Robert Alfons of TR/ST Is Listening to Brian Eno, Fiona Apple, and Drake
This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, the songs they want played at their funeral. In this edition, we speak to Robert Alfons, the frontman of dark wave band TR/ST, on the occasion of the release of his latest single, “cor” from the forthcoming album, The Destroyer (Part 2). Here, he explains why Fiona Apple makes the worst dinner party music, why Nina Simone make the best crying-alone-in-your-bedroom music, his and how his first “concert” was more of a Pet Shop Boys performance piece.
MARK BURGER: First up, what was the last song you listened to?
ROBERT ALFONS: “Thursday Afternoon” by Brian Eno.
BURGER: Who was the earliest musician to influence you?
BURGER: That you can remember.
ALFONS: Probably Real McCoy.
BURGER: What was your first concert?
ALFONS: I mean, it wasn’t really my first concert. I saw a dance performance of somebody doing “Go West” by Pet Shop Boys. I didn’t really see a lot of concerts growing up, I kind of was isolated. But that was a very formative performance for me.
BURGER: What was it exactly?
ALFONS: It was like an interpretive dance performance of “Go West.”
BURGER: That sounds like quite the spectacle.
ALFONS: It was incredible.
BURGER: Do you have a favorite movie soundtrack?
ALFONS: The Apollo Brian Eno soundtrack.
BURGER: Who is a dream collaborator of yours, both of all time and also present day?
ALFONS: Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins. Love her forever.
BURGER: What’s a song that always puts you in a good mood?
ALFONS: Glamorous Monique, “Tighten up!”
BURGER: What are some songs or artists that you would put on a road trip playlist?
ALFONS: Ooh yeah. Yves Tumor, “Lifetime,” PJ Harvey, “Joy,” and Vashti Bunyan, “Here Before.”
BURGER: What about for a dinner party playlist? Like a chic dinner party moment?
ALFONS: I always try Fiona Apple, and I get told to turn it off.
ALFONS: [Laughs.] I’m always like, “Oh, this is going to be great.” But it’s not that kind of music.
BURGER: A house party playlist?
ALFONS: Skinny Puppy. Nine Inch Nails.
BURGER: A playlist for crying in your bedroom?
ALFONS: Just Nina Simone down the list.
BURGER: A breakup playlist?
ALFONS: Goodness. So many. There’s an amazing cover of “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” by Annie Lennox. It’s a cover of a Neil Young song. It’s just shockingly gorgeous.
BURGER: Just that on repeat?
BURGER: What about music to get high to?
ALFONS: Celine Dion.
BURGER: I love that. What about music that you would want to have played at your funeral?
ALFONS: I mean, I’ve said Brian Eno a lot, but that’s the funeral music for me, like “Always Returning.”
BURGER: Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
ALFONS: It changes. Drake, lately. “One Dance.” “Just Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Kendrick Lamar.
BURGER: Really? That feels like it’s lots of lyrics.
ALFONS: That song “Love.” It’s so beautiful.
BURGER: What’s an instrument that you would like to learn how to play?
ALFONS: The autoharp.
BURGER: What is that?
ALFONS: It’s like a handheld, or arm-held, almost triangular shaped… It’s a stringed instrument. It’s not so much like a harp. More like a mini, semi-guitar kind of thing.
BURGER: If your life was a TV show, what would the theme song be?
ALFONS: “Light Asylum” by Dark Allies.
BURGER: Do you sing in the shower?
ALFONS: I don’t. I sing everywhere else. Maybe because I don’t have a good echoey shower.
BURGER: The acoustics just aren’t together.
ALFONS: Yeah. It doesn’t inspire me the same way.
Listen to Robert Alfons’s “Add To Queue” playlist below, and follow Interview on Spotify for more.