By Daniel SylvesterWhen Trust released TRST, their 2012 debut album, many critics and fans conveniently placed the Toronto duo into a specific category; synth-pop-structured, clubby electronic music created by a goth fanatic and a member of Austra. But with the release of the sophomore album, Joyland, Robert Alfons has seemingly broken down these misconceptions. Now the sole project of Alfons (Austra's Maya Postepski left shortly after the release of the first album), Joyland is a rich tapestry of pop melodies and crisp production that seem more relevant for the dance floor in a pop-up club than the futon of a dark basement. Alfons talks the recording of his new album, finding his confidence and the merits of mainstream pop music.
Where am I talking to you from? I'm in Montreal, at a studio. We're in rehearsal right now.
Can you give us a bit of background on yourself? Trust's first performance was four years ago, which is crazy to me. I live in Toronto, I grew up in Winnipeg, which is a little different scenario than Toronto. My sister was a musician, my aunt listened to a lot of pop music, I guess these were my musical influences as a kid. I just sort have always been keeping those musical things on the peripheral.
Did you move to Toronto specifically to start a career in music? Yeah, in a sort of not-linear trajectory. But I definitely moved there to try to figure things out.
Was it always electronic music that you've been playing? I guess I'm like a piano player but I've always been attracted to electronic music and that's been the most direct relation to how I make music.
Can you talk a bit about the new album? How is it different from your debut? A lot of it was written in different places in the world while touring, which changes the energy of the song. Whereas the first album was written in Toronto, where every week we had a writing session, and this one, there was a lot of energy from the live shows, being in hotter climates and I think I had a boost of confidence as well, which allowed me to really go full force with releasing different characters and experimenting with my vocal range and that sort of thing.
The first album received much acclaim. Did that confidence help shape the energy of this album? I guess those accolades helped me get audiences and to be able to play these shows. I can be really hard on myself, but especially with creative things, it's so easy to never ever show anybody the song, or for me it is. So, it's a miracle that I even worked hard enough the present the record, but it gave me enough confidence to continue moving it and finish these ideas.
Do you think that if your first album had went completely unheard and unappreciated, that the new album would have sounded any different? That's a good question, I never thought of it in that way. I think it's just the support has definitely allowed me to continue doing it.
I guess this good fortune has presented you the opportunity to play with a lot of other musicians and artists. Did you take anything from these experiences? Yeah, absolutely. Maybe not exactly just musicians, but I think I've made a lot of really great friends from around the world; like a friend who's a booker, a friend who does graphic work. So, not necessarily musicians, but it's really nice to see how big and yet how small the world is. But I guess you have all of these like-minded people all over the place. But, yeah, I've definitely made some really good friends around the world just from being able to tour and make music.
So, where did you record the new album? I recorded it on the road, I recorded it last summer when I settled down in Toronto, yeah, mostly those places.
Now, with the latest technology, you can record right when those ideas come to you, as opposed to ten or 20 years ago, where if you had an idea it would have to sit with you and possibly mutate until you got into a recording studio. Do you prefer this new method? Yeah, I think it's brilliant that you can just get to the idea right away or just put down the idea and leave it for another day. I was reading this David Byrne book (How Music Works) and in the first chapter he talks about how space influences and shapes different culture's music, which is way beyond what I'm doing but it's so true. But if I'm in Argentina and I'm excited about everything that's going on there and I want to make a song, if I wait until I'm back in winter, it's not going to come out the way I want it to. And there were a bunch of songs I started when I went on a trip to Argentina and I think that vibe would have come if I made a note to come write that song later.