Asylums are one of the most exciting live bands I’ve seen for a long time. They are fast, furious, wild, wacky and above all… have a set of great pop songs. Think Weezer and The Lemonheads with the madcap antics of The Monkees TV show. If you’re lucky enough to still have a favourite local record shop, you’ll find their music somewhere in amidst the bubblegum punk pop category.
Asylums hail from Southend-on-sea, a seaside resort on the Essex coast. To date they have released four well received 7″ singles on their own Cool Thing label; and with praise from radio and music press, plus support slots to the likes of Killing Joke, Reverend & The Makers, The Enemy and Ash, the Asylums fan base is gathering pace.
Asylums are: Luke Branch (guitar & vocals), Jazz Miell (guitar), Henry Tyler (drums), Michael Webster (bass)
Between time in the studio and a well earned holiday in the sun, Buzzin Music threw some questions at Luke Branch.
Asylums are receiving some great media support from the likes of NME, Louder Than Bombs, Buzzin Music, and radio DJs Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, Steve Lamacq, Tom Robinson, Gary Crowley & Dave Rowntree. How does that make you feel?
Luke: Supremely grateful, there’s a lot of music out there.
And what do you think of Dave Rowntree quote: ‘’Blur, if they’d grown up disgruntled, and in Seattle and signed to Sub Pop”?
Luke: I think it sums up our sound pretty well. Dave is a wonderful champion of new music and a hero to us all.
The latest single ‘Joy in a Small Wage’ made the Radio 1 Playlist. Pretty impressive. Especially as you have so far put the singles out on your own ‘Cool Thing’ label. Was setting up the label something you planned from the start?
Luke: I’d say we started planning it after our first Asylums recording session. It went so well that we wanted to try and do unique things with marketing, promotion and visuals to help the music along.
It was amazing to be put on the Radio 1 Introducing playlist after 10 months of graft. It would never happened without the support of BBC Introducing Essex an the support the previous 3 singles had built across the rest of the BBC Radio 1 and Radio 6 team’s.
Some of your songs are very catchy and have an air of familiarity about them. In particular, ‘Joy in a Small Wage’. It’s less frantic than the previous singles and very daytime radio friendly. Was there a conscious decision to release this single for those reasons?
Luke: We just put out the music that we really like. There’s no point trying to predict who will dig it or play it. We really liked the message in that song and after three punk rock bangers it’s seemed exciting to show a different side. I’m glad we did it.
It seems to me that, given there are only a few major labels in the whole world now, the music industry has turned from big business to bigger business. Do you think this monopoly has led to the music industry becoming less prone to taking risks signing new unestablished bands?
Luke: Absolutely, and I can see it from their point of view too….it’s a tough market to industrialise talent in. I have felt for some time that we are moving towards a cottage industry era for most new bands, by that I mean small teams of friends working hard to make a band’s profile grow steadily and doing it all on a realistic budget.
If Asylums were to follow in the footsteps of the Beastie Boys and make a video where each member were played by famous people (‘Make Some Noise’); given that Jazz would be played by Stephen Merchant, who would best play the rest of the band?
Luke: Mike would be played by Ted Danson, Henry by Sesame Street’s Big Bird and me by The Simpsons Sideshow Bob.
I’ve only been to Southend-on-sea once. It reminded me of my childhood seaside holidays to Margate in Kent. Lots of amusements, bags of candyfloss and groups of women in ‘kiss me quick’ hats. What’s it really like to live in a seaside town like Southend?
Luke: Like every town it has a mainstream current and an underground one, my Southend includes South Records, Utopia Café, Rossi’s, Southend College, The Beecroft Gallery, Old Leigh, The Railway, The Market Place, Chinnerys, Henry Burger……these places and many more are the beating heart of the real Southend arts Scene. I don’t often visit the arcades or feed the Seagulls.
I was bowled over by the energy and excitement you whipped up in your afternoon performance at the recent Camden Rocks festival; and you’re returning to Camden in September to play Koko. Bigger venue, bigger audience?
Luke: Thank you, we enjoyed Camden Rocks very much…unfortunately in the aftermath we were involved in our heaviest nights drinking of 2015 and lost a guitar!
Over the next few months we will playing quite a few huge London shows, Koko, The Roundhouse (with Killing Joke), The Forum (with The Enemy), Shepherd’s Bush Empire (with Ash) and quite honestly it’s all a dream come true. We love playing live so much and can’t wait to turn on some new fans to the music.
You’ve released 4 singles in the 12 months What’s the next 12 months plans for Asylums?
Luke: We are planning lots of exciting new single releases, videos, artwork, tours and a debut album. There are also new bands for Cool Thing to launch too. It’s going to be a lot of work but a lot of fun.
If Asylums were to star in Back To The Future, and be transported back in time, what cover version would you choose to perform as your own?
Luke: ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’ by The Beach Boys
Asylums are set for a busy end to 2015. If you like the singles, and get the chance, go see them live. They will quite possibly blow your mind.