Interview with Diana Studenberg (Trope) about new album and upcoming tours

With a brand new album, endorsements from high profile music publications and industry veterans, and two high profile tours (a U.S. tour with Symphony X and Haken, and a U.K. tour with King’s X), Trope seems poised to take over the world. Their music is an impressive blend of alternative rock and progressive metal, and their lyrical themes are powerful and poignant reflections on some of humanity’s greatest struggles, augmented by the expressive and passionate vocal stylings of Diana Studenberg.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Diana to talk about some of her early influences, the origin of Trope, some of the sources of musical and lyrical inspiration, and what the future holds for Trope.

What were some of your primary influences as you began writing music?

I grew up in a wonderful time I feel, in the 90s, which had such a mixed web of genres. It felt like unique style was so encouraged, and not just touted as being encouraged – but also promoted. Left-of-center artists had a platform, whereas now it really feels like you gotta dig to find them. So I grew up listening to Toni Braxton, Michael Jackson, Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Spice Girls, Nas, Gypsy Kings, No Doubt, Julio Iglesias, some Spanish rap music, just a really mixed bag. And then as I got a bit older, I really dove into metal like Symphony X, Dream Theater, Nightwish, Dimmu Borgir, Sonata Arctica and eventually got more into alternative music like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Incubus, Bjork, Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, Imogen Heap and others.

Tell us about how you came together as a band. What were you hoping to achieve with your music?

I initially approached Moonhead [our guitarist/producer] to produce an album of blues pop rock stuff I’d been writing. At a certain point, though, we were really digging the progressive stuff he’d had stored on a shelf and decided to go in that direction instead. It felt way more inspiring for us, and I very quickly fell in love with the sounds and that style, having come from a heavy ‘metal/prog’ upbringing with music in earlier years.

I think we’re really trying to push ourselves to make something that’s different, not standard, and we do enjoy making extremely complex ideas sound simple. That I find very challenging, but really enjoy that challenge. That, musically, I think is our goal: to push our limits. Ideologically and emotionally, it’s to share this stuff which comes from our hearts, not just our minds. And to hope to impact people positively with sounds and ideas they may not hear every day, because not too many bands are doing this kind of thing. It’s a niche genre and it takes a lot of time to really craft something that we can be proud of. It’s split in two, really – we want to create something beautiful on the one hand, and use it as a means for exploration and healing, and thereby connection with people, on the other hand.

Your debut album, Eleutheromania, was just released. I looked up the meaning of the album title- “a mania or frantic zeal for freedom”. How did you decide this album title and theme?

Moonhead picked the title of the album and I didn’t know what it meant at first! It felt extremely fitting though, because much of the album was written from a place of feeling suffocated… suffocated by my environment, my own choices and stagnant voice, and the voices around me that I felt were also stuck in their own dilemmas. It was a period of years that just felt heavy, like a cloud was over me. And I wanted to break free desperately of the external and internal loop I felt I was in and craved that sense of freedom. I think that desire for some sort of freedom is shared and is deeply rooted in us.

What is your compositional process like? Does it vary from song to song?

It usually starts with an idea that Moonhead comes up with and creates all the parts for. Then I come up with a ton of different vocal melody ideas and we go through them and see which ones work the best. With Eleutheromania, the demos are what you hear in the finished album, meaning they didn’t change when we re-recorded them in the studio. We develop our ideas fully before going into the studio. In the future that may change, but because of the complexity of what we do, we want to make sure the songs work before committing to the cost of time in the studio recording process.

Your first single as a band was a cover of “Shout” by Tears for Fears. Tell us a little about what this song means to you, and why you chose it for your album.

“Shout” is a song that Moonhead and I loved and for me it’s about questioning the status quo and not accepting things as they are because we’re told we should, or told who we should aspire to be. It touches on so many aspects of life for me, from how we get treated in jobs, by others including even friends and family, and even by those in perceived portions of power. How sitting down and shutting up is not our birthright, but rather exercising our voice, our heart and recognizing our own value when others may not. Moonhead came up with the arrangement. We will have a cover on every album of a song and artist that resonates with us, giving it our unique spin.

The lyrics on this album may not tell a specific story, like a rock opera, but I do feel like the album has some recurring themes and some personal stories that make the album feel like a cohesive statement. What are some of the themes you address in the lyrics?

That’s very true and perceptive! What I love about the concept of an ‘album’ is that cohesiveness and how it really does feel like a captured slice of a moment in someone’s life, or an ideology which is held deeply for a period of time. We’re all subject to change and I feel I’ve changed a lot since the last album, but I was carrying a lot of baggage from situations that I hadn’t shared and so that first album was a bit of an outpouring of frustration, in a sense. And also very influenced by the people I was around and came across at the time, and their pain… wanting to write something for them and for myself. To try and create more space for my voice and hopefully inspire that for and in others.

The album was engineered by Mike Fraser, mixed and produced by Dave Bottrill, and mastered by Ted Jansen. What was it like to work with these three industry veterans?

The thing is with guys at this level, is that you know it’s going to sound good and that the sonic quality of the recordings and mix are going to be world class, which is exciting. Moonhead mixed a few of the single versions for “Shout”, “Hyperextend” and “Pareidolia” because he wanted to explore the songs sonically and spent some months doing that.

Your video for “Planes” was recently released, and I read that it was shot in 3 different countries! Tell us about what that was like.

Indeed! These times are so weird and we’re all spread apart, so we had to shoot the video for “Planes” in 3 separate countries, and then Moonhead edited and added us all into the same space. He directed the video also. It was pretty amazing how it all came together and each crew was so talented, and I was really happy with how it turned out. The challenge was getting camera angles and movements to line up, Moonhead had to do that frame by frame. Also, the song was sped up 150% and then we lip sync’d to that, then it was slowed down in post to give a really dreamy vibe. So yeah, the challenge with that with 3 different DP’s is frame rates, lens choices, cameras themselves and the fact that half of it was handheld. Still, I think the outcome feels cohesive. As for locations, we shot the video in Los Angeles California (US), Toronto (Canada) and Sofia (Bulgaria).

BONUS QUESTIONS:

What would be your dream concert lineup (can include any bands or individuals from any time period)?

Would have loved to see Queen with Freddie Mercury, Pearl Jam, Incubus, Bjork, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac when Lindsey was in the band. Jeff Buckley, Rodriguez and Nick Drake would be an awesome concert.

Who are some of your heroes, musically, artistically, or otherwise?

Jeff Buckley, Incubus, Peter Gabriel come to mind. Also, film makers like Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Glazer, Yorgos Lanthimos. Really love the sound of records by Fleetwood Mac, Muse, Queens Of The Stone Age. There are so many amazing artists contributing to our influence, it’s impossible to remember and list them all!

Favorite non-musical hobby?

Acting! I’m in love with acting… truly deeply. Such a cool way to connect with other creatives in a safe space and love that medium of sharing story… everything about being on set. Could be there day in/day out and it’s the best!

Make to catch Diana and her band, Trope, opening in the U.S. for Symphony X and Haken (tickets here and in the image below) and in the U.K. for King’s X (tickets here). Please head to their website to buy their latest album, Eleutheromania, and stay tuned for more from this amazing band!

Tour dates for US tour with Symphony X and Haken

Tour Dates for UK tour with King’s X

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.