An interview with Shannon Funchess of Light Asylum

AE: Well I guess that kind of answers the next question I was going to ask: So now I’d assume the answer is “not much,” but how much of your queerness do you feel is part of your music?

SF: When we first started performing we were playing like art galleries and gay parties. I think maybe one of the first times we played at Glasslands was for this party thrown by this woman, Anna Calabrese, and it was called Secret Faggot, so I guess the outting happened much sooner than what I just told you but it wasn’t anything we ever thought about. Like, we never said, “Oh we’re a gay band,” but obviously we are because both of us in it are gay. And we collaborate with other gay artists on a regular basis. We’re not afraid of the label but we don’t label ourselves as a queer band.

AE: No, that makes sense. There’s a gay band and there’s a gay, comma, band. I feel like it differs from band to band a lot. Like, queercore for example. If you take that as a genre, then that’s what they really want to be known for.

SF: Yeah, but it’s like — we don’t want to alienate anybody. We don’t want anyone to think they can’t listen to our music because it’s only music for queers. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s like you said, we have a much broader appeal. We don’t want to be stereotyped or be put into one genre that you know, people make up and it lasts for like 15 minutes and then you’ve got another label. We have a much more expansive vision. If it helps queer kids to fight and survive then I think they’ll claim it for their own, they don’t have to label it. Like, Lady Gaga, she just like totally [went after] the gay male audience [to get their love and attention], but it’s not genuine, she’s just trying to sell records, you know what I mean?

AE: Um, yes, I do know what you mean.

SF: She just uses them and they allow it, but we would never. I mean, even though there’s a gay man in our group, you know, we don’t, like, pander to the community.

AE: Well, right ,and really it should just be all about the music.

SF: For us it is.

AE: Right, and with Gaga, it’s so templated. I mean, even though she considers herself so avant garde and so different, it’s like, all that stuff has been done before, and we get it already.

SF: Right! We don’t have a formula, and we like it that way.

AE: And I think it works well and it leaves room for more creativity.

SF: It’s time for music I think, and artists, to rewrite the game. We want to be on the forefront of helping that happen so we can kick the door wide open for new young artists to shape and renew the industry. It’s past due. Especially for queer kids. I don’t know if I sound contradictory, but I don’t think they want to be known as queer artists, if they’re true artists, they just want to be known as artists and be free to create. And also support other queer artists, let’s make a safer place for them. I think that’s already starting and I’m really excited about it. There’s a lot of queer artists making s–t happen right now and they’re having great turnouts. Like Scissor Sisters and Fischerspooner before them.

AE: Yeah and like Tegan and Sara. It’s exciting to see bands not being called “cross-over” artists anymore because they’re not crossing over from anything, they just so happen to be gay but they’re making whatever kind of music, but they’re labeled “gay band” before anything else.

Now, you’ve toured with !!!, who I’ve seen in concert and it ended up probably being the concert I got sweatiest at, maybe ever, from dancing around. What is a Light Asylum show like? I’d imagine there is dancing but not the same kind.
SF: I’d say it’s pretty intense and we bring a lot of emotion to the stage. It’s a really good balance, like Bruno, is like a pillar just holding it down and I’m kind of all over the place.

AE: Ah yes, a yin and a yang.

SF: It’s a burst of energy, I get ecstatic all over the place. I think people really like that about our shows. Like when you think of a two piece electronic group you don’t normally see a lot happen onstage. There’s usually a laptop or two and not that much going on. I think people really dig our shows because there’s a lot of energy coming off the stage. We like to take people places and tell them a story and have them traveling by the end of the show. We get great responses — they cry, they dance. I think they’re elated by the end of the show.

AE: Pride month just ended here in the states — how did you celebrate it?

SF: In New York, doing something really gay. And we just want to wish everybody a very happy post-gay day and keep on celebrating.

You can currently purchase Light Asylum’s EP In Tension on iTunes and stream their music on the band’s website.

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