Seeing Robert Alfons of Trust perform at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in NYC was equally as exciting as it was infuriating. After I elbowed everyone out of my way to get to the front, I turned around in ecstasy only to see a huge, slightly-bobbing crowd of people with their iPhones out, instagramming the night away. Alfons, who describes his music as ’emotional dance’, was jumping around the stage with his soul-piercing vocals, the bass reverberating through my bones, and the most excited the crowd got was the fist-pumping couple next to me. At one point a single brave soul tried to crowd-surf in the center, but that turned out to be a quick fail. Oh, gothsters. Will you never learn?
Electronic Beats: So tell me how the project started. It was initially with Maya Postepski?
Robert: We were both writing music separately, and we just decided to start writing together. That’s the birth of it.
I noticed she’s not here tonight.
Yeah, she’s busy with Austra now.
You have a very lush production in your sound. How much was Maya responsible for?
I don’t want to speak much on her (Maya) behalf. I’m not a wizard in the studio at production techniques or recording. I think that kind of naiveté allows me to take a weird take on pop music. I listen to hilariously shitty music, or music that I find really interesting; I’m a big fan of heartbreaking music like Nick Drake and Brian Eno, people who have written the most unbelievably gorgeous music I’ve ever heard. Then adding that element of electronics or Top 40 and then just trying to play around with it. That’s just my take on how production works, what I think sounds right.
How did you two meet?
We met in Toronto, through mutual friends. I’m from Winnipeg. I don’t even know if people know that about me, but Toronto has been my home for maybe five years.
And ‘Candy Walls’ was your first song?
It’s the first song we did together.
It’s one of my favorites. Are the lyrics available anywhere?
I hate, and this is something I do and have done in the past, buying an album and flipping through the booklet for pictures, and there are lyrics just right there. I listen to a song for years and years, and then get attached to the lyrics that I thought they were. If find out that they were different, I don’t really know what that feeling is…maybe disappointment. Whatever that song made you believe you were feeling, whatever you thought it was telling you…it’s just gone then. There may be a point when I let my lyrics out, though.
In the past you’ve described your lyrics as sexual.
It’s more about sexual repression and gazing and being not so much ‘in it’. I don’t think they’re intentionally sexual, or overtly sexual.
How did you get into music?
I played music as a kid. I have an older sister and an aunt, and the pop music that they listened to shaped what I listened to. I played hockey and listened to pop music in the arena. They play like 1995-era Eurodance, which is like crying on the dance floor. Super emotional, lots of diva-esque vocals. They still play the exact same music. I always liked to sing, I played the piano and I was in choir, which I hated…that “conform your voice, make it nice” style. It was boring. I could always sing higher than all the other boys.
Tell me about the album cover of TRST.
It’s a picture I took at a club, her feeling everything in that moment. I think it’s a man in drag. I took it and fell in love with it. There are people who hate it. They think it’s awful, terrifying. But I like it. I’d rather people have a reaction to it.
Can you talk about the next album going to be like?
It’s fun because I think it’s a new direction. I think I’m taking risks with vocals, and certain instrumentations, and sounds I hated in the past but now embrace. I think I’m experimenting with my voice a lot more. On the record I definitely have parts where I am going higher but I think I’m writing music with only that voice and with different attempt at trying things with vocals. With TRST, it only makes you hit a certain level of emotion, a certain height. With the new album,I want it to feel like you’re hitting the stars.
Published July 23, 2012. Words by Irina Makarova.