We recently connected with Diana Studenberg, lead vocalist and songwriter for Vancouver-based alt-rock band Trope, for an interview and intro to her group. Also featuring guitarist and producer Dave Thompson, Trope is garnering attention and glowing reviews from around the world for their newest track “Lambs” (listen on iTunes or Spotify). The impressive debut single covers a plethora of important topics from bullying to betrayal and we wanted to learn more about the band and their up-coming debut album Eleutheromania.
For starters, I would like to congratulate you on all your success so far, especially for such a new band. In just two years you have earned the attention of industry veterans, like Mike Fraser, David Bottrill and Ted Jensen. What was it like to work with such experienced and well-respected members of the music community and what have you learned from them?
Diana Studenberg: We were really grateful that both Mike, David, and Ted were willing to lend their talents to our record. Personally, I’m a big fan of the epic sound Mike coaxes, and I grew up listening to David’s work on bands including Dream Theater and Coheed and Cambria. We worked very closely with Mike, as he engineered the record, and we were in the studio day in, day out with him for just over a month.
There was a lot that I learned from working with Mike when it came to the extremely detailed level in which he listens to tone and pitch in instruments and also the value he placed on consistency in performance and hard work. He was incredibly meticulous, which is something I really appreciated. Working with David was amazing as well, albeit long-distance. We sent him the record during its pre-tracking stages and getting to hear what he heard in the music was extremely insightful.
When listening to your music I was mesmerized by its haunting nature, and I couldn’t help but think of Evanescence. You have also been compared to Tool and A Perfect Circle. What do you think of these comparisons and have any of these bands influenced your music?
Studenberg: Funny you should ask! It’s happened a [small] handful of times that I’ve been compared to Amy Lee. The blur is that it’s a massive honour to be compared to such a talented and successful musician. My only opinion with this specific comparison is that it feels at times like a bit of a broad-stroked comparison, especially given how different our music is and it, for the most part, even falling into a different genre with the presence of polyrhythms and being sung in lower registers.
I suppose I’ve seen it happen to other female vocalists as well, even in one case a growl band, and it can sometimes feel like the moment a band brushes against heavier-rock-with-a-dark-tinge and has a female vocalist – they get compared to Evanescence. I just hope that our pallet of female vocalists in hard/alt rock continues to grow and permeate the mainstream just like Evanescence did, to increase these points of comparison. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to take it as an enormous compliment… and also would love to sing a duet with Amy, among others, one day!
Being compared to Tool and APC again, is also an enormous compliment. Their particular music definitely does inspire some of my writing process. But then a bunch of other acts such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Imogen Heap, Jeff Buckley, Bjork I’d say contribute as much, if not more. It’s a mixed bag. I think all the above acts are really in leagues of their own, ultimately. We’re just trying to create something that’s as honest and unique an amalgamation of our influences that inspires us, and hopefully will the listener.
Check out the video for the above-mentioned “Lambs” single.
What is your dream musical collaboration?
Studenberg: Dave Thompson from Trope! Dave was a dream musical collaborator that I found out was a dream musical collaborator only once I started working with him. I love the alt rock music that he writes, I also love his electronic remixes, and just his songwriting/musicality in general. I feel like he is a true artist with a clear direction and vision, and with the ability to make strong and emotional choices, while remaining in an exploratory and open state. The combination of all those attributes feels extremely rare to me.
I’d love to at some point collaborate with Imogen Heap, I’m such a fan of what she does. I think she’s an absolutely incredible producer and songwriter. Her music still feels ahead of its time, perhaps even more so in this phase where, from a songwriting perspective, the mainstream pop feels very palatable, yet also very safe. I think the way she throws what feels like an endless supply of different sounds and elements into a single song is incredible. I see images in her music and can also hear an intense and very honest devotion to craft.
I also would like to work with Doc McKinney at some point. I met him a while back when I was but a wee young lass, and would love to collaborate someday on a very alt and weird type of fusion/alt record. There are tons of others though… I love collaboration! I love both aspects of bouncing ideas and getting to learn from others’ processes, as well as going into a corner of the sandbox and sculpting in an introverted way.
Noble Vybe says, “In the end of it all, integrity may be the keyword for ‘Lambs.’” After listening to “Lambs”, I think the keyword for me would be “real”. The song felt very emotional and personal to me. Diana, how do you achieve such real and personal lyrics? What is your songwriting process like?
