Light Asylum is exactly what you hoped the future would sound like when you were a kid, as long as your childhood dream was to smoke cloves and fuck Dracula. Their music is a magisterial gene-splice of Euro post-punk, Wax Trax and gay house as interpreted by a virtuosic pianist and a singer who sounds like she could either beat your ass or shoot lightning from her fingers without it being a big deal. On the surface, the Brooklyn-based duo of Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello couldn’t be more different, but on stage and on record they are twins conjoined by a genetic predisposition to black eyeliner and an unwavering drive to drop your jaw.
Though Funchess and Coviello initially bonded over ‘80s music like Clan of Xymox and Q. Lazzarus, their chemistry is based less on taste and more on something like destiny. “After I met Bruno I just felt like, this is it,” says Funchess. “This is the music that I should have been making 20 years ago. We never had a discussion about what kind of music we wanted to make or what our sound would be. Basically the two of us go into a room and this is the sound that comes out.” The balance they strike between Coviello’s delicate melodies and Funchess’ deep, powerful vocals mirrors a dynamic that’s both totally inscrutable and entirely captivating.
In less than a year, Light Asylum has morphed from an erstwhile bedroom project into a world-touring, art-rock sensation without the benefit of a record label (the band has one four-song EP to its name, currently only available at shows). Their rise still seems secondary to the relationship, though. “We’ve both been playing music since we were kids and lived in all sorts of places,” explains Coviello. “I understand when people say that the music we make is dark, but I don’t really think of it like that. I think of it as transcendent. It’s always about trying to go there.”
In Light Asylum’s rehearsal space—a triangle-shaped nook in Brooklyn—as they run through a set, Coviello’s suspended in a nearly hypnotic state as he plays his synth parts (the band doesn’t touch computers), while Funchess’ voice (and dance moves) threatens to knock down the walls of the tiny room. At the end of a new song, they stop and look at each other. “That sounded really, really good,” says Coviello. “Do you think we can do that again?” They pause, then simultaneously turn back to their machines in agreement.
Stream: Light Asylum, In Tension