First published on 20 Apr 2012. Updated on 23 Apr 2012.
Sydney, meet Light Asylum: we think you’ll like them. Joining forces with dark-electro contemporary Zola Jesus, the Brooklyn duo will be gracing the stage of Vivid Live’s FBi and Pennydrop gig. A heady mix of industrial and electro with just a little pinch (alright, a generous pinch) of Grace Jones to top it off, Light Asylum are ready to take you to places you didn’t know existed. Time Out caught up with the powerhouses that are Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello to talk about their music, politics and Sydney audiences.
So, you don’t seem an obvious pair – how did you meet?
Shannon Funchess: Bruno and I met when we were touring with some friends – we actually met the day we got into a mini van and drove across the North American continent. Over that time we got to talk a lot because there wasn’t much else to do, discovered we had similar interests in bands and making music and decided that we should get together and have a jam. It took a couple of years to happen but that’s what we did eventually. I had some shows booked and I was sick of the material I had at the time so we got together and jammed/wrote for the week leading up just to produce a set list for those shows. Those sessions produced the core of the songs that eventually made it onto our EP, like ‘Shallow Tears’.
We’ve read elsewhere that your songs often start in the form of beats: is that always the case or does it differ from song to song?
Shannon: Sometimes songs just start as conversations about what sort of song we want to write, like, “I want to write a song that makes me dance like this,”’ you know, one emotion or another.
Bruno Coviello: “For the most part the beat becomes the core of what we jam over. It’s there in the beginning then we start vibing off that – Shannon will start singing some things and I’ll play some keys and it kind of works from there.
So you’re coming to play at Vivid LIVE to coincide with you first full length album. Do you know much about the Australian music scene? What are your expectations?
Shannon: I’ve been to Australia a couple of times before when I was touring with !!! (chk chk chk) for festivals and the like. I’ve always found Australian audiences very receptive, they’re generally just happy that you’ve flown all this way to play. It’s refreshing that people aren’t standing around with their arms crossed saying, “Oh, I could see this any time.” We just hope that we’re not too jet-lagged and that the audience realises we’ve just flown 24-hours to be there. We feed off the crowd so it will help if the Australian crowd is lively.
We read a quote from you, Shannon, recently where you said you wanted to up the political ante in your more recent work. What’s the political message you’re trying to communicate?
Shannon: I guess I used the word political in a more metaphorical sense. It’s less about communicating one particular political view and more about accurately portraying the current times we live in, about humanity as it is now.
So you guys are playing with Zola Jesus in Sydney. Do you feel like you’re in the same musical family as her?
Shannon: We just found that out actually, its very exciting. We’ve never met the Nika Danilova (from Zola Jesus) but we certainly respect the imagery she’s using and the collaborations she’s doing. I guess people could associate us because we both have a dark aspect to our music.
That darkness you mentioned, is that just part of the genre you guys are trying to create or is it a conscious inclusion? Does contemporary music need more darkness?
Bruno: I don’t think we consciously try to produce dark music and I think our songs have aspects of both light and dark. Certainly, I think it’s a part of the music we listen to like industrial and electronic and house and we hope that the music takes aspects from all those influences, as various as they are.
So are you working towards a new project now that you’re album is coming out or are you planning something else?
Shannon: It’s just about touring now, for all of the Summer and some of the Fall. We just want to take the energy that we tried to capture in the studio and bring in to the stage. We both have other side-projects but our focus right now is Light Asylum and bringing that to the masses.