ARTICLE PATRIK SANDBERG
PHOTOGRAPHY MATTHEW STONE
STYLIST CATHERINE NEWELL-HANSON
THE YEAR OF THE MAYAN APOCALYPSE COULD NOT HAVE ARRIVED WITH A BETTER SOUNDTRACK. NEW YORK DUO LIGHT ASYLUM UNLEASH THEIR DEBUT ALBUM, SHOWING US THAT THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS, NOT WITH A BANG BUT A BANGER
“The world’s changing,” says Bruno Coviello of the band Light Asylum. “I think, considering everything going on, mass culture is ready for an explosion of something new.” Earlier this year, Bruno and his bandmate, the indomitable vocalist Shannon Funchess, had to cancel our first face-to-face interview due to a turn in the tide at Occupy Wall Street. Police had arrested over a hundred protestors in Zuccotti Park, prompting many of the rest to clog the subways—which prevented the band from leaving Brooklyn.
“Something drastic has to happen in order for people to take responsibility for the fact that things are fucked up and that we accept a lot of bullshit as life and as living when we’re not living,” Funchess explains in her charmingly gruff voice— the same one that sails over the clanging drum machines, dark bass lines, and coruscating arpeggio flourishes of Light Asylum’s songs. The band’s music perfectly synthesizes dark wave and new romantic pop into hyper-aggressive, industrial power anthems. She’s speaking about current economic affairs, but the sentiment applies to the music industry as well.
“I grew up loving pretty much anything off of 4AD,” Funchess says. “I was insane about Throwing Muses and Clan of Xymox. Particularly there was this one compilation called Lonely is an Eyesore, and it had Colourbox, Wolfgang Press—you couldn’t really go wrong.”
“That’s how we bonded,” Bruno says. “We realized we had a lot of the same favorite bands: New Order, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, obviously Ministry.” Bruno and Shannon initially met when they toured together in 2007, under two different projects opening for the now-defunct art-rock act Bunny Rabbit. “We’d never met each other before, but we spent 30 days traveling in a van across the country and we got to know one another and talked about working together.” One fateful night in 2009, they had a run-in at an underground party called Poo and made plans to play a show together under the moniker that Shannon had established for her solo material, Light Asylum. The collaboration paid off, and has resulted in two years of relentlessly playing shows as one of the most mythic new acts in New York City. Rumors of big-label interest abounded until the duo opted to sign with Brooklyn-based upstart Mexican Summer, releasing their debut In Tension EP in the summer of 2011. A mix of goth industrial squall and bright, danceable pop music, it heralded the debut of a big new sound, one that Shannon says “is only a preview.”
“From the beginning of Bruno and me playing music together, I’ve always just had to push this out there,” she continues. “We’ve given a speedy birth to every new song, and it was really important to do that in order for the songs and for our audience to develop as quickly as it did. To play so many shows was part of a conscious decision to let people know we existed and to write with our audience in mind.”
Finally, after years spent cutting their teeth, they’re ready to bare them. Their self-titled album, out this month, kicks off with a barrage of thundering drum machine at the opening of lead-in song “Hour Fortress,” one of eleven tracks that represent a sonically flawless apex in the band’s primal brand of techno-rage. It’s a record that just might give mainstream music a run for its money in 2012—competition that Bruno describes as “stuff regurgitated over and over again in the pop factory.”
“I think music in the underground is starting to see some new kinds of sounds that could really infiltrate mass culture,” he explains. “People are done with the status quo in general, I think.”
For her part, Shannon doesn’t mince words—she makes mincemeat. “People are sheep. They’ll eat up anything they’re spoon-fed, but they won’t necessarily eat up Light Asylum or our new album, not as long as we’re a freethinking band. The problem is that crap sells. People are getting crap first, they’re not getting artistic work on the radio first. We have to struggle in order to get our music out to people. There is something working against people who make music without commercialism and conformity in mind, so we’re fighting. This is war.”
But like their music, Light Asylum’s outlook has its bright side. “We’re excited to be at this bend in the arc of music history,” Shannon says. “It’s a turning point. We’re excited to be pushing the envelope and giving people options to choose. Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago are more liberated, but that’s a very small part of America. All in between they probably don’t know that Light Asylum even exists.” She pauses and laughs. “We’re gonna have to get in a van and show ’em!"
LISTEN TO THE ALBUM BELOW:
Makeup Cheyenne Timperio for M.A.C Cosmetics (Top 5 Management)
Hair Fernando Torrent using Redken (L’Atelier NYC)
Stylist assistant Julian Antetomaso
Hair assistant Shinya Nakagawa
Retouching Studio Private, London
Location 205 Studio, Brooklyn