Robert Alfons of Trust Makes Dance Music With Meaning — Catch Him at First Bar Standard Lipgloss

Robert Alfons of Trust.
Robert Alfons of Trust.
Norman Wong

Robert Alfons of the synthpop band Trust will DJ the inaugural edition of Lipgloss at Bar Standard on Friday, October 30. Since 2010, Alfons has crafted an atmospherically rich and lush brand of dance pop that, in another era, might have been considered Goth — except that Alfons' compositions tend to be uplifting and energetic even when they are imbued with dark tones.

The project's earliest singles were released on the New York-based independent label Sacred Bones Records, which is run by Caleb Braaten,a longtime employee of Denver's Twist & Shout before he moved to the East Coast. Alfons had been an admirer of the label's early releases, especially the 2010 Stridulum EP from Zola Jesus. In 2011 Trust was signed to the Arts & Crafts imprint and its debut album, TRST, which appeared in 2012, enjoyed great popularity among fans of dark synth pop. The 2014 follow-up, Joyland, garnered Alfons a wider audience.

Inspired in his youth by the '80s synth pop his sisters were into and then Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92, Alfons was also impacted by each techno and acid house for the qualities that much modern dance music, by virtue of today's production techniques, tends to lack. “I think what's exciting about the early techno and acid, and maybe this is the downfall of my own music creation, is that it sounds dirty and raw and not mixed properly in the modern sense,” offers Alfons. “It has a really gritty quality. It's not crisp and it's not clear.”

Though Alfons sings with a wide sweep of his vocal range, including truly deep bass sounds, he is perhaps most inspired by singers like Elizabeth Frasier of Cocteau Twins fame and Kate Bush, who Alfons was able to see when he was in England last year and Bush came out of a decades-long live-performance retirement to play a string of shows at London's Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith. “It was relatively small for what she could fill,” recalls Alfons. “Maybe a 3,000 seater. It was meant to stay sort of intimate. I happened to be there, but it was important for me to make a solid effort to go.”

Alfons doesn't often do a DJ gig, but he'll select some songs from his vast repertoire to suit the vibe of Lipgloss. And Alfons doesn't just make music that's designed in part to be danced to, he'll be leading by example with his own animated performance.

“It's not like this pop performance with choreography or anything,” says Alfons about the spontaneity of his on-stage dancing. “I've thought about this a lot recently, because there are lots of pop concerts I respect and love and get the dance aspect of it. But I come from a world where dancing means so much to so many different communities I'm a part of. So it's sort of a no-brainer that I want to make dance music that has meaning and is full of life and emotion.”

Robert Alfons of Trust will DJ at Lipgloss Friday, October 30, at Bar Standard; the fun starts at 9 p.m.. Tickets are $10, and it is a 21+ event. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Lipgloss website.

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