new one to be a bit more anualr and sadder in places. We listened to bands like Gang of Four and other like The Pet Shop Boys who you wouldnt necessarilly lump us in with. My wife fell pregnant around the same time which fed into it.
How was recording the record with the legendary Steve Albini like?
I've been a fan of his since I knew what music was. We knew his mindset and how he worked. Steve is the greatest, technically proficient and has such a great ear. We cam pretty close as well, we didn't stop laughing, We had a great time. I didn't think it would be as fun as it was but it was. He told me on the last day that I was a great singer and I nearly burst into tears!
The album is quite striking and very modern, a snapshot of 2020 if you will, how did that come about?
Me and my dad collaborate on the artwork, hes an illustrator and I had the two images for the album and I gave them to dad and he elevated that. That's my dads naked body on the cover, you cant get more in the family than that. After the political shenanigans on 2019, like Brexit and the macho posturing, the album didn't want to look down on anyone but it is very observational and holds the truth accountable.
This is your third album after debut Killer Brain Waves and Alien Human Emotions. Do you feel you've found the Asylums sound or are you ever going to find it?
I think Asylums is lumped into the faster punky sounds especially on the first record but we want to constantly break that down and develop it because we all love different records. For this record we were looking at the first three The Clash records and we worked from there. If we can find the Asylums sound through that lens, we feel we are heading in the right direction.
How does the band measure your successes?
Many years ago someone asked me that and my answer is to just be happy, it sounds like a cop out but ultimately the pursuit of happiness is above all else. When I'm in the ground, I want to know that I used my time above ground collaborating with humans and being happy.
What does the rest of 2020 look like for the band?
We are going to do a few more singles and some videos. We also have some new music bubbling under the surface so when that gets released who knows.