As Trust Fund, Ellis Jones pens some of the most heartfelt power pop of recent times. His second album of 2015, Seems Unfair, dealt in touching interpersonal narratives of supermarkets, heartbreak and gender with a rare and refreshing tentativeness; It cemented Jones' position as one of the most important voices in the DIY community.

The record's follow-up, We Have Always Lived In The Harolds, is a near-complete departure from the lo-fi bedroom pop indebted blueprint of the Trust Fund catalogue, and takes on a hazier dynamic as Jones toys with lyrics as textures, melancholy and electronic c experimentations. Amid the haze though, the tangible sense of hope and inclusiveness that Trust Fund records masterfully offer is as present as ever.

The 405 spoke to Jones about avoiding heteronormative pronoun-coupling, playing house shows, putting records out on tape and music journalism in 2016.


We Have Always Lived In The Harolds is a pretty big departure from Seems Unfair. What brought about such a shift in dynamics?

I guess I just started writing quieter songs for some reason, and then felt like I could record them on my own and they would be 'successful' or whatever in that style of recording. Whereas the last album, it felt like the songs needed to be recorded in that way. I'm not saying that it's always the right choice, but I think it always feels like there is an inherent way of recording and presenting the songs, so when I think about them as a group it seems kind of obvious what the aesthetic of the album ought to be in order to present them properly.

To you, how do the lyrical dynamics differ between this record and Seems Unfair?

I think the lyrics are less central to this record, I think they are less interesting and less entertaining than on the last couple of records. I think that lyrics can sometimes be textural and basically there to keep the melody going, and then they can sometimes be front and centre, and maybe on this record they are more textural. But there are some lyrics I'm happy with, like there is a line about Bandcamp which I think scans well and I feel like that is a hard word to put into a song, so I guess I feel good about that.

The new record seems like it'd be a lot trickier to play live, are you planning on putting many of these new tracks in your live set?

We haven't tried to practice or play them but yes, I think that it will be trickier. That's very perceptive of you! There's a few that are obviously easier than others because the instruments are guitar, bass, and drums, so we will at least practice them and see how it sounds. If they sound bad we won't play them for the sake of it. For the Mitski tour later this year we have a different line up (because Libby and others couldn't get the time off work), and I think we'll do something a bit different, a bit stripped-down, and hopefully try and play more of these new songs.

Photo by Niralee Modha

I noticed you always tag your records as 'world' on Bandcamp, how come?

I hadn't noticed that! Bandcamp forces you to pick a genre and I don't really like that -- I think genres exist so that the music industry can make it easier to sell things. Or I sometimes think that. Sometimes I think I just like power pop. But I don't like the idea of someone thinking 'oh, I like indie-pop music so I'll see what other indie-pop music there is'. I don't know why -- stubbornness probably.

It seemed like you put out the record it as soon as you were happy with it, is that the case?

Yep that is absolutely the case. I put up the first song as soon as that was finished, and then put up the album as soon as that was finished. I was reading recently about 'Satisfaction' by the Rolling Stones, and how that was released something like 20 days after it was written and recorded. The internet should make that easier, but actually it seems like a lot of albums are still being released six months after they're recorded, to give time for press build-up, and to press vinyl, and most of this is about ensuring that the record sells enough to make money. Which is fine if you need to do that, and I do think that some people need to recoup recording costs and stuff. But I didn't have any costs because I recorded it in my basement. I also think a lot of people are spending silly money on getting 'press' for their album, and they're losing out, whilst the PR companies are making a lot of money. We'll make a bit of money from selling this album, and we'll use that to cover the costs of touring with Mitski in Europe in autumn.

The album is coming out on It Takes Time Records in the US. How did that come about / do you enjoy finding DIY labels to put out your music overseas?

