ASYLUMS - INTERVIEW WITH LUKE BRANCH
Starting off as just four friends working off basic demo's from front-man Luke Branch, Southend's Asylums are about as D.I.Y as you get. Initially just making their own music as a method of creative expression they began to enjoy the idea of music production more and more and decided that they should work towards releasing it. Branch himself admitted "we didn't know if it would lead anywhere substantial, we were just doing it for fun" . They're simplistic enjoyment for making their own music combined with their love of helping new bands led them to one conclusion...start their own label , Cool Thing Records. "We didn't want to take things out of that fun place we were in and so decided to keep the whole business side internal and have a go at the marketing side too." And they have certainly kept it that way, with everyone involved with the band and the label being close friends. Cool Thing Records emanates a supportive family feel and an extra level of freedom that usually disappears as soon as a manager/label gets involved, acknowledging this luxury, "our first single, The Death Of Television is one and a half minutes long and the video has got sock puppets going crazy but it ended up on Radio 1 , if you were aiming to get on Radio 1 you would never do those things". It is this creative freedom that has allowed their success to grow.
PASSION FOR CREATIVE EXPRESSION
Branch described the Asylums and Cool Thing concepts as one big 'art project' , as the record label and band is seen as one project and both sides are treated with equal value, commenting on the recent radio 1 play of Cool Thing's Beckie Margaret, "I felt just as proud of that getting radio 1 exposure as if it had been us" , which shows an unheard of level of commitment to the art rather then self-success. Later adding, "It's all just creative expression , we're not doing it to make money, in fact we lose money whenever we release music!" . Branch revealed that the band have actively attempted to avoid drifting towards the marketable or profitable side of music, believing that "when you set out...to create a situation for external investment , it immediately changes the DNA of the creative process". As mentioned earlier, the freedom the band receive from taking the D.I.Y approach also allows them a lot more creative expression , not restricted by management timings ( "We could release new music tomorrow if we wanted to" ) and has led to them becoming one of the most intelligent, art orientated groups in the UK.
THE MUSICAL PRODUCTION PROCESS
For those who may not yet of indulged themselves in the Asylums experience, it involves a self-confessed "Primal" atmosphere with heavy synthesized riffs and an ever-present cynical, yet comical view on society. Branch explained how this primal feel "allows for the lyrics to be more experimental or message orientated." Never substituting their social messages for crowd pleasing "bland" chorus' , their debut album Killer Brain Waves compiles an intelligent collection of songs that have an obvious extra element of thought in than the average album. Branch said, "It might sound nerdy but we're all really interested in the psychology of what makes music, and the art of it, feel correct" , and this is really shows in all music they produce.
In terms of song-writing Branch seemed to share quite a similar view to me that often something as simple as a phrase or song title is enough to see the song "evolve from their... and then it just snowballs". Revealing that as soon as the debut album had been released they were raring to get back in the studio with new material. Not just Branch himself but the whole band and even everyone involved with Cool Thing Records seems to hold a real passion for what they do , often working on lowered rates and sharing favors around to move the project forward (Branch even spent the first two years in his flat with not even paint on his walls). With new music on the go, they are certainly ones to look out for this year.