The first striking thing about Trust Fund’s music is their short and snappy song length. Their nine-track third record We have always lived in the Harolds comes in at just over 39 minutes, arguably the length of an EP. The songs, all stylized in lowercase, are almost sketch-like in manner; a tidbit of an idea manipulated and reformed until it’s a fully formed notion or style of work. While an artist will typically revisit their studies and expand on them, Ellis Jones’ methodology makes for a much more raw body of work that encapsulates the flaws and banalities of our human existence. On “pegasus,” he almost romanticizes it: “Feel a dull ache/ In the dullest place/ Can it always be this way and no other?”
“I just don’t want to bore anyone,” Jones says with a chuckle on the phone. It’s his 28th birthday. Ferocious northern British winds make for a stunted phone conversation, but he tells me that he’s lost on the way to a trampoline park on this typically drab Sunday afternoon in July. He specifically wants to see how bandmate Dan will perform since he’s got gymnastic training. “I just want to see him do exciting flips.”
Indie pop at its core is fun and reckless, which is considerably pertinent in an austere post-Brexit Britain, whose Prime Minister is a stone cold Thatcherite. From the anarcho-punk aesthetics (layered with glockenspiel) of veterans Los Campesinos! to the sugar-sweet melodies of Slow Club, the genre is aesthetically very twee, but what differentiates it from the Zooey Deschanels of the world is its lyrics: often dry and sarcastic, covering dark subjects. “I just write down what I think is funny and that turns into a song,” Jones says. Inimitably witty and striking, his short bursts of indie pop are performed by a rotating line-up of friends in the DIY community.
Many draw comparisons between Trust Fund and Los Campesinos!; it was Gareth from the latter band who put Jones’ first two Trust Fund albums out on Turnstile Records. It seemed surprising that Jones hadn’t found a label for We have always lived in the Harolds, but, as he put it: “I’ve never really enjoyed chasing, and I didn’t really want to have to start chasing now.” After being allocated a budget for a studio and producers with Turnstile, Jones was now left to create something almost entirely on his own. “[The record] doesn’t feel more personal in terms of the musicianship, but I feel closer to it because I had [a] high degree of involvement, so I’m a bit protective in that regard.” But not having someone to mix, master, and produce this time around motivated him to get it right: “When someone mixes your record, you just kind of go along with what they’re doing. Since I did it all myself, that’s something that makes me a bit defensive because these decisions are all mine. I can’t blame anyone else for how it sounds!”
Self-releasing the record after building a cult following paid off for Jones, as he’s never exactly fit inside indie-pop mainstream parameters.. His listening habits are varied and layered, and his latest record shows it, with everything from the heavily Autotuned vocals on “would that be an adventure?” to the more synthesized instrumentation percolating throughout the record. This definitely has all the DIY elements of a cult classic; it’s adventurous and longs to be more than meets the eye.
Jones tells me he wrote and recorded the album after moving from Bristol to Leeds with his girlfriend in pursuit of a PhD. The loneliness and overwhelming feeling that sets in when moving to a new place can take some people over the edge, and shared isolation is perhaps more intense. “It got to a point where [my girlfriend and I] were too emotionally dependent on each other,” Jones recalls. “We were all we had.” Being left to mull your own thoughts can produce a lot of pent-up energy and frustration, and Jones channeled this with his most experimental work yet.
Opener “wwsd” (What Would Sophie Do?) sets the tone for how a relationship can be tested when you haven’t got anyone else around you.You slip up, you say stupid things, and they get blown out of proportion, serrating what you thought was stronger. With intuitive softness, Jones laments, “I shouldn’t have mentioned her/ I shouldn’t have said her name/ I shouldn’t have told you about / How we went on holiday/To exactly this place /Almost two years to the day.” He uses guitars to illustrate sombre realization and reflection; four harsh strums tie the verses together. “Crab Line” takes a cue from Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing In the Street.” These lines particularly inspired Jones: “Tonight my baby and me we’re gonna ride to the sea/ And wash these sins off our hands.” His version is a matter-of-fact declaration that “Me and my baby, that’s all we want/ All we want is to not exist.” It’s disturbingly joyful in spirit, parsing morbidity with humor.
Boredom sometimes serves as a drive for rich creativity. With that much space, an artist can pick apart their own brain and lay it out on paper, canvas, or a guitar. While there are melancholy elements to We have always lived in the Harolds, it would be erroneous to write it off as a “sad record.” It’s a tale of many emotions; of thrill, hopelessness, pain, vulnerability, solidarity, emotional wanderlust, desolation, and love. It speaks to the many threads holding any human bond together, and stands on its own as a documentation of time; a well-kept diary of sorts.