Trust Fund: lost in the supermarket
Trust Fund were in a room full of old friends when I first caught them on stage.
They were playing a gig in their singer Ellis Jones’ hometown of Bristol for the first time in what might as well have been forever, and it was obvious from the get-go that he felt at home there. It was like he’d been born right there in that dark, heaving room and he’d be happy to stay there forever. In the front row, Roxy Brennan was belting out the words to each song even more emphatically than the rest of the sweating, beaming assembly. Roxy played bass on the band’s latest album Seems Unfair – a triumph of lo-fi pop punk that sits somewhere between the unfettered energy of Weezer and the melancholic societal reflection of Belle & Sebastian – but that night she was looking up at Ellis’ sister Libby filling in. They were joined by regular drummer Dan as well as Libby’s husband Burt on guitar.
This temporary four piece were constantly catching each other’s eyes, laughing off typically awkward between-song banter. You’d never guess they were a hotchpotch crew of friends and family. That’s the nature of Trust Fund. It’s a revolving cast of friends and family centred on Ellis, who has a sort of preternatural ability to swap and change band members while still keeping everyone happy. In fact, he’s got it so down he even has his old band members singing along in the front row.
“I don’t think it was the live thing that got me into this though,” Ellis says over the phone two months later. He pauses. “I think it was probably more like listening to recordings and sort of wanting to emulate that.”
Ellis has been making music for a long time. We talk at length about an album he made with his sister some eleven years ago that he half hopes to rerelease, recording his first album No One’s Coming For Us entirely on his own and how having a record label has opened up a world of possibilities, including the chance to record his new album with a musician he truly admires.
“I guess I’d call it a band a bit more now,” he muses. “We recorded the album all together with [Hookworms frontman] MJ in Leeds… It’s definitely not just me cause when I play on my own, it’s just shit.”
Ellis is constantly putting himself down and his sense of dark, self-effacing humour really shines through in his songs. “When you’re sad sometimes things seem a bit inescapable, but when you look back you just wanna laugh about it. I guess it’s just trying to have that perspective.” Perhaps, in some sense, it’s necessary for Ellis to use light to balance out the dark. He insists that his humourously self-critical approach is not conscious, and he’s quick to point out that most of the songs are about relationships with other people. It’s just easier to mock himself than hurt their feelings.
It’s a considerate standpoint and one that he considers a moral alternative to the sort of posturing that makes certain artists seem so insincere. “It’s like the Drake thing of ‘Oh I’m such a dick but what you gonna do cause I’m also very sensitive?’ That’s kind of awful,” he cringes. A lot of what Trust Fund is about is Ellis’ very personal inner world. He exists in a world of supermarket freak outs, finds comfort in crisps and offsets the banality of life with the banality of footie banter. Trust Fund songs are often littered with references to the droll, farcical aspects of culture and the dire, humdrum responsibility of daily routine. They are strewn with intensely personal and somehow universal lyrics. All of this is key to the Trust Fund charm.
“You leave from your house / I’ll leave from mine / I’ll meet you in Big Asda in one hours time / safe and dry / not wanting to die,” he sings on Seems Unfair track Big Asda. He laughs shyly when I ask him if it’s politically motivated (he’d suggested it was in a recent Facebook status). “It’s kind of about supermarkets being the only place you can go when you feel a bit sad and you don’t want to be at home…” I listen intently, half wondering if he’s pulling my leg. “Where are you gonna go?” he continues. “I guess supermarkets are like a weird public space where you can go and feel safe but at the same time they’re not public at all, they’re owned by big private companies. So actually they don’t want you wondering around there. So in that way, yeah, it’s political.” He pauses one last time to reflect on his statement and eventually rebuffs himself with suitable sarcasm, “Mostly it’s about crisps.”
Seems Unfair is out now via Turnstile