Studenberg: That was a lovey review from Noble Vybe, we really appreciate them taking the time to write that. As far as the source of the lyrics goes – I only write about topics that I have first-hand experience with. And even at that just first-hand experience isn’t enough. The subject matter has to come from an almost desperate place of needing to write about that particular thing, to the point where it felt at times if I didn’t, I’d implode. It’s the stuff that rationalization nor therapy could fix. And so the only way to the other side of the issue for me is to write a song about it and explore possible solutions on how to process it. The blessed thing is that this actually helps me build more awareness and alleviates some of the anxiety that comes from feeling deep in the hole and thick of it, to being able to stand outside and gain perspective.
Regarding process, I’m just a huge fan of the craft of writing and of artists who are great writers. My consistent goal with the writing of melodies and lyrics is to come up with/channel something that matches the frequency of what I’m receiving musically, adds to it in some way, helps relieve anxiety/informs… and is something I couldn’t anticipate. I find that last goal to be incredibly hard, and I tend to break my brain over coming up with something that surprises me/doesn’t repeat patterns.
I’m not always successful as it can feel impossible given influence to fully break out of that, but I try my very best because in music, what connects/inspires me is that unique perspective in a shared emotional truth. Then again there’s something to be said about writing from influence and honouring that, but again that seems to happen regardless. I really ultimately feel incredibly blessed to get to write to the musical beds that Dave creates that feel beautifully deep, complex and endless.
And the shorter answer to your question is 🙂 [!] – Dave writes all the instruments – guitar, bass, ebo, and drums and I write the melodies and all the lyrics, though at times Dave will weigh in on some of the melodies.
Where does the name Trope come from and what does it mean?
Studenberg: Dave came up with the name Trope. It means a cliché, something that’s been done before. You may have heard it used more commonly in literature or film. The reason for the name is that we work tirelessly to not repeat clichés in the writing, while also being heavily influenced by acts we love and pay homage to.
I love all genres of music but hip-hop is my go-to. In saying this, one rock band that has a special place in my heart is Linkin Park. I know musically you are different from them, but listening to “Lambs” for the first time evoked the same emotions in me as when I listened to “Numb” for the first time. Both songs have so much raw emotion. What are your thoughts on Linkin Park and Chester Bennington’s legacy on music?
Studenberg: That’s pretty awesome that you got a similar feeling from listening to “Lambs”. “Numb” was a song that meant a lot to me as well when I was growing up. I was a teenager when it came out and I remember learning all the lyrics and just butchering it in my room. I think Chester Bennington was extremely talented. He always felt very pure and honest and committed. Like he believed what he sang so much and would go to war for it. I know I join many in being deeply saddened by what happened to him. He was a light and definitely left a legacy behind him. His and Chris Cornell’s death, especially both happening so close to one another, had a big impact on me, and I just wish their families and close ones nothing but love and light.
Check out the band’s “Lambs” video teaser clip here.
The title of your up-coming album is Eleutheromania which means “a manic zeal for freedom”. After listening to your music I believe this is a very appropriate title. How did this album title come to be?
Studenberg: Dave strikes again! Dave came up with the title. I think it means slightly different things to both of us. For me, personally, a huge running theme in the record is about having felt stuck in many situations/types of relationships and how to “unstick”. The running solution and answer to all those conundrums, has been via increased awareness/freedom. It’s perhaps a broad-stroked response, yet it feels like a bit of a loop – our own empowerment and awareness come from expanding our internal sense of freedom, while that consciousness also expands into more freedom. Freedom is power. It’s creativity. It’s growth. It’s love. It’s air. And our barometers for how much we’re willing to sacrifice differ from one person to the next.
Personally, I’d been sacrificing too much freedom for too long and felt like I was jumping from one cage to the next and was underwater. The awareness that swooped in at this point, as I felt the pressure increase, played a critical role. It forced me to move in the direction of what I needed… once I stopped ignoring and diluting those needs. This idea of feeling hope that you can unstick, and make however much more room for yourself, even if in small increments, is one I really hope to convey with this record to the listener.
On your website it says you are working on a documentary with renowned cinematographer Stewart Whelan. What will the title be and what can we expect from this documentary? What was it like to work with a cinematographer who has worked with legendary bands like Metallica?
Studenberg: Working with Stewart was absolutely incredible. He has such a clear view on how to setup an entire shoot and then just makes it happen, in a way that feels both smooth and intensely efficient. I feel very fortunate to have gotten to work with him and that he responded to the music. What he and the amazing crew he gathered on this project did was of uber epic proportions. We really appreciate him, the crew and also the support from William F White re lighting gear and Sim Digital re camera gear.
The documentary doesn’t yet have a title and is still very much in its embryonic stages, with some in-studio footage. I wish there was more to say, but it’s still in a really early phase of development. Will divulge more, as it comes!