Track by Track is our series written by the Artists, giving us a little insight into their latest work. Today we feature ‘Killer Brain Waves’ which is some sweet rock ‘n’ roll …
Asylums – Killer Brain Waves (Track by track)
1. Second Class Sex
Musically we wanted a heavy opener that set the tone for the attitude of the album, in the back of my mind I had ‘Holidays In The Sun’ by Sex Pistols, ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ by Queens Of The Stone Age, ‘Search & Destroy’ by Iggy & The Stoogies and ‘Line Up’ by Elastica as vague references. We wanted a track that exploded into life. Lyrically its in a different place altogether, dealing with gender, sex and prejudice. I was thinking of Barbra Kruger’s big bold beautiful statements inspired by advertising slogans.
2. I’ve Seen Your Face In A Music Magazine
During our fourth ever gig we were heckled by a frontman from a band that had been popular a few years ago. To be fair to him we were still finding our feet but as the night progressed he got progressively more aggressive and drunk and we all found it quite sad and disturbing. In the morning I went up to my loft and fired up the 8 track and this song just came out. I was thinking about the aftermath of fame, the weight of expectancy an artist can feel and the strange personas that emerge as coping mechanisms. To me this song set us on the path to ‘Killer Brain Waves’
3. Joy In A Small Wage
This was the first song I demoed for Asylums and its still one of my favorites. It started on piano, and it took months for the lyrics to formulate and solidify. When I transferred all the music over to guitars, bass and drums it just came to life….it had a real vibe, Elvis Costello, Mudhoney, Blur maybe even Orange Juice. The line that best summarises the themes in that song is “there is a purity you see in the absence of wealth”. It was the first Asylums track to be playlisted on Radio 1 thanks to BBC Introducing.
4. Bad Influence
I’ve been a musician and artist my whole life in various projects and set ups but just prior to starting Asylums everything I had been doing musically came to a natural end, I got the classic guilt and self doubt that most artists get but this time in a big way. One Sunday I was visiting my Granddad and I think he could sense I was in need of some advice. He took me into the back bedroom and quietly gave me £1000 pounds in cash and said “don’t stop, I’m proud of you”. I was flawed by this unexpected generosity and I decided to use the money wisely, we all started Cool Thing Records with it and made the first Asylums recordings. This song is my homage to him and his belief that there is always something better around the corner.
5. Wet Dream Fanzine
A full on psychedelic trip comprised of disposable erotica, soft drink advertising, phallic ice cream cones and social anxiety. It was written very quickly after I’ve Seen Your Face In A Music Magazine, no time to think, it sent us further down the rabbit hole of surf guitars and weird sounds. Its so fun to play live and when we toured with The Vaseline’s it was Francis favourite song of ours.
6. The Death Of Television
During the first 6 months of working on Asylums I took a much needed break from Social Networking, no checking in sporadically, absolutely nothing, I think I was hiding from the world a bit. It was extremely calming and after a while it got me thinking about how much arbitrary information I was absorbing a day, a week, a year. What a distraction it had become from my true passions, writing, making art, reading and listening to music. When I was a child everyone told me TV would rot my brain, so what was Social Networking doing? Microwaving it? Around that time Jazz our guitarist was around my flat and he picked out a Dischord Records box set I had, we started revisiting Nation Of Ulysses, Rites Of Spring and Minor Threat as musical inspirations. I had the title written on my wall and it just happened.
7. Monosyllabic Saliva
This song was one that Jazz really helped shape and bring into focus, I had the riff and chorus but he got hold of it and added all these cool atmospherics and lead lines. I remember sitting my bedroom surrounded by records, lyrics, mess and dirty clothes and just watching him cook up the vibe like a madman. Lyrically its a little darker than some of the other tracks, its just about ignorant people really, about hearing opinions around you that are hateful on a daily basis and not agreeing with them in the slightest.
8. Born To Not Belong
This was the last song we worked on for the album, I finished it the day before we went on a long tour with Ash in December 2015. We worked it up on the road in soundchecks and recorded it on the 2nd January 2016. Its one of two songs one the album that reveal a bit more personal and emotional side, its about our community at Cool Thing Records all the people including myself that dont fit in anywhere apart from with each other.
9. Necessary Appliances
This was mostly written during the general election of 2015 and developed in the months that followed. We are probably at our most angular on this track, thinking of bands like Clor, Strangers, Walkmen, Gang Of Four and Weezer musically. Mike delivers some of his best bass playing on this one. Lyrically themes of consumerism, austerity and community are obvious but there is also a strange link made between contemporary political party leaders and disposable household appliances that aren’t built to last.
10. Sunday Commuters
We all still work day jobs and the music that we make happens outside of the 9 to 5, touring can be hard but we make it work. The recording for our album was made in Watford and many times we found ourselves commuting on weekends, evenings and bank holiday to get it finished. Sunday Commuters is partly about swimming against the current, getting up at 6.30 on a Sunday to make a recording session at 9.00 miles from your home…..its about walking through the deserted financial district at the weekend and feeling like an alien. Musically it owes a lot to Blur and Smashing Pumpkins and features some of the coolest harmonies on the record thanks to our drummer Henry.
11. Missing Persons
This is another one of our more emotional tracks, it was written on piano as a ballad and is about new beginnings. I had it for a while before I worked it up for Asylums but it only snapped into focus after a night in with my dog. In late 2014 my wife brought a dog back from a rescue home, never having had a pet before I was stressing. The first night we spent in alone bonding we played games, hugged and listened to two albums: Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque and Nirvana’s In Utero. The next day I took this ballad and gave it a bit of a college rock makeover then showed it to Jazz. It was his favourite demo I had played him, we took it from there. Dogs are inspirational and wonderful friends.
12. Slacker Shopper
This is probably our most extreme sounding track on the record, its about buying products online and not supporting the shops in your home town, there is also some observations about the music industry in there. I had the music for 6 months before I knew what to do with it lyrically, in that time SOUTH RECORDS opened in our home town and totally changed the listening habits of the young people in the area, they had access to great vinyl, community spirit, advice and a sense of preserving something special: the record shop. Slacker Shopper is very much influenced by that and how wonderful it is to see young people enjoying music and artwork in the physical format.
Butterfly (Secret Track)
Artistically we didn’t want to do a slow song in the main body of the record, it wasn’t about that for us. We wanted it to be full on, like life is in 2016. Go go go.
But the idea of a secret track was appealing and it seemed like a cool way to bring the pace down after we had said our bit. Butterfly is about virility, I sang it with a stinking cold at some point in 2015. It probably hints of things to come for Asylums musically. To me it has a Syd Barat quality and after 35 minutes of full on energy we wanted to give people something to soothe their minds.