The Many Faces of TRISHES
The Trinidadian-American vocalist on her roots, socio-political influences, and her pursuit to creative expression that brings about a wave of change
Concept-driven music has been around for a while– In fact, concept albums have been part of the industry since the 1940s. In recent times, we’ve seen a great volume of concept-based albums originate from the South Korean music industry. Thematics such as psychology, occult, or fantasy often maneuver their way into tracks, giving listeners a deeper understanding of the artist’s psyche and expressionism.
Synthesizing music and psychology, multidisciplinary artist, TRISHES is forging a fresh identity for herself via concept-driven music. Challenging the confines of art and constructs of self by using live looping, visual art and spoken word, the Trinidadian-American vocalist is curating music to connect with herself; “I created TRISHES as a way to work through my inner conflicts,” she confesses in an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone India.
To familiarize yourself with the world of TRISHES is as gratifying as piecing together an intricate puzzle. Take for instance her album artworks; while “Day Jobs” and “Mountain of a Man” boast digital drawings, her 2017 single, “Summer Friends” takes a more somber approach with a moody portrait of the singer lying down on a pavement. The last three years however has seen the vocalist share her artistic vision through monochromatic sketches. “In terms of the concept-driven nature of my visual art, I believe my overall creative strength is in concept rather than in execution,” TRISHES elaborates the idea behind her concept-based album artworks. She continues, “The visual art, the music, all of it really just serves as different ways to express ideas that I feel I’m uniquely positioned to.”
Citing Nashville-based artist Nila Frederiksen as her inspiration, TRISHES observes her art to be a derivation from Frederiksen. ” I actually only started drawing around 2018 and the first person who taught me anything about drawing is an artist named Nila Frederiksen.” She recalls, “I first saw her artwork at a cafe in Nashville and commissioned some pieces from her. We kept in touch and eventually she actually moved to L.A. where we collaborated on a piece from Ego called ‘Birmingham’ that depicts cuffed hands with fingers that form into snakeheads.”
TRISHES’ artwork is a gateway to the young and promising vocalist’s discography. Giving listeners a sense of the psychological commentary that’s about to engulf their senses, her sketches carry a volume of emotions and profound thoughts. “My favorite piece of art that I’ve created thus far is probably the “Big Sunglasses” cover, where my hand is coming out of an iPad and an iPhone,” TRISHES explains the idea behind one of her favorite art pieces. “It’s a commentary on social media– how it changes our identity and disposition– but also about how I so often feel like we are drowning in the nationalism and misinformation fueled by the Internet.”
In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone India, TRISHES explains the vision for her upcoming album, The Id, her creative process and what prompted her to pursue music.
Do you recall the exact moment in your life that re-confirmed your commitment to pursuing music full-time?
I had a childhood friend who lived across the street. Her mother was a doctor and once, while we sat at her kitchen counter eating after-school snacks, she told me that music was a hobby but not something I should pursue as a career. A year or so later I performed for the first time. It was the middle school talent show and I sang Christina Aguilera’s version of The Sound of Music’s “Climb Every Mountain,” accompanying myself on piano. After the show she came up to me and told me that she was wrong and that I should pursue music, that what I did was something special. I even think she cried. I couldn’t believe I was that powerful– that a performance could change this smart, successful, educated woman’s mind. That moment taught me a lot about the power of art and music, how it could defy logic but also solidified my pursuit of music.
What is your larger artistic vision for The Id?
I created TRISHES as a way to work through my inner conflicts. I did so within the framework of the Freudian constructs of self (the Id, Ego and Super Ego,) because it’s such a deep part of our cultural mythology. My debut EP Ego centered around structures, like government and money, that were created to separate the conscious self from the primal self, but have also inadvertently separated us from our spiritual selves too. The Id, my debut full length album, is where I attempt to dive into what Freud called the “dark, inaccessible” self. To me the Id forms from suppressed fear and shame– which in turn manifests into anger, violence, greed, hatred and discrimination. The album is what came out when I tried to examine these tender, blind and wounded parts within myself. I hope it can encourage others to look at those parts of themselves too, gently, like they would comfort a child crying or talk to a toddler throwing a tantrum. I strongly believe all of our world’s external conflicts come from internal struggles that are ignored and suppressed. Hopefully this album can be one small way I can help others see that too.
What was your inspiration behind your upcoming single “Instant Gratification?” What is the track all about?
“Instant Gratification” is the tantrum I think my Id would throw if she could, if I would let her. It’s a primal scream and a chaotic mess. It is my best attempt at tapping into the part of me that is only selfish, only wants pleasure, only sees this moment and not the next, only sees myself and not my community. The music video, directed by Danny Drysdale, alludes to the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment and introduces us to the dark lair deep in the human psyche where the Id lives, stunted in growth, waiting for release.
How is your debut album coming along? What has this journey taught you about yourself as an artist?