I had an idea that I would like to put out the album in the US because we haven't released anything over there, and I know there are a few people who would be interested. I was gonna go round asking labels -- I guess Orchid Tapes is one that I had in mind -- and then Jordan who runs ITT messaged me saying how much he liked my music, and I thought that he seemed nice and that it would be nice to put it out with someone who actively messaged me rather than me going around trying to sell the album to labels. I guess my new policy is not to really ask for things, because it feels greedy, and to wait and see if anything comes up. Like the Mitski tour, we got asked. And what a nice thing to get asked to do. I'm not saying that people shouldn't ask, 'cos it's fine to ask, just that in our position I feel like we shouldn't be clamouring for more and more all the time when we already have a lot.

Photo by Niralee Modha

You often put albums out on tape, is that purely economical?

For this album, pressing a record felt like it would take way too long, but only having downloads is not much good when you're playing shows and wanting to offer your music for sale there. So it is a fairly practical choice really. I don't have that many tapes and I don't listen to them that often, but I think they are nice enough and I do think that they do something nice to the sound, especially when it's home-recorded stuff. Our first EP, I remember being very pleased with how that sounded on tape.

Do you prefer playing house shows? Are you still able to do that despite having a fairly big label behind you?

We don't currently have a label -- we put out two albums with Turnstile and I guess mutually agreed that we wouldn't do any more. Probably it was more their decision than mine, in truth. They were always fine with us doing whatever shows we wanted. I guess towards the end when they really wanted us to have a booking agent, and we really didn't want one, that was maybe the only source of friction between us. But we could still have played house shows alongside.

I like playing house shows on my own, but I think for full band it's pretty chaotic in a way that actually stresses me out -- I want the sound to be reasonably good and I want people to be able to see if they want to, and I want people to feel comfortable in a venue, and all those things don't often happen with loud, full-band house shows.

I noticed you tend to avoid heteronormative pronouns (for example, saying "the other person's house" in 4th August rather than using a gender) is that deliberately to make your music more inclusive?

I try and think about those things, and I maybe try and have a compromise between the ideal political phrasing of things, and my everyday way of saying things. The thing that usually sounds 'right' is the thing that 'feels' normal, but I'm wary of that because our feelings are discursively constructed by a society that is not respectful of trans people, and it's easy to marginalise or critique against discriminated people just by doing what feels 'normal'. I try to be aware of that. The lyric you quoted is a time that I feel like I was successful in doing that. A less successful time would be the lyric in 'Football' where I say "your mum or dad or whoever" -- I wanted the lyric to read as though it could mean parents who were both the same sex but it doesn't come across, I don't think, even though I like how clumsy the phrase sounds. That is such a good question, thanks!

Photo by Niralee Modha

I remember reading that Roxy (Brennan) and yourself had a conversation about music journalism, and you were somewhat more optimistic about it. How do you feel about music journalism in 2016, what makes good music journalism?

I'm really sorry, I don't remember this conversation... I bet it was very interesting though. I don't feel optimistic about music journalism really, because I think that online there are very few people doing it well. And it isn't their fault -- the way that the internet functions at the moment means there is an emphasis on new content and exclusive access and things like that, over people engaging thoroughly with music and maybe even being critical of it. It exists, definitely, but its outnumbered by 'Premiere'-type posts and I don't think that's very useful. It isn't what I would think of music journalism to post a song link and describe it in one sentence along with tour dates.

You brought out two records in 2015, and have already released your first of 2016. How often do you write songs? Have you started working on a new record?

I write songs a lot and I guess have a lot of half songs that sometimes get finished. Some ideas hang around for ages, years and years, and then suddenly get finished. I have vague ideas for the new album and I think it will be a full band album that sounds like new wave or power pop, like in-between Sheer Mag and Big Star. I hope.

Do you feel a responsibility to write politically-charged songs, or do you try to write antidotes?

Sometimes I feel a responsibility, when I feel like there is stuff going on in the world that is un-ignorable, and that everyone ought to be addressing in their lives and in their music/art/whatever. But I think generally if I try and address that directly it comes out really bad, and I don't use it. Political songs are so, so hard. I think I find it easier to fall into a comfort zone, lyrically, which involves a lot of everyday stuff and maybe more about relationships and internal emotions. Which sometimes feels like a cop-out.

We Have Always Lived In The Harolds is out now and can be bought here