It should come as no surprise that the world’s largest music draws acts from all over the country – and even some from other countries.
Traveling all the way from Vancouver, CA, alternative-rock band Trope is making their Wisconsin debut on the Uline Stage at this year’s Summerfest.
Trope’s sound is familiar yet refreshing – the band harvests the sounds of ‘80s and ‘90s alternative-rock while avoiding falling into the trap of sounding like a band that just couldn’t adapt to contemporary music trends. What they’ve done is breathe new life into a genre that has been decades past its heyday.
The band’s first single, “Lamb,” is a formal introduction to how the band is accomplishing this. Instrumentally, the song calls upon the sounds of Stone Temple Pilot and an easier-to-comprehend Tool. Add to the mix the exploding power of Evanescence – where the tone of the songs are emotively built up and then unleashed when it’s time for the chorus.
One of Trope’s strongest qualities is its ability to drive the songs – knowing when to tease a build-up, but then sink back into the catchy rhythm of the verse, only to burst into a head-banging bridge the next time around. Singer Diana Studenberg’s powerful voice takes the spotlight, and her ability to bellow out and sustain notes is impressive.
Trope is quickly making a name for itself, collaborating with big name music industry icons such as Mike Fraser – known for mixing five of AC/DC’s records – and David Bottrill – who has worked with bands like Tool and Stone Sour. There’s even a documentary in the works about the band – all this before they’ve even released a full length album.
Wisconsin Gazette had the opportunity to ask Dave Thompson, guitar player from Trope, some questions about the band and their upcoming performance at Summerfest.
Wisconsin Gazette: Could you tell me a little bit about how the band came together?
Dave Thompson: I met Diana in Toronto a few years back quite randomly actually. I overheard her humming a tune and asked if she was a singer. I was mainly producing artists back then. We struck up a conversation about music and then got together to work on a few of her original tracks. I then had to move to Vancouver for a project and about a year later she reached out and wanted to work on some new material. In the interim of producing other bands and artists, I had started writing my own material that really had no agenda, except just to satisfy my need for artistic expression and mitigate some anxiety and stress. I kept it pretty close to my chest for a while, and then one day I showed Diana an idea and her awesome engineering-degree brain understood the math in the music, and she came up with the lyrics and melodic idea that became “Lambs.” After that, we spent 2 years writing and recording demos and then approached some mutual heroes about making the album. That’s when Mike Fraser and David Bottrill came in. David was first, I sent him all the demos to get his feedback on them and then we went into the studio with Mike Fraser in Vancouver to track the album. I’m a huge fan of Mike’s work, especially on an album he did with John Sykes called Blue Murder. We used a few session guys on the studio recording and for performing live, we recruited drummer Aleks Amer and bassist Reggie Hache.
Wig: How did you get a gig at Summerfest?
DT: Because we’re awesome! No, seriously, we reached out to the organizers and submitted our EP and then did a midnight moon dance and crossed all our appendages.
WiG: Have you performed in Wisconsin before?
DT: No this will be the first time, and we are so excited to come there. Seems like an awesome city full of people that love music! “The world’s largest music festival” is there, so it’s got to be awesome.
WiG: You’re working with a lot of people who are affiliated with big names. What’s it like working with them?
DT: Personally, it’s a dream come true man. I mean, you grow up listening to these iconic artists and then you realize that it’s the same guy or guys on the records helming them, engineering, mixing and mastering etc. You reach out to them, and hope what you’re doing resonates in some small way because basically I’m a product of influence. I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, and funneling influence into something that resonates with me. It’s like trying to make a super group of influences. Mike Fraser and David Bottrill are just brilliant, and then we got Ted Jensen to master the album, which was just the icing on the cake. Lots of rock royalty on our little record.
WiG: Tell me about the documentary you have coming out.
DT: Stewart Whelan, a fabulous and talented cinematographer for The Flash TV show and others, reached out to Diana to discuss an artistic passion project, and Diana showed him some of the tunes for the album, which then inspired Stewart to want to chronicle the process in the studio and beyond in an artistic way. It’s a work in process, and won’t be out until we actually deserve a documentary. Still tons of work to do, lots of shows to play before that happens. But it’s great to have baby pictures and video of Trope in its infancy, watching it grow.
WiG: Many online publications are likening your group to Tool and I can totally see that. Who are some groups that have influenced this band?
DT: It’s incredibly flattering to be compared to such an iconic and talented band such as Tool, but I think it’s a leap. Tool are in a class of their own. While we have songs that are odd time signatures with a heavy edge, half the album is in 4/4 and has an alternative rock aspect. We are huge fans of 90’s alternative music, and also 80’s new wave. Then there’s Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, Rodriguez who are incredible story tellers. I’m also a fan of Coldplay, U2, Metallica, Stone Temple Pilots. So many great bands I’m sure have influenced us, even peripherally. Both Diana and I are fans of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, so an element of epic fantasy is in there also. I think I just try to create music that I want to become a more epic and cooler version myself than what actually exists. I was bullied as a kid a lot, and wasn’t cool at all. I was terrible at sports, and not much better academically.
WiG: Your song “Lambs” is about bullying. What inspired you to write a song on that subject matter?
DT: What inspired the topic of bullying for Lambs was personally going through it for Diana, and dealing with its peripheral issues including betrayal and disrespect. Diana really wanted to address it in a way that looked at different angles of going through that experience that were broad enough, while maintaining emotional specificity, such that the listener could relate to the song, if they’ve been through similar challenging experiences. It wasn’t written from a literal narrative of an experience per say, just an embodied experience that uses analogies to take the listener on that journey with us.
WiG: Tell me about your album Eleutheromania. Is there an overarching theme?
DT: Eleutheromania means “a manic zeal for freedom.” The overarching theme of the record deals with the internal and external process of how to attain more freedom in oneself. It goes through a range of topics such as bullying, addiction, suppression, betrayal, self-growth -- all as an exploration for answers. The record in a sense concludes that self-awareness and focus are the two factors that help lead you closer to freedom, and how that awareness can help prevent certain destructive thought patterns and negative situations from repeating themselves.
WiG: Is there a release date for the album?
DT: The album is tentatively set for release in late fall, we will be releasing a new single in the next few months called “Breach” with a video also. “Breach” is a riff rocker with stellar vocals and lyrics by Diana.
WiG: What can people expect from Trope at Summerfest?
DT: We feel really blessed to be able to come to Summerfest and play on the Uline Warehouse stage on July 5. We will be playing all of Eleutheromania live, and that has its own challenges as the music is complex. Hopefully people will enjoy it, and if they do, come say "hi!"
Trope performs at Summerfest on the Uline Warehouse Stage on July 5. For more information, visit www.summerfest.com.