The album is finished and ready for release on October 22nd, however I’m still working on a few of the 10 original pieces of artwork that will come with the artbox set that will be the only physical form of the album. More than anything the journey has reminded me that my north star is purpose. When I stop focusing on purpose, I think about things like Instagram likes and TikTok Followers and streaming numbers and popularity, which can be really toxic, especially because a project like mine has a bit of a high barrier of entry. When I remember my purpose, none of that seems to matter because I remember that this is all bigger than me. Then it becomes a spiritual process.
What have been some of the highs and lows of the album creation process? Did you at any point have to deal with imposter syndrome?
Creation is untouched joy to me– so creating the album and the artwork was a fun and fulfilling process. Working with Hakan Mavruk, who produced the whole album, was a blast. He’s so funny and one of my best friends. I remember recording and laughing so hard my stomach would hurt. He also trusted my vision for the album even before he could see it himself, and that meant so much to me. A lot of producers have tried to push their vision onto me, and the fact that Hak respected me in that way was invaluable. Promoting an album on the other hand is difficult for me because I find myself playing that comparison game and that’s tough. I honestly haven’t dealt with imposter syndrome though. I’ve always felt really confident in my work and what I have to say.
How do you keep yourself creatively motivated when working on new music?
I love to read and listen to podcasts and take classes at a community college down the street. I studied music in high school at Canyon Crest Academy, and in college at the Berklee School of Music, so I love being able to dive into other topics I didn’t get to in my musical education. I’m really interested in philosophy and anthropology so I take classes on subjects like that, as well as drawing classes. I mostly like to read autobiographies and non fiction in the anthropological or social justice oriented space but I do also read non fiction sometimes. And I love political podcasts. There’s no output without input, and for me the key to continuous creativity is continuous learning. Art and music is just my way of processing new ideas and experiences.
What are some of the stories you wish to share with the world through your music? Do you at any point feel hesitant writing songs inspired by personal experiences?
I want to share the way I deal with internal conflict, so that others might feel more comfortable addressing their own internal conflicts, their own shame and fear that they might have suppressed. I don’t usually write explicitly about interpersonal relationships, but when I do I don’t feel hesitant about it. Maybe that’s because I’m such a generally private person it feels like small glimpses into my personal life are okay. I’m also really honest with people, so anything I were to write about someone they would have heard about from me already.
What are some of the goals you’ve set for yourself and wish to achieve soon?
I would love to tour outside of the U.S. I toured briefly in Eastern Europe in 2019 but other than that I’ve mostly played within the U.S. It’s difficult with Covid to have any idea when I’ll be able to do that safely but traveling and performing are my two favorite things.I would also like to host art and music pop ups for The Id similar to the ones I hosted for Ego, where guests checked out headphones and took an audio tour through the album and artwork, answering questions along the way.
Are there any musicians that inspire you? What are some of the qualities you’d like to imbibe from them?
A lot of musicians inspire me creatively, from Regina Spektor to St. Vincent to Björk, but the quality I’m working on right now is being more actively joyful, and my inspiration for that has been American Civil Rights Leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis who passed last year. I so admire how he faced the truly ugliest parts of humanity and remained joyful.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you? Is it any different from your mantra in life?
The best piece of advice is that by uplifting others you uplift yourself. My mantra in life is ‘to be instead of seeming to be,’ the motto of my alma mater, The Berklee College of Music. Because a significant part of my platform is in the space of social justice, it’s easy to be performative, so I try to make sure that for every act others can see, I do three that they can’t. It’s a way to keep myself in check and remind myself why I do what I do.
How was the quarantine period for you creatively? Did the privilege of time teach you anything new about yourself as an artist?
Quarantine was a time mostly for drawing and not for music. I also wrote a lot of prose. I’m not sure why but processing everything happening through music wasn’t possible for me. The meditative aspect of stippling was calming throughout the chaos of the time. I’m not sure how much the time taught me about myself as an artist, but it taught me a lot about myself as a human. I meditated a lot and did some extended fasts as well. I’m softer than I was before, gentler, warmer, more maternal. I started to learn stillness. I also realized so much of my happiness was centered around anticipation of events to come. When that was taken away I needed to learn to appreciate life for small moments: my evening walk with my dog, the way the sun hit the trees during golden hour, children laughing. I’m working on trying to maintain that appreciation even now that I do have things to look forward to.
What are some of the aspects of your profession that keep you inspired and motivated?
I get to work with some of the most brilliant people, and that is such a blessing. The “Big Sunglasses” music video for example, the fact that I was able to dream up that idea and execute it with such an incredible team still fills me with an immense sense of gratitude. Choreographer Friidom Dunn I truly think is ahead of his time with his choreography, and director Jessica Lorenzo not only did an amazing job directing but also did an incredible job editing the video to make it believable. It’s amazing being able to collaborate with people I have such respect for and especially with friends. I’ve also gotten to work with my best friend Jala on the visual rollout of the album, and we even got to take a pretty eventful road trip together for it. That’s been such a joy because she doesn’t just understand my brand and my project, she has an unwavering belief in it that helps me stay motivated.
Do you have a message for your fans?
Lean into what makes you unique, this is what you have to offer the world. And do things that scare you as often as possible.