In Synthpop We Trust: Interview with Robert Alfons

Posted November 9, 2012 in ,
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Robert Alfons of Trust.

Trust, the alter ego of Toronto artist Robert Alfons, who wrote and produced his debut album, TRST, with Austra’s Maya Postepski, is that archetypal band that will make your parents confront you about that gaping hole between their pop music and yours. What Trust has in spades over its peers (Austra, Kontravoid, Cold Cave) is grit, sleaze, kink and glamour––a perfect synthesis for great electronic dance music. Trust’s music wraps listeners in a pulsating sonic world of malevolent house beats and coldwave synth structures, complemented by Alfons’ depressive, weird snarls. From start to finish, the record oozes of steamy encounters in underground clubs, tainted love, homoerotic gazes, lust, urges and unfulfilled desires. The record cover for TRST, a snapshot of an androgynous goth in drag, cuts a clear cloth of the band’s aesthetics. It’s democratic and ugly, sexual revolution yet inhibition. Think of it as Bronski Beat anthems for the sweet dreams of bondage-filled dance floors, always on some borderline of euphoria and crying on the dancefloor. I spoke with Alfons about Trust and its habits.

SLUG: Tell me about the genesis of Trust. I know you started out in collaboration with Maya Postepski.
Alfons: I’ve been making music for a long time, I started working with Maya two years ago––we started writing songs together. Trust played their first show, and she was part of the act up until the record. We worked on it together and since then, I’ve been taking it on the road with the band and doing it that way.

SLUG: What’s your writing process like?
Alfons: For me it’s very internal––always something that I’ve done in closed quarters, and then transferring to a live show is obviously something very different. I’m definitely sensitive about it all––I’m scared to show people because I get so attached to it and it becomes so personal––it comes from a place that’s sensitive. For recording and live performance, at the same time, there’s obviously a gray area with authenticity when you’re writing a song. It’s like art––there’s a level of performance involved.

SLUG: People try to pin all kinds of labels on Trust: Goth, gay, bondage synthpop––to name a few. How do you feel about incessant labeling in music culture?
Alfons: There’s always going to be labels in music. It’s interesting. It definitely doesn’t come from me. I don’t think I’m writing about bondage and stuff––it’s not just one thing for me. I hope that it’s not one note––it doesn’t feel like one note to me.

SLUG: Trust’s sound is really dynamic, especially with your vocal performances. I get the feeling that you’re entertaining different voices. What do you have in mind when you’re singing?
Alfons: It keeps things interesting for myself––it’s challenging. It’s definitely something that I’m exploring with as I’m writing more music. I’m just trying to challenge myself with what my voice can do––that’s the goal I’m going for, to keep myself interested. [Maya] sings two parts on the record, and the rest of it is my own performance.

SLUG: You released your first singles with Sacred Bones and TRST on Arts & Crafts. What is it like working with such great labels?
Alfons: I feel so lucky to have been able to work with both of them––Sacred Bones was great when they released those first few singles, and I’m really proud to have been a part of that roster––it’s an exceptional lineup of people, and they continue to put out really great records and really great music. Arts & Crafts came along and was willing to put out the record. They were based in Toronto and had heard about our profile firsthand. They were just genuinely excited to take on this project––I feel lucky.

SLUG: I hear you’re working on a follow-up record. How’s it coming along?
Alfons: It almost feels like the sister to the first record in a lot of ways––they’re going to be paired up well together. The new songs I’m working on are going in a different direction––they still feel in the same world. It’ll be interesting to see what labels come when the second record comes along. It obviously goes through the same filter that the first album went through. Sometimes I feel like I end up writing stuff that sounds so similar to myself, but I’m trying to challenge myself, trying different things, different vocal ranges. Playing live shows is really inspiring and changes how I want to write music. Playing more people is always exciting.

Come placate your gothic soul––Alfons’ dreamy voice will surely make you want to move. Trust opens for The Faint this Friday, Nov. 9 at In The Venue.

Robert Alfons of Trust. Trust's latest album, TRST.