If Nick Cave and Kate Bush had a baby boy, he would probably create dark, rapturous pop singles like FLARE’s new go-to musician, TRUST (a.k.a. Toronto’s Robert Alfons). After his Juno nomination for best debut album for 2012’s TRST, Alfons has taken to the stage once again for his second record, Joyland (now available from Arts & Crafts on iTunes): a gloomy eruption of synthy pop and brooding baritone vocals. The post-punk sensation slinks seamlessly from melancholy crooning to blissful 80s pop choruses and Depeche Mode-inspired rhythms. Before his much-anticipated 2014 tour (which includes a spot at SXSW, along with shows in Montreal on March 7, Toronto March 8, and Vancouver April 29), we quizzed TRUST about how he creates his unique sound and look.
The sounds on this album range from very dark and gothic to pulsing, dance-synth pop. How did you join these two worlds?
I think that it just sort of worked for me. Maybe in the first record I stuck to one feeling. On this record I definitely tried the “duet,” like with the first single, “Rescue, Mister.” There was the sort-of mundane, low, boring verse and then it propels into this very euphoric, high falsetto chorus. So it’s like both worlds in one song.
Your songs also evoke a lot of emotion. How do you want your audience to experience the album?
It’s meant to be listened to as a whole. The start and the end are really important bookends for the stuff in between. I hope people listen to it as a whole instead of just in pieces.
Can you tell me a bit about your influences?
I’m a big fan of Kate Bush, Liz Fraser from the Cocteau Twins and Lee Hazlewood.
What is your song-writing routine? How do you get in the right mindset for putting everything together?
It’s totally different for every song. I’m definitely not in that lucky place where I can go to a studio to work; I’m writing in between doing a million other things and travelling a lot. This record came out of a lot of travelling as well. Some songs you can write in a day and that’s really rare. Sometimes it takes years. My song “Capitol” is seven years old and it’s very similar to the original demo. Certain things stay in your arsenal [and those] things come really quickly.
Can you tell me a bit about your personal style and how you prefer to dress for performances?
I keep it pretty simple—even moreso now, since the show is very physically demanding, so I’m not going with crazy things that I know I’m not going to be able to move around in.
Interview by Alex Brown