The New York born and bred singer-songwriter offers a journey into his subconscious through ten chronological tracks on his 2019 full-length debut album Where Polly People Go To Read. Having already generated tens of millions of streams and views as well as hovering around 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify since his surfacing in 2016, Gus Dapperton is shifting the definition of music-making through song-based statements such as his early singles Prune, You Talk Funny, I'm Just Snacking, and Moodna, Once With Grace created totally by himself in his bedroom. Having written, performed, engineered, mixed, and mastered each song himself, there is no denying his music is quintessentially Gus Dapperton.
London backstreets serve as the mise-en-scène as photographer Emma Anderson photographs Gus on a divine Summer’s day, whilst Jamie Ortega dresses him in a crossbreed of New York and London styles creating looks fit only for those with the guts to pull them off. Currently touring the world for sold-out crowds, Gus immerses himself in the things going on around him to pick apart and analyse each and every situation with a critical eye for a zealous understanding of everything from movies to relationships and heartbreak to dreams. Effortlessly combining the 60s soft-rock, 70s psychedelic, and 80s new wave sounds of his debut EP in a timeless manner with a widened sonic palette for Where Polly People Go To Read, Gus grabs attention in the best way to create noteworthy ripples in the music industry. Tearing lush green grass out of the ground as he thinks, Gus thoughtfully and truthfully responds to questions to reveal who Polly People are, and where it is they go to read.
Who is Gus?
Gus is me. Yeah, that’s just me. I would say that I am a little annoying because I get riled up a lot and I’m dramatic if I’m super excited or super mad and emotional. I guess I would just say that I’m a little dramatic. I’m passionate about music and encouraging in regards to my friends and family. I would say I have a lot of strong emotions to portray in my music.
What makes you happy?
My friends and my family. Making music. Pasta. Swimming in any natural watering hole - like the ocean or something. Getting my hair cut and dyed. I’m obsessed with changing and changing things around me. I like to change the environment that I live in quite often, and I like being in different places. I also like changing my appearance. I like the fact that I have the ability to do that, and I can come up with an idea about how I want things to look and be received. That is probably why I do it so often. I go through phases of colours and styles of hair. I like to change it often and I like to keep my hair tidy. I think ultimately, expressing myself however I want makes me happier all around.
Gus Dapperton is your stage name. Can you tell me where it came from?
I just knew. It’s not comprised of anything. I come up with a lot of words and characters. ‘Gus Dapperton’ was kind of there in the back of my head when I was discovering myself, my music, and my sound. Sometimes I think of random catchy names and characters and that one appeared when I was homing in on my sound. It just popped into my head, to be honest. I think it is the home base for everything that describes me and who I am. I wouldn’t change it I don’t think.
You write, record, produce, mix, and master all your songs. How do you think this affects the outcome of your music?
I think it probably sounds worse than when people get other people to help them with it. I like doing it because it sounds absolutely like me because I’m sort of doing all of it. I think that all of those elements can make or break the sound of a song, so I think being able to hear the personality in each of those elements on the record adds more personality to it. I have very strong ideas from beginning to finish as soon as I start them, so I like to have pretty much total control over my own songs. I’m very cautious about my voice. I’m very shy about my voice and what my voice is going to be on top of. When it comes to my own music, I definitely have to be in control of it.
What is it that you love about creating music?
It’s an emotional release of what’s built up inside of me. Either bad and anxious, dramatic feelings and then happy, heartfelt feelings. It’s an emotional release when I can put them down on paper and into a physical format. It obviously makes me happy to make music, but it also makes me sad to make music. Not in a bad way, just in a real, facing reality way. It’s like in order to move on I make music; it helps my mental state. It can either start with a melody that I hear, or a lyric, or a chord progression on the guitar, or the piano, or even on a drum beat - so it can start all over the place.
You have some very visually interesting music videos to accompany your songs. How important are visuals to you, and why?
Every aspect of art is equally important to me. I think if you’re going to try your hand at making a music video, you should put 100 per cent into it in the same way as you put 100 per cent into the musical bit. I think if you dabble in any sort of art form, you should put 100 per cent into it. I never understood why people would half-ass music videos and other things relating to their music and art. I think all of it's important. I direct some of them and my friend Matt directs some. Recently, my girlfriend Jess directed one for me - it’s a new one for the song called Coax and Botany. We accomplish those videos with a big team of people, but the ideas are generally from one or two people at a time.
You've been touring a lot recently. What can be expected at a Gus gig?
Very high energy and very exhausting heartfelt energy. Lots of dynamics in the performance - a little bit of humour and a little bit of seriousness. Kind of everything! They’re always pretty fun, I would say. Usually, everyone’s always dancing - except in Norway, no one really dances out there. Everyone dances everywhere else though.
Can you describe how you feel when you're performing to a live audience?
It’s not like blacking out but it’s kind of like you’re in the zone. It’s a big performance from start to finish and it’s almost like a play or something. I feel it’s like a game or a championship. Something comes over you and the adrenaline takes over. It feels brand new every time I do it. Almost every single gig I’ve played has been fun. There’s been a few out of like 200 shows that were not that great, but other than that, they’re all pretty goddamn fun, to be honest! We always like playing in big cities like London, New York, and LA.
You've described your recent full-length debut album Where Polly People Go To Read as a look inside your head. Can you elaborate on that?
It’s kind of a time portal to the last two years or year and a half of my life in chronological order. It’s music that is really true to me and personal. I don’t hold back. It’s just 100 per cent me. The album title means that this album is for the good people and the open-minded people and this is where they go to read. This is for them. That’s basically what it is. It’s the last year and a half of my life in chronological order and the ups and downs of love and heartbreak.
