Making music always feels to me like an attempt to impress or entertain my friends, and I don’t think that will change.
Trust Fund, that’s to say Ellis Jones and his elastic diaspora of friends, plot permeating songs at all points along the bittersweet spectrum. Having joined forces with Turnstile Records [Perfume Genius, Cate Le Bon] we chat to Ellis on the advent of his debut full-length.
Congrats on hooking up with Turnstile, how did that come about? Do you have different expectations?
Thanks, it came about just because Gareth from Turnstile had asked to hear the record when it was finished. I guess he already knew about us ‘cus they’d helped with distribution on the split we did with Joanna Gruesome last year. Where the decision to release the record with them came after it was already finished, I don’t think I have any different expectations. Making music always feels to me like an attempt to impress or entertain my friends, and I don’t think that will change. Obviously going with Turnstile is easier than putting it out ourselves, and there’s not the financial risk that there would have been, but other than that I think so far it feels like the level of control over decision making is no different — so obviously that’s good.
What was it like choosing tracks for your first full-length?
Choosing the album tracks was a pretty conscious attempt at having a structure which worked to the benefit of all the songs; so trying to keep it interesting and not having all the fun songs (both of them) bunched together. It’s still a pretty whiny album though, front to back, and there’s not much I can do about that.
Musicians in your rough vein of music tend to have a knack for being prolific, is that true of you?
Rough vein? Haha, you’d better not be calling me lo-fi. I think that some people have a formula which means they have an idea of what a song will end up like before they even start, and I don’t think I have that. Which is not to say that my songs are radically innovative, they aren’t, but that it takes me a long time to end up with the things that might sound slapdash or rushed. The recording process is pretty quick though I guess, and generally if a first take doesn’t have any obvious mistakes then I don’t really experiment with different arrangements or anything.
You don’t feel any kinship with the seemingly relentless, so-say ‘lo-fi’ sound output of Bristol then? Oliver Wilde, Something Anorak, Robin Mitchell and more…
I wouldn’t call those people lo-fi either. I think they’re recorded well, on good equipment, and that they play well. There’s nothing about Bristol that lends itself to a particular sound, how could it? I don’t think I buy into that. You might say that economic or social situations lend themselves to certain sounds, like how people have linked like the lo-fi sound of early grime to using super cheap equipment and stuff, but the bands you’ve mentioned are all middle-class white guys and I’m not sure if that applies.
It’s still a pretty whiny album… there’s not much I can do about that.
We did love your dog-filled video for ‘Cut Me Out’ made with James Hankins [OLO Worms/Bulb], do you like working with other people active in the scene or was it just a coincidence?
I wanted James to make a video for us simply because he’s relentlessly creative and makes interesting things seemingly because he can’t help it. Even his Facebook profile is a work of art. It had nothing to do with any other bands or projects he’s involved in, and to be honest I haven’t even met the Howling Owl lot.
I recall James commenting on the video’s modest budget, d’you think there’s something about DIY-style limitations that drives creativity?
I don’t think there’s anything about a limited budget that drives creativity, and I wouldn’t want to romanticise people being denied the opportunity to create. Obviously when there’s big money involved you get conformity because of the financial risk associated with the new and untested, but that seems like a different thing.
How d’you get on splitting yourself between Bristol and Leeds? Does this factor in on your rotating lineup of friends in the band?
It’s a pain at the moment and I do kinda feel like I live on a Megabus, but hopefully this year will involve more structured touring and fewer one-off shows. The lineup changes haven’t really ever been about location, more that it’s a lot to ask of any one person to so frequently indulge me by playing my crappy songs. So dividing it up seems kinder.
Your songs sound very personal to my ears, is it as autobiographical as it would seem?
I think it’s partly autobiographical, but also falls into tropes just because first-person songwriting feels easy and natural. Obviously some lines are references to specific things that have happened in specific places, but I think those things are just as likely to be made up as to have actually happened. I think music is about recreating the feel of something without being super literal, that’s what makes it art or something, and ‘autobiographical’ or confessional songwriting is no different.
Ellis indulges us all on both the 7th and 8th February at Roll For The Soul, with ‘No-One’s Coming For Us’ out on the 9th via Turnstile.
Check out that video for ‘Cut Me Out’ right here: