Interviewed on January 9, 2018
Gus Dapperton’s embracingly emotive music, along with his casually bold visual style, have made him an artist to watch in the last few months. His creative output, at once nostalgic and refreshing, bears consistency through multiple channels despite his wide range of influences and inspirations. In a world where more is less and too much is not enough, Gus’ carefully considered offerings encourage a certain attentiveness from his audience that has no doubt played role in his recent success. We're excited to see what he'll do next, check out our conversation below.
What The Sound: To start off, we read that your musical beginnings were centered around producing Hip-Hop. Can you elaborate on that and let us know how this connects to your current work?
Gus Dapperton: Yeah, so growing up I was mostly inspired by Hip-Hop music. A bunch of my friends were rapping, we kind of got into it together. I started producing because I was super intrigued with GarageBand and sampling. I moved on from that, but I loved J Dilla, Madlib, and MF Doom growing up, and those are some of my biggest influences as a producer. I think when it comes to sequencing and rhythm, that really translates to my music now. Definitely the drum sequencing of J Dilla, when I'm using drum machines and stuff like that.
WTS: Yeah, I can see some connections between the way those people were producing music...you're very much the DIY, self-produced type of musician, and I can see some similarities with the artists you just mentioned. Going off of that, what was the first album that you bought?
Gus: That's a good question, the first album I fully bought...I think it was a CD, I want to say it was an MF Doom record. I can't say which one it was, it might've even been a collection rather than an official album, but that was the first CD I bought.
WTS: Getting into your latest project, you've said that this is the first project you've put out as yourself, is that right?
Gus: I just mean Gus Dapperton as a whole, that's probably the truest interpretation of my sound.
WTS: It's interesting to describe your music in that way, could you describe that a bit in terms of what that process is like? Interpreting yourself, and expressing it in an honest way?
Gus: Yeah, so basically growing up and starting out making music, you aspire to be like someone, aspire to sound like someone. After I'd put in a certain amount of time doing that...I went through some things in life, and I came out of it in a way where I would just sit down and make music, it would kind of just come out of me. The vision I would have in my head was there, and I just had to put it down.
So when I say interpretation, it's really trying to achieve that sound that's in my head. Given my constraints, be it equipment, or any other things that play a part, that's what I mean by interpretation. It's just all me, sitting down, nothing in my head except what I want to make, and then just putting it down.
WTS: The visual identity is obviously an important part of Gus Dapperton as an artist. I was wondering if that's always been the case?
Gus: I'd say that's always been the case. I've always been interested in dressing myself, even as a small child. I would like to experiment with different costumes, like Halloween costumes growing up, and eventually that led to tailoring my clothes how I wanted to and things like that. I always would cut my hair in different ways, I think I started cutting my own hair in around 8th grade and dying it, just experimenting. When I was a toddler I had a bowl cut, and I decided to just go back to that, it just feels right.
WTS: Yeah, that's interesting, thinking about how the visual identity intersects with the musical identity. Obviously they're connected in a lot of ways, but they also maybe progress independently at times. I wonder how you see those two intersecting? Does one influence the other, and vice versa?
Gus: Yeah, so nowadays it just kind of relates back to when I was a kid, at least my visual identity. Even being a toddler, I kind of dress like a toddler and even look like one, and that in some ways relates to what my parents would play growing up. All those 60's rock influences, 80's new wave, etc. I know it's corny to say this, but it's almost trying to get back to my roots in some sense.
WTS: Now that you say that, I feel like I can see that in some ways, maybe the whimsical nature of the videos, and even certain parts of the music, it seems like that all makes a lot of sense. There's a certain consistency that wasn't explicit to me at first, but now I'm seeing it all come together.
Gus: It wasn't even explicit to me at first. I've thought about that question before, and I think I found a way to understand what it was. Just going back to where it all started.
WTS: So how does progression and evolution fit into that?
Gus: Yeah so, I'm not sure if the visual portrayal will change much, it'll definitely evolve within itself. I know the music will definitely change and progress, but I think it will just be expanding on this idea.
WTS: I know you worked on the video with Vogue, and have a sense of style that people have very much recognized. Do you have any aspirations with fashion? We see a lot of musicians diversifying their creative output these days, I wondered how your work fits into that.
