Photography by Kristiina Wilson
From the opening crashes of their debut, self-titled album’s first song, the thunderous “Hour Fortress,” it’s clear that Light Asylum exists on a different plane than their contemporaries. The duo, Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello, makes glitchy, aggressive dance music seemingly crafted for a futuristic, dystopian discotheque. It’s a far cry from the shimmering electronic sounds bubbling up from indie-rock keyboard jockeys, but Funchess’s captivating, husky voice and Coviello’s synth work make listening to their songs seem less like a choice than a necessity.
“If we have a mission, it’s to bring New York back up to its ruling status as far as underground music goes,” Funchess says.
Funchess and Coviello originally met in 2007, when both were on tour with a band called Bunny Rabbit. But it wasn’t until two years later at a party that they reconnected and decided to give playing together a shot.
“She mentioned she had some shows booked and needed to write down a short set so we could play them,” Coviello says. “So she called me up and was like, ‘Are you down to go jam?’ We ended up meeting on a Wednesday and played a show on Saturday.”
“I’m glad that Bruno was down to do it, because it was ultimately the right music and style,” Funchess says. “I moved to New York and searched for the right collaboration to make this Light Asylum sound.”
That sound is an attempt to recapture the energy of music movements started by gay people who came before them.
“I think gay people are in so many scenes,” Coviello says. “They’ve been at the core of punk rock, New Wave, dance music, even glam rock.”
Disco, of course, was reviled in its time largely because of its gay and non-white followings, something not lost on the queer, multi-racial duo.
“Before then, no one really wanted to talk about being gay, so everyone was just sort of flirting with androgyny,” Coviello says. “Disco is kind of like, ‘We’re gay, we’re here, we’re making music.’ ”
Light Asylum (Mexican Summer) is out now.