by tom johnson
In the era of the surprise-release, Trust Fund probably would have been way down a list of those you might expect to follow suit. But, of course, yesterday’s release of their new LP, ‘We have always lived in The Harolds‘, wasn’t a move to shock the music industry in to the life, in fact it was the polar opposite. After two albums released the-proper-way Ellis Jones decided against shopping his new work around to labels and simply released it; nine-tracks, twenty-minutes of new music, completed on the Sunday, available on the Monday.
There will undoubtedly be those that see it as a step-back, that the whole self-releasing thing is supposed to come first, then you join a label, then a bigger label, then you buy a yacht or whatever, but as Ellis tells us below, the idea of hanging around for months while all these processes were set in motion, while all its loveable creases were ironed out, just wasn’t appealing to him this time around.
And the record itself? Wonderful, of course. Chaotic, messy, pretty, poignant, all those things Trust Fund have always been but with added fervour and a little more alienation, informed, as it was, by Ellis’ move to a new city and the peculiarity that always brings. “It feels different now, I don’t know exactly why,” Ellis sings on opening-track ‘wwsd‘, that line acting as a prelude to an album that often surprises; the weird vocoder effect on ‘Would that be an adventure?‘ exemplifying the record’s more skeletal, less band-like, approach.
We had a little natter with Ellis about his new record, and you can check that out below. You can also buy/download the album via Bandcamp right now and, of course, listen to it right here:
GFP: So you just released a new album out of the blue. Was that always the attention or was it a rush o’ blood to the head?
Ellis Jones: A bit of both maybe? I definitely had some reservations about doing it this way. The general inclination is to want as much attention as possible, I think, for your band and your record? Doing it this way means less attention. But I thought about the idea of finding a label, of waiting six months to put it out, of all that ‘build’ where you release ‘singles’ (which are arbitrary because the whole record is finished), and make videos, and it felt really tiring and kind of embarrassing. The only reason to do that would be to try and get more attention and I guess to sell more records. And right now that isn’t what I want, and I am lucky enough to be in a position where there are already a few people interested in what I put out. I would rather release something when it’s still close enough to me that I feel okay about it. I finished it yesterday and now it is online and that feels good I think.
Before we get more in to that thought process, would you like to introduce the album? What kind of record do you think you’ve made? I guess compared to what’s come before.
I guess it is quieter than the last album, and more similar to the one before it (‘No one’s coming for us‘), in that there aren’t many songs with full band and drums and stuff. I did almost all of it myself, which means the playing is worse, and the recording is pretty terrible. I did try though, honestly. I think the arrangements are good, I think the song lengths are good and short, and I think hopefully it is something like a textural record, maybe more than it is a musical or lyrical record.
Did you shake-up the writing/recording process this time around then or is that textural outcome more of a natural coincidence?
I think I try and think about what the songs would suit, and last time round we happened to have a set of songs that were written to be full band songs – which I think that came from playing live a lot, and wanting more songs which necessitated more involvement from the other band members. This time I guess the songs seemed quieter. And I had a more stable home recording set-up and a lot of free time to muck about recording things and seeing what seemed right.
There are some really nice rabbit holes on the record – do you think you felt less shackled to stick to some sort of structure because of the fact you were self-releasing, or were you not considering that when writing these songs?
I think in some way I must have been aware of it, for the last album, even if I didn’t acknowledge it. They never explicitly asked for a big summer smash hit but I do feel like, for whatever reason, we did give them songs on that album that could have been big singles. So yeah it is nice to have that freedom. But I had it on the first album too because I never expected a label to want to put it out.
In your first answer you said you’re not in a position right now to care about selling more records and climbing the ladder. is there something specifically that’s informed that mindset? Where has that stemmed from, do you think?
I don’t think I’ve ever been worried about climbing the ladder, except in my worst moments where a need to feel pride in what we do maybe manifests itself in unhealthy, competitive ways. That’s something I feel really aware of now. I guess, for me, DIY ethics mean that you should be conscious of when you’re doing stuff just to benefit yourself, potentially at the expense of others. We have an audience, we have a position where we get asked to play shows a lot; to want more would be greedy, I think. But everyone is in different positions and I don’t want to make judgements about what any other people might decide to do.
And, to that end, the DIY community seems to be in a good place right now. You’ve been able to release a record you finished yesterday, there’s a space on the shelf for it (Bandcamp), and it’s already been supported by a whole bunch of folks. People bemoan the current musical climate, but that’s pretty fucking great, no?
Yeah, I don’t know, I’m probably not a very good exemplar for the state of DIY or whatever because I’m coming off the back of two albums on a reasonably big label (in terms of spend) and even before that my friend Jake was doing press stuff for us. If you’re looking at how hard it is for a DIY band without press and label support to try and build an audience and get coverage or whatever, I think it is hard. The thing that seems positive at the moment is probably the amount of cool DIY venues there are across the UK, and the strong network of people who do music and put on shows for the love of it. But that is a network that goes back twenty or thirty years at least, and is maybe acting in resistance to the current “climate”, if anything.
Do you see it getting harder or easier for those DIY bands?
Ah, I don’t know. I feel very negative about how the logic of how social media draws people in to ways of behaving that aren’t healthy or very compatible with DIY ethics. But I am very pessimistic generally and probably it is not predictable what exciting types of music communities might exist in a few years.
So what do you see as the chief inspiration for these new songs, now that they’re finished?
I guess life? The songs are about living in a new city without many friends, and about having a bad time (sometimes) and about consciously trying to shake your life in a specific direction. Maybe the music kind of reflects that as well, in that it tries a bunch of different things and is maybe not very confident sounding.
It does feel very exploratory, in that sense. How have you found moving to a new city?
I like Leeds a lot but don’t feel that settled here. I wish I did because it’s great and the people I’ve met are great. I don’t think it feels that different in terms of a place to write songs, and I think that songwriting feels pretty constant and not really affected that much by moving and things like that. I always spend a lot of time playing guitar and writing songs.
Do you ever consider other people listening to your music? if so, what do you hope they take away from this record?
No it’s a bit too scary to think about. I hope they like it, though…
We have always lived in The Harolds is out now. You can buy it here
Trust Fund tour this Summer, and support Mitski on her Autumn European tour.