Gus: Yeah, I definitely have a lot of side projects and a lot of ideas aside from music. Music is definitely the main one, and then there are branches from that. I'm really into film, I'd love to write a story or a script one day, or produce a film. I'm also working on a children's book that I wrote. Also with fashion, like you mentioned, right now I'm preoccupied with working on the merchandise and that all sorted out, and that's been a really fun process.
WTS: Damn, I want to hear more about this children's book. Is that something you can talk about or is it still too much in-process?
Gus: I mean it's almost done. It's kind of a short story that relates to the first EP, my friend Kenzo Repola illustrated it. It's called Glum from Up. We're going to be printing a bunch of copies for merchandise but we're not gonna publish it.
WTS: Very cool. So when you say children's book, you mean the aesthetic, or the tone, or both? Maybe less functionally a children's book, and more of a specific way of presenting information?
Gus: I think you're right, it's more of the aesthetic for sure. It would be a pretty advanced children's book (laughs).
WTS: I'm trying to imagine what that might look like. It's cool to see how it all comes together, especially because it seems like you've been pretty deliberate about your output. It hasn't been a ton of material, but rather you're being very purposeful. That seems like a balance many creatives have to pursue, the question of do I spend more time doing less, or less time doing more? Is there a specific reasoning behind your approach to that? Or is that just your natural way of doing things.
Gus: That's just my natural process, I've always been quality over quantity with everything, to the fullest. Everything that I've put out is the art that I feel comfortable with, I'm really just a perfectionist.
WTS: If you were introducing someone to your music, what would you show them?
Gus: Interesting. Naturally I'd probably show them my latest work, I know I'd probably show them the videos. I'd probably show them "I'm Just Snacking" or "Prune, You Talk Funny," just because those have the visual narrative as well. Again I'm a really big fan of film, and I think the two just go hand-in-hand.
WTS: Getting into the tour, so you put together a band, and I heard that one of the bandmates is actually your sister?
Gus: Yes! So my sister's in the band, she's 17, she plays the synthesizer and the electric piano. My band is all just my best friends from back home, it's just a really fun and laid-back vibe. We're always pretty playful on stage, cracking jokes and whatnot. It makes everyone feel more comfortable, and then the crowd is more comfortable too. Even without a stage presence, the fact that we're comfortable with each other and aware of what's happening is something that the crowd notices.
WTS: So with your creative process, it's mostly if not exclusively you creating the music, playing the instruments, right?
Gus: Yeah, so I'll have my bandmates play when we record live portions, like live drums and bass and things like that, but yeah I'm writing, producing, and recording it.
WTS: Cool, yeah I was just curious about what it's like translating those songs and recordings into a live show, incorporating other people and many other aspects as well.
Gus: Yeah, so my music isn't terribly live-sounding, I use a lot of drum machines and interesting sounds, synthesizers and things, but when I perform I kind just like to play as a rock band basically. And although we play and perform like a rock band, it doesn't come off quite like that because of the sound. The music is fairly laid back, kind of like mood music, almost dreamy, but when we play live we give it a bit more pep.
WTS: Totally. I'm thinking again about your visual presence, and how that adds different dynamics to the music. Live shows can be like that too, but in a different way. Is there a certain way you'd like to do that? You said playing like a rock band for example; what's your approach to your live shows and what are you hoping to convey to your fans through that medium.
Gus: I've been really interested in making the live show more theatrical, adding some stories here and there and narratives between songs. I'm continually adding to that as we go along, and we like to have some live visuals as well, behind the scenes footage, portions of videos, and even some old movie clips, which can all tell another story about the songs that we're playing. So yeah, I want it to be a very theatrical performance as well as a music show.
WTS: Yeah, I think we're all hoping you'll bring out some of those dance moves as well.
Gus: (laughs) I mostly play guitar in all the songs we do, but when I'm not I definitely dance as much as I can.
WTS: Looking forward to it. Alright, so Gus Dapperton 5 years from now, what's he doing?
Gus: Making music as an established and influential member of this generation of artists and fans. Continually advancing, pursuing the side-projects, maybe some films, original soundtracks, some story books. I just really hope to be the best artist that I can be.
Interview by Broccoli