My Dad Loves Gus Dapperton
Interview by Taylor Schmid
Photographed by Dillon Gray
Gus Dapperton fell into my lap at a requisite time. There I was, searching for new tunes during my lunch break – as I often do - gnawing on old pizza from the office fridge that tasted like Walt Disney’s thawed out gray matter, when I came across "I’m Just Snacking." The song brought color back into my life and outside the cafeteria’s plated glass, I imagined birds singing and squirrels cussing. I found leftover Panera in the fridge. Life was worth living again.
A lanky figure with an affinity for bowl cuts and eyeshadow, Dapperton's quirks are far from few. Watching his expressions beneath a pair of yellow framed spectacles, Dapperton's body seems to escape physical existence as he sings and dances. One is reminded of an early David Bowie- an influence of his since he was a kid.
We sat down for a Q&A with Gus before his show at Sunnyvale to talk his latest EP, Yellow and Such, and to ask him the most pressing questions we could think of; only one involving his hair.
POND: When and how did you first start making music and what prompted you to do so?
Gus: I first started making music in eighth grade due to the initiative of a songwriting contest. I won the contest and continued to make music.
POND: Where do you draw most of your inspiration from? And how do you translate that to your audience?
Gus: I draw most of my inspiration from film. I’m inspired by the stories they portray. I like to take obscure phrases that people say and pretend that they hold a greater meaning. Then I’ll expand a phrase into a full experience related to the person who said it and what that person means to me.
POND: You have a few singles out and recently released your debut EP Yellow and Such. Do you have any plans to release an album?
Gus: I am not sure exactly how I would like to release my next project but I have constantly been making music since the last release.
POND: You perform vocals on Faceless by Beshken and you guys are playing the same stage tonight. How did you meet?
Gus: Ben and I met at a music camp when we were juniors in high school and we have been best friends since.
POND: With Ben I'm sure it's different, as is doing most things with your best friends, but in general, do you like performing with other artists or flying solo on stage?
Gus: I enjoy playing with my band and feeding off their energy during a show.
POND: What about prior to taking the stage? Any pre-show jitters and what remedies do you use for nerves?
Gus: I don’t really get nervous. Usually I’ll have a beer or two, just to get my hands loose. I don’t really get nervous though, because most the time the people who come to these shows really like the music.
POND: Do you see people singing the lyrics to your songs? And does that trip you out at all?
Gus: Yeah, sometimes. But not really, I know a lot of my friends who know the words and stuff and I’ll see them near the front, but I don’t like to look at them. I try to look past them. I close my eyes a lot.
POND: In regards to your personal style, androgyny, and your affinity for eyeshadow, what are your thoughts on gender nonconformity?
Gus: I always thought, if it looks cool, fuck it. If it looks good on you, go for it. I mean, I think these are women’s pants. I most recently started doing my makeup, but I’ve been doing my nails for a while.
POND: What’s your favorite place to thrift shop?
Gus: More recently I’ve been going to this spot in Philadelphia called Retrospect. It’s on South Street. They have mostly women's clothes but in the back they have a good men’s section. I got these pants at East Village.
POND: How long have you been a front man for?
Gus: It’s only been two years, but I’ve always been a producer. I was never really a vocalist or musician up until my senior year of high school. Before that I was producing a lot of hip hop music and writing songs for my friends. I have a lot of friends who rap in upstate New York – I still make music with them.
POND: We know you write and produce all on your own music. Would you call yourself a perfectionist?
Gus: Yeah, I am definitely a perfectionist.
POND: How does that translate to live performances?
Gus: Usually I check the sound for a while before we start playing. I’m not too worried about the live sound as much, because every room sounds different and all the mixes sound different, but we try to play all the songs consistently like how they sound produced.
POND: If you could only write stadium country pop songs, or commercial jingles for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Gus: Probably jingles. Once in awhile I do write jingles. I like to score commercials and films once in awhile. It’s pretty fun. I think I’m more intrigued by film, so writing music for visuals in general is really fun for me.
POND: When you write a song do you have a visual in mind?
Gus: I don’t really see the visuals until the song is done. Once it’s done, and I listen to it a lot, I start seeing a vision for it, but I never know exactly how it’s going to turn out at first.
POND: You’ve said before Matt Cohen is one of the only people you trust to convey your music visually.
Gus: It’s been easy since I linked up with [Matt] because I trust him a lot to do his thing. I give him an analysis of what the songs mean and I let him do his thing and come up with a vision for it, and then we go back and forth. We have similar taste in music and videos so it’s easy to put trust in each other
POND: We have to ask, do you have a special bowl you use for your hair? And if so, do you ever eat cereal out of it?
Gus: No, I just usually line it up. I used to have a bowl cut when I was a kid, and it looked good on me.
POND: I showed my dad your music recently, he’s 63, and he loves it. He plays all of your songs on Spotify over and over again.
Gus: Yeah I like that. I really like that.
POND: I promised him I’d tell you that, but have you found your music resonating with an audience triple your age before?
Gus: Definitely. All of my family, like my dad and all his friends all love the music. They listen to it all the time. They’ll probably be here tonight. I think it’s cause it’s a little androgynous time wise. When it comes to the musical stuff, I get a lot of influence from 60’s rock and 80’s new wave. I don’t really try to mimic songs anymore, I kind of have it in me. I think some of the truest forms of inspiration I have comes from what my dad played when I was a kid, like David Bowie, the Smiths, just kind of comes back when I’m writing songs.