TRST Me On This
The cover of Trust’s first album, last year’s TRST, is a tad opaque when it comes to figuring out just what it might mean: most of the image is a hanging white sheet, shot with too much flash; at the bottom, you see a figure with long black hair, ghost-white skin, crimson lips and a double chin, thanks to a low camera angle. The picture needs a few seconds to process.
Robert Alfons — the man who is Trust — is obviously interested in maintaining some mystery around his project. His music is well suited to that — a dark variant on synthpop, with Alfons’ brooding voice matching throbbing rhythms and synths in songs that are simultaneously compelling and catchy.
He’s not opposed to exposing himself, though; sexual repression, for example, is a theme of the album. But even as he opens up like that, he’s still reserved when I interview him over the phone.
While asking him about his live show, an ever-evolving beast now featuring smoke machines and rainbow lights, he’s a bitcagey about specifics.
“I’ve never actually seen the live show taped in its entirety,” says Alfons. “I only have sort of an idea of what it comes across as. There’s still room for experimenting with it.”
I ask what kind of experimenting, and he says he wants to “experiment with more theatrics.” When I ask if theatrics means more performers or visual projections or what, he just says he has lots of ideas.
“You’re going to keep it yourself for now?” I say.
“Yeah,” he says, leaving it there.
Later in the interview, he says, “The project is called ‘Trust’ and that’s obviously a big theme.” I’m not sure he trusts me that much. Oh well.
Alfons was born and raised in Winnipeg, and his interest in recording and playing music started there.
“I was always making music and doing that sort of thing, but never really performing that much. Never really had a sole project that I was dedicating myself to.”
Eventually, Alfons left Winnipeg for Toronto.
“I think I had dreams and I had ideas, but I didn’t really know how to do it,” he says of his aspirations when first moving to Toronto. “I think I wanted a bigger city and I wanted to be inspired by certain things — and yeah, I guess, eventually make music.”
A move to the big city worked for Alfons — although of course, he already had his own assets working for him, including a great compositional sense. If the album isn’t evidence enough, track through a video where he plays a solo piano version of his song “Sulk” that lays it bare while exposing his great songcrafting.
The video also highlights another one of his strengths: his voice, an entirely unique feature that’s perfectly suited to his music.
In the songs he was writing in Toronto, though, he felt he was missing something.
“I was really lacking a rhythm section in my music. My knowledge of beats and stuff was purely from experimenting with them;I didn’t really understand them. I always wanted someone who was more knowledgeable with drums. So I asked her.”
“Her” here is Maya Posterpski, best known as the drummer for synthpop experimentalists Austra. Posterpski and Alfons had mutual friends who introduced the two, and Alfons was eager to work with her.
“I kinda knew who she was and I used to go to shows of hers, and I thought she was an excellent drummer. I thought it was awesome, that she was an awesome girl being the solid drummer of the band.”
Posterpski helped Alfons write, record and perform TRST, which found a home on uber-indie label Arts and Crafts.
While Posterpski played a big role in the creation of TRST, Alfons is now back on his own and Trust is once again a one-man operation. But given what he learned making his first record, he doesn’t sound intimidated about approaching a new collection of songs solo.
“The music started out from a very personal and internal place, so it doesn’t feel like that big of a change. I’ve always had a very personal relationship to it.”