The Trp & Michael Tousana’s Visual Journey
You may not know who The Trp—pronounced The Trip—is, but as a group who has taken the vow of anonymity, no one really does. The trio, whose music has been described as a hybrid of post-electric, hip hop, and garage, are a secretive bunch who would rather be identified by their work than their actual names; allowing their fans to form an intimate connection with the music itself. They’ve recently teamed up with Michael Tousana, New York artist and musician, on a collaborative concept album. Not just an auditory undertaking, YAHUDA is a piece of work that speaks to visual aesthetics. In an interview with Milk Made, the musical cohort speak about their experience working on the album and the visual journey that accompanies it.
Milk Made: Where did the idea for a collaborative concept album come from?
Michael Tousana: I met one of the members of The Trp in Soho and from there we started working together; sending beats back and forth online in between New York and Europe in 2012 and 2013. We started hitting the studio mid-2013. From there we worked on the tracks we already had and created new ones, which ended up becoming YAHUDA.
The Trp: It all came about organically. It was actually very coincidental that we met. The more we hung out we realized we had a lot of the same ideas about the life and the universe, so after finding out our music styles were different but complemented each other, we set out to create this body of work.
MM: Describe the sound of the album.
MT: It’s two different sounds coming together and living in a duplex—it’s like a sitcom. Though there are different people involved in this project, it comes together and exists as this clean—yet uncanny—meeting of two cultures. I’m really excited for it!
MM: Michael, you’re also a designer and artist. How do visuals come into play for this album?
MT: I’m inspired by visuals every time I hit the synth or guitar, every time a lyric comes to mind. One thing during the writing of the album we had in mind was creating a soundscape. YAHUDA is supposed to be a sort of subliminal story. Everything we made was purposely meant to be visually inspired.
MM: You guys are an anonymous band—you refrain from taking photos of yourselves and no one knows your individual names. Is there a particular reason for that?
TT: We aren’t at all photogenic and have long, weird, unpronounceable names! We’re monsters, really! [Laughs]
MM: Where do you draw your inspiration?
TT: Things that are unfathomably larger than we are, like the thought of two intelligent species out in the cosmos meeting for the first time…also Lotto’s essence and food.
MT: The world and everything around us: colors, nature, buildings, aliens, quantum physics, Haile Selassie, New York, East Atlanta—my home—anything or anyone I’ve ever interacted with.
MM: Did bringing your different styles together pose any difficulties?
MT: Heck yeah! We had a number of disagreements. However, at the end of the day were all pretty level-headed and were all in it for the greater good. A lot of those compromises for sure developed us all as artists.
TT: Yep, and we sure grew as artists after working on this; which is one of the benefits of working with someone coming from a different musical place and cultural background. You see things from other perspectives.
MM: What was making the video for Catching Fire like?
MT: It was a long day in Jersey. Us and Anthony Blue Jr., the director, were out in some weird mountain park. I just remember not sleeping the night before and knocking out in the car ride back home.
TT: [Laughs.] Yeah, it was a long day. It was fun, though, driving around mid-November finding cool shots. We actually filmed, the Leon de Yahuda music video the day after. It was a busy weekend. A lot of sleeping ensued on Monday.
MM: What’s your favorite track from the album?
TT: Probably "Altitude" and "Only One."
MT: That’s a hard question for me, but "Horizons" and "On My Mountain" for me are really strong.
MM: If you had to describe your album in one word what would it be?
MM: What do you hope to achieve with this album?
MT: Win the Nobel Peace Prize.
TT: Universal domination. Seriously, it’s coming.
Photography by Anthony Blue, Jr.