Can you describe the universe you created with Polly people? Who are they? Where do they live? What do they do?
Polly people - when I first came up with the term - were these little drawings I made. I imagined a world where everyone was the same but also different because they all were different colours of the rainbow and whatnot. I imagined that these people lived inside my head and that this would be where I'd ideally like to live if there was a dimension that I could ultimately thrive in. But then these people turned into my friends and family and open-minded people who could come together to share ideas and support and encourage each other. ‘Where they go to read’ just means that this music and this album is where they can come to study together and share ideas. This is that place. This is that sonic place.
Where do you find inspiration for your music?
I don’t really go to look for inspiration. I feel like if I’m not inspired, then I have writer's block and I can’t really force myself to write. I am inspired by my loved ones and my friends and family and the people around me and my experiences. Kind of my whole life and what happens in it inspires me. I have a lot of friends who like hip hop music, so maybe being introduced to a lot of hip hop music and starting off making music in that way as opposed to starting out singing or on the piano or on the guitar definitely influenced the producing aspect of it.
You base a lot of your lyrics on real-life situations and relationships you've been in. How do you translate real life into music?
In my language and vocabulary, to me, it’s all there in plain text. Maybe to someone who knows me, they can get a glimpse of how I’m feeling through metaphors. For people who don’t know me, they can take it as a literal interpretation or as something completely different. I think there’s a lot of layers, but to me, I’ve been able to come up with a language that is true to me and I can express whatever I’m feeling to a T.
How do you think our generation is different from previous generations?
In every generation, there will be something to revolt against - something happening in the world that needs to change. I think our generation especially is very aware of that and due to technological advances and the Internet and the way we consume news and media, this generation has become extremely aware of the changes that need to be made. I would say that is a positive. I guess the negatives would be that the access to all of those things can become a waste of time if you don’t go out and experience the world first hand. Another positive is that people are less afraid. I think it’s easier for people to dabble in music and film and fashion because all the tools needed to do so are readily available. You don’t need to work on a professional level to get somewhere in any of those mediums of art. Anyone can start from the ground up and I think that in the past, there were some really amazing artists that were never able to be heard or seen and I feel like nowadays more artists can be heard.
What role do you think the internet and social media play in the development of the kids of our generation?
I think kids growing up can see a path that other kids follow. They can see what people are doing and maybe that might make them rush. I guess it’s just another tool that we use to express ourselves, but I hope that people don’t get too affected by it and rush and waste their life. I think it actually makes us bolder in terms of sharing our ideas and opinions with the rest of the world. These platforms enable you to connect with like-minded individuals. I definitely don’t look at my platform as an archive or as a time capsule. I look at it as a way to show everyone what’s going on right now, but I definitely think for older generations, it is more of a time capsule.
How do you think you’re able to use your social media platforms to help your music?
Just connecting with fans and even connecting with people who aren’t fans. Being able to connect with as many people as possible. I can have a platform and I can make anything that I want, and I can post it and if people want to listen, they can, and if people don’t want to listen, they don’t have to. Most importantly, if you make something good, it’ll spark an idea and a conversation. For me, it was definitely helpful. I feel like I’m one of those artists who didn’t have a lot of tools and connections. Everything I’ve done has been from scratch and from the ground up. I started making beats on the school computers on GarageBand every day during lunch and after school, and then I posted that stuff on SoundCloud and Instagram and engaged with people who liked my music and also connected with other musicians. I think that social media is a platform to connect with fans and friends. More people, more love.
Where would we find you on a day off?
To be honest, I don’t really have days off because I make music to survive and to move on. It’s what makes me happy, so I don’t really take any days off. Right now, I’m writing a song in my notebook and chilling in the park. Even if I feel like seeing a movie, I try to study it and come up with opinions and things I like about it and things I don’t like about it. It’s the same thing whenever I listen to music. I’m always studying the world around me and what’s going on. I watch movies pretty often and I skateboard often, so I would probably be doing that kind of stuff on my days off. I like buying plants and caring for the plants in my apartment. Honestly, I love eating really good food. That’s probably the stuff I would be doing, and just hanging out with my girlfriend and my family.
Where is your safe space?
Probably in my apartment; the studio in my apartment because I have the privacy to make music and to chill and think. I think about everything. I think about love and heartbreak and life and death. I think about everything except what’s going to happen in the future. I think about the present and what I want to do next, but I don’t really think about the future. I just think about what I’m doing right then and there and what I’m doing soon, but I don’t really think about the future that far in advance. I like to think about the present.
What do you dream about at night?
I dream about The Hunger Games
scenarios every night. It’s never a nightmare or a dream but some scary stuff happens in it and some good stuff happens in it. It’s always like a Hunger Games scenario - maybe I get kidnapped and put into some sort of a camp, and then it’s always about me escaping a cult or something. That’s kind of what I dream about. I think that they’ve generally affected how I think about things. Whenever I go anywhere, I think about the escape routes and what survival tactic I would use in a particular scenario. Like how I could survive if I was the only person left alive or if I was trapped. I don’t feel like I am an anxious person, but it must be anxiety and stuff.
What’s next for you?
I’m really focused on playing all these shows at the moment for everyone. Then I’m going to work on some new music at the end of summer. You can expect lots of performances and my band and me on the road and lots of random content and maybe a music video or two in the next couple of months.
Any thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?
Don’t be afraid to dance at shows and don’t be afraid to express yourself.