After their 2018 space inspired LP Alien Human Emotions, Southend indie-punks Asylums have their feet firmly back on the ground. The four-piece recorded their upcoming third album with legendary recording engineer Steve Albini in Chicago last year, and according to frontman Luke Branch, it has “sharper edges, is more articulate, and has greater extremes.”
When asked how this collaboration came about, Branch explains further: “We made some money on the second album and decided to not take a holiday or buy anything, instead, we decided to ask a hero if he would consider working with us. He kindly said yes, so we went on an adventure.”
Branch’s enthusiasm for working with Albini is just. Many will know Albini’s name for his work recording albums such as Nirvana’s In Utero, The Breeders Pod, and Pixies Surfer Rosa. Albini is also the founding member of American post-hardcore band, Shellac.
“He is one of the greatest recording engineers in the world, and he is an amazing artist in his own right” says Branch. “During recording, he is super focused on capturing what’s happening, and does not interject with creative ideas. During breaks and downtime, he tells stories, explains things and makes you laugh. He’s talented, intuitive and funny as hell. Electrical Audio Studios (owned by Albini) is an amazing place to work, surrounded by the spirit of our underground rock forefathers and mothers. Steve is a man who possesses so much historical knowledge about underground music and commercial music. We came back wiser.”
As if working alongside Albini wasn’t impressive enough, once Asylums were back on UK soil, they went straight into London’s iconic Abbey Road Studios to master the album with Sean MaGee. “Sean is another beautiful man, and music nerd like us” says Branch. “It felt surreal to have started a band and a record label (Cool Thing Records) back in 2014, and then find ourselves mastering a record at Abbey Road six years later.”
When asked about his top tips for running an independent label like Cool Thing Records (home to Asylums, Suspects, Indian Queens & Beckie Margaret), Branch is happy to share advice. “Know why you are doing it. Cool Thing is a support system for artists, not a traditional business. Be resilient, adaptable and stay positive. The main challenges are financial. As you grow as a label, you need more resources to match growth with growth. Sometimes, there’s a creative solution to a financial problem, so you have to approach things with a lateral mindset.”
It’s this kind of thinking that has seen Asylums release two albums, tour with artists like Ash & Iggy Pop, and garner a loyal following, both in their hometown of Southend-On-Sea, and further afield. When asked about his hopes and plans for 2020, Branch is both optimistic and realistic: “Stay mates above everything. Release more cool records, play more great shows, make great visual art, and put out more great records by our Cool Thing label mates. Oh, and remember to get some sleep once in a while.”
Sleep might have to wait if Asylums’ new album is as well received as its predecessors. The band will be sharing more details about their new record very soon. For now, watch the visuals for ‘Catalogue Kids’ (directed by Andrew Delaney), and grab a ticket to their headline show at Hackney’s Moth Club on 24th October.
Photo Credit: Kana Waiwaiku