Asylums are back with their brand new, brilliantly-titled album Alien Human Emotions, due out this week on 6 July via their own label Cool Thing Records.
On their second album, the band took on the challenge of ramping things up another few notches, and tackle ongoing issues in our social and political landscapes plus themes of soured relationships and bitter sex.
We're streaming the record ahead of time so you can have a first listen right now, plus a Q&A with the band about the process of making the record and the messages they wanted to get across.
Check out Alien Human Emotions:
Q&A with Asylums
What have you guys been listening to recently?
Jazz: I am currently listening to Brian Eno's 'Thursday Afternoon' whilst writing this, I found him to be a huge inspiration for the more ambient moments of our new album during the recording process.
There has already been a wealth of great new music this year and I am discovering so many emerging artists just by taking a chance on something I find in a record shop. There's a few records that haven't left the turntable recently; Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Young Fathers, Dream Wife, Daniel Blumberg, TT, Jo Passed, The Orielles and Parquet Courts.
Luke: I've been drifting into a new creative cycle for about 3 months so I'm listening to a lot of disparate styles that seemly have a thematic connection. I'm interested in placing another record in a colder city environment and music that has motion and a more industrial / angular edge is turning me on. Throbbing Gristle, Pet Shop Boys, Tom Waits and Shellac today.
Mike: I’m really into the new Telemann tune ‘Cactus’, it’s got a ‘Kraftwerk on Juice’ vibe. There’s a few new tunes that The Horse Heads have sent over too which are bangin’... they’ll be coming at ya from Cool Thing soon.
Henry: I'm currently listening to the soundtrack to the film “Babel” having not listened to it for a couple of years. Gustavo Santailalla's writing is immense on this record. Interspersed with some amazing tribal music. And “September” by Earth Wind and Fire.....
Tell us a bit about the thought process behind making this new album – was there anything in particular you wanted to get off your chests?
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Jazz: The process of making the record has been a very cathartic experience for me, it blossomed out of a darker and more uncertain time in my life which gave the overall feel of the record a far more personal feel than our debut. I feel as though I have grown in tandem with the album emotionally, I have nurtured it throughout and it has rebuilt me in return.
Luke: I certainly had some emotional pain brewing under the surface for a long time and purposely concealed it in most of our music preceding this album. For 'Alien Human Emotions' it leaked out, I imagined myself and the boys on a fictional space station detached from earth and from that perspective attempted to re-examine my life and society in general through these songs. It was kind of like a reverse engineered Ziggy Stardust concept that dealt in the same alienation.
In terms of a band unit I think this record offered an opportunity to expand ourselves musically, we worked with different song shapes, sounds and instrumentation and all of us felt freer to be expressive musically.
Mike: I felt it was important to push ourselves musically and keep it interesting... we stepped into unknown territories, in terms of playing & production. Since Luke played me the first demos, I was of a strong opinion that this record should have more space and create its own world.
Henry: The main thing we wanted to get off our chest was a second album! It's such a challenge juggling our various lives and commitments whilst putting together something so broad and adventurous takes time and patience. As we approached the end of recording the album, we spent night after night on a boat in the middle of London, thrashing out the finishing touches. After a full day's work there is something really beautiful about heading straight to a great studio and creating something you care deeply about until the wee small hours of the morning. It pushes you into musical places you've never been. And requires a lot of coffee.
There seems to be a lot around generational divides and this idea of a disaffected youth/young people feeling let down by older generations. 'Critical Mass' has a very punk vibe to it – do you feel like bands have resurged with a new energy and something bigger to say?
Jazz: I think bands will always have something bigger to say, it just depends who's willing to step up and say it. Songwriting can often be dictated by the environment you grow up in or the social/political climate. It does currently feel like there is a wave of bands taking things back into their own hands again and reclaiming control. This is exactly how the first wave of punk was born, people will only take being walked all over and lied to for so long before they snap and make their frustration heard.
Luke: I think it’s an interesting time, when we started Asylums we saw guitar music as a cult thing that was likely to become more cult as the years went on. As the social and political climate has become more and more unbearable I think the rock band has become a valid communication tool again, getting bodies in a venue, turning up the volume and spitting lyrical venom that communicates a shared emotion feels like a crucial release again. I think there is also loads of cool art across all disciplines at the moment which is re-examining the themes you mention.
Did anything change up or feel different to your last project production-wise?
Jazz: We were really keen to capture a more 'live' feel on this record, we were listening to records like Pinkerton and In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull before we went into the studio. When I first listened back to the album in full I couldn't believe how well we had captured it, our producer Thomas Mitchener was willing to go on a journey with us and experiment with different sounds and vintage equipment, his patience always puts us at ease and gets the best performances out of us.
Luke: On this record we worked in a much more compressed period of time, I sent initial demos in September 2017.....only 10 months ago. Tracking, mixing and developing visual assets were completed an unbelievable rate, we were fucking possessed.
Our producer Thomas Mitchener had a tour playing with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes just after we finished tracking in December, so we decided to mix through Christmas and January with a new guy called Chris Taylor via email and video diaries. He brought a lot of sonic ear candy to this record and enhanced the initial production, it’s been a great collaboration from start to finish with all involved.
Mike: Much of my involvement is in the Pre-production. KBW was recorded in a series of mini sessions whereas this time we had the opportunity to write our parts, get match fit and then record the whole record in one concentrated session. The result is a more rounded, thematic record which is more a body of work than a collection of songs.
Henry: One of the biggest challenges for any band is progression. We really wanted to avoid making KBW2. This album has much more depth and explores new textures and sounds. But still packs the punch you would expect from an Asylums record.
Homeowners Guilt feels like the most ‘direct’ track on the record aside from ‘Millennials’, otherwise it seems as though you’ve left things open to interpretation?
Jazz: My favourite records are the ones where you feel as though it could have been written about your life, you may have interpreted it completely different to how the songwriter intended but you feel as though it belongs to you, it's your song and always will be. Those are the records that stay with you for your whole life, through good times and bad. I hope people find something in this album that speaks to them, these are Alien Human Emotions...
Luke: It's true those tracks are the most direct in terms of sentiment, I felt they needed to be almost sloganised to reach out into the world and mean anything to anyone. The rest of the album is more layered lyrically for sure, I worked on all the lyrics as one whole piece of poetry and edited and refined them so they had a meditative quality as an overall piece.
Mike: Sure ‘Homeowners Guilt’ and ‘Millennials’ may be the most human tracks on the record. There’s more familiarity in their sentiment and structure than the more experimental tunes... there is a huge depth on the record, it’s not for snorkellers.
Henry: I like to feel like I've been taken on a journey and almost achieved something when I've finished listening to an album. There are direct tracks on here. There are experimental tracks. There are ballads. There are bangers. This is Asylums 2.0. And we love it!
What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
Jazz: We will continue to promote the album through festival season and into the end of the year, we will also be releasing new music by The Horse Heads and Suspects in the coming months on our label Cool Thing Records.
Luke: This record will be kept alive through playing live, we are going to announce some bigger headline shows soon. Connecting with people is hard if they can’t see you, hear you or read about you so we have to push really hard to achieve that without a marketing machine behind us. There is a solution for every obstacle. We don’t make long term plans often, when you cut into the present…..the future leaks out.
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