26-year-old Gus Dapperton has never shied away from committing fully to his art: from his curated album aesthetics to his style, Gus Dapperton prioritizes authenticity and self-expression. With his first release dating back to 2016, Dapperton has explored a variety of genres and musical styles throughout his discography. He’s had moments of huge commercial success, especially with BENEE’s 