The past two years have been definitive ones for Robert Alfons, the musical driving force behind Trust. After the release of the band’s well-received debut album TRST, founding member Maya Postepski decided to focus on her work as part of Austra, leaving Alfons solo. Rather than abandoning the project, he recorded Joyland, a techno album that transformed the grimy comedown of TRST into an ecstatic electronic high. After a summer intoxicating Europe with his soaring vocals, Alfons is back on tour in the States, supported by rising shoegaze band Crater. We chatted with him about working solo, the album’s surprising positivity, and what to expect from Joyland live.
Joyland is the first album you’ve released since Maya left the band. Was it very different working without her?
I think the main difference was not having a person to edit with. That’s the trickiest thing about working by yourself– there’s not an immediate person there to help and bring different perspectives. But it’s still very much a continuation of things.
Nonetheless, there are some major stylistic differences, like your stronger, more immediate vocal performance.I think a lot of those songs just felt a little more present than on the first album. With the first album I was going for something more murky, more moody and a lot of the performances were just bigger and louder and more progressive. Maybe some of the influences too were a bit more aligned with that sort of idea as well.
The imagery you’ve used in the cover art and videos definitely seems to reflect a more cosmic, sci-fi vibe than the grimy clubworld of your debut.
In one regard, this album’s very in my body but it’s also very removed, with lots of immersion from influences outside of it. I think the first one was way more personal whereas this one I feel is more about dreams and ideas and expression.
The song titles also seem more abstract and literary on the new record. How did you come up with, say, Lost Souls/Eelings? What is an eeling?
I think the start of that song was me reading this book called The Autobiography of Red, which was a big influence for me. There’s an idea in the book where the two main characters are described as two superior eels at the bottom of the tank. That idea just stuck with me. It was really profound to me and really striking so I think that song jumped from that.
In general, the album seems very upbeat and rave-ready in comparison to the darker, danker TRST. What was going on in your life when you were writing the songs?
I was listening to early techno stuff like Joey Beltram, lots of stuff from that period. Really abrasive sounding techno and house, but also lots of pop. I was really embracing the side of me that loves stuff like Madonna. I think the album is a mix of those two worlds, along with Elizabeth Fraser and Kate Bush. Those two will always be huge influences for me.
Kate Bush and the Cocteau Twins weren’t exactly making club music though. How do you channel those influences in your sound?
I don’t feel like there’s any direct correlation. I think I’m just inspired by Kate Bush because she was constantly playing characters and using her voice as an instrument. It’s just a general inspiration. I don’t feel like I have ever achieved any sort of comparison to her but I feel like the vibrant qualities of each record and how different they are from each other are such an inspiration for me.
You spent the summer touring in Europe. How was that?
I’ve been to Europe a bunch of times now. It’s always a pleasure to be able to play shows there. By the end of it I was ready to take a break but there were some really memorable. I think my favorite was my one in Croatia, in Zagreb. The London show was really amazing, so was Paris.
Now you’re moving onto North America. What should we expect from the Trust live show?
I have a brand new live lighting system. The whole stage is going to look like a cave. I wrote the first album on piano so I’m looking to show some more of that style as well.
You tweeted that you couldn’t wait to debut new material this month. What’s that going to sound like?
It’s primarily really noisy and industrial. It has a big, crazy, euphoric chorus. It’s a really fun song. I’m excited to be playing it. I’ve been writing stuff and I have a general idea where I want to go with the third album. After this tour I’m going to have more time to focus on that, playing around and just writing.