“To those boneheads, philistines and uninspired skinflints who said no… thank you for keeping away and may you all rot in hell”
Anyone who watched the most recent BAFTA ceremony would probably have noted just about the only interesting event of the evening was that of the acceptance speech of veteran film-maker, Mike Leigh. The famously outspoken director of Secrets and Lies was receiving the BAFTA fellowship, and whilst the most memorable moment might have been his striking put down to those who didn’t back his films, he also had some fascinating words on a topic that affects all art-forms: independence.
Mike defined independence as making films “free from interference of any sort from backers, producers, politicians, censors or any other creatively-impairing factions.” A description that could equally apply to making independent records. In the halcyon days of the early-90’s “indie” boom, it became increasingly difficult to define just what made an indie record, a record could be made that sounded like an independent record but was made entirely on a major labels terms.
With the appropriation of the word “indie” by men in skinny jeans in awe of Oasis, in music at least, the entire independent terminology seems to have shifted to something else, DIY. Not that the DIY idea is exactly a new thing, you can track it back to the original punk movement in the 70’s, follow it’s influence through post-punk, through riot-grrrl, to almost any music scene that wants to exist outside the mainstream.
Increasingly with the dwindling returns of album sales and alike, DIY is less a statement and more a necessity. Can’t afford a producer, do it yourself, can’t afford to hire a studio, do it in your bedroom, need to maximise your t-shirt sales, design them yourself, print them yourself, and man the merch desk yourself. Yourself of course meaning not just you, but your friends, bandmates, even your label bosses – the joy of which is that it creates a sense of togetherness, an ethos and ethic that everyone is in it together. It’s there in the little pockets of scenes, both local and genre specific, it’s there in the truly independent labels putting out records that barely scrape a profit let alone a living, and it’s there in the music of so many great bands: the underground exists and as always it’s the most exciting place to be, even if you do have to do it yourself.
Trust Fund is essentially a pseudonym for the solo career of Ellis Jones. He’s joined on the album, as well as in the Trust Fund live band by a regularly rotating cast of his musical friends.
A largely bedroom recorded, lo-fi sound it brings to mind both electric singer-songwriters like Waxahatchee or Elliot Smith and the anti-folk of Jeffrey Lewis or Kimya Dawson. The songs go from almost a single guitar and lonesome, Daniel Johnstonish vocal, to full band efforts with vocal harmonies, drum-machines, bass, and keys. Yet they always maintain a sense of melody and melancholy, perfectly suited to his lyrical themes of the changing nature of relationships through time.
Trust Fund is both based and born in Bristol, and is an active member of the cities impressively DIY music scene. The days of the trip-hop dominated Bristol musical underground are now long gone, but with a network of venues and bands that seems to be growing by the day, it’s currently a hot bed of the UK’s underground music scene.
Ellis has been releasing records on a variety of DIY labels for sometime now including releases for Reeks Of Effort, the label run by Max from Joanna Gruesome, Art Is Hard and his own label Time Of Asking. Now signed to Turnstile Music, the home of Perfume Genius, Gruff Rhys and Cate Le Bon, he released his debut album, No One’s Coming For Us this week.
For starters most, if not all, of his promotional material seems to involve either cats or dogs, and if there’s one thing the internet loves it’s pets! One of the videos even makes it look like a dog is playing the drums! A DOG PLAYING THE DRUMS!
On a perhaps more important note there’s the wonderful open honesty of the lyrics. It’s essentially an album charting the demise of a doomed relationship. There’s the crushing but still hopeful opening track Sadness, that opens with the line “this time I think it’s going to be ok” but ends up pleading “don’t let this sadness become who we are.” There’s Cut Me Out, where Ellis sings “he is not a fragile alien, he is a grown man trying to fuck with your head” as he claims “I am a fragile alien” but also admits “I am sorry if I definitely deliberately lied, for 18 months of your life, I don’t know why I did that.” On the closing track, Unwieldy Foam, Ellis finally gives up after “four years have gone to waste” as he realises “I know where I come from and I am ready to go home.”
The album is almost uncomfortable, unbearably honest throughout, the lo-fi production, and minimal instrumentation working perfectly to lay his soul bare for the world to see, it is an album for the heartbroken masses. In Adele’s hands it would conquer the world, in Ellis’ it might be a lot more important than that!
Banging on about heartbreak, over a bunch of lo-fi noise? Haven’t we heard it all before? Sure, but it’s a beautiful example of the genre, witty, honest and heartbreaking it’s a very special record, plus sadness and guitars have always been a winning combination if you ask us!
No One’s Coming For Us is out now on Turnstile. Trust Fund head out on a UK tour from the 16th of February.