Essex rock’n’rollers taking on issues and keeping it DIY…
W hile many bands start out from a place of youthful exuberance, for Luke Branch, frontman of Southend’s Asylums, the origins of his band lie in distraction from real-life frustrations.
“It had been a difficult time,” Luke says of Asylums’ early days. “I’d tried to buy a house and failed. To cope, I’d sit with my stuff boxedup around me and write songs. Then I went to visit my grandad – he was a crazy old git and up for taking risks. Out of nowhere, he gave me a grand and said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ I put the money into a new band and asked my friends if they wanted to join me.”
From there, Luke and his bandmates formed a label, Cool Thing Records, through which they released debut LP Killer Brain Waves in 2016. But, as Luke explains, that’s just one aspect of Asylums’ DIY vision.
“We love vinyl, so we’ve had fun with Cool Thing,” Luke says. “We don’t want an industry machine behind us – we want an arts project feel. Our tour driver is a comedian, and when he’s not doing gigs, he’s driving us around the country. That sums up our approach.”
It’s an attitude that feeds into the sociallyaware vibe of Asylums’ second full-length, Alien Human Emotions.
“This album talks about social issues,” Luke outlines. “The song Homeowner’s Guilt is about how it’s so fucking difficult to find a place to live now. But the main theme across the record is that of detachment. I’ve felt alienated by everything I’ve seen politically and the effect that’s had on our hometown. The album art is a couple looking at a painting of Earth – that’s where we’re coming from; we’re trying to make sense of it all through music.”
However, despite the questions Luke is asking about society, he’s keen for Alien Human Emotions to leave listeners with a sense of hope. Love and understanding, he says, conquer all.
“We want our music to bring people together,” he says. “If you’re feeling trapped, alone or disenfranchised, then welcome to the club! It might not feel like it now, but everything will be okay in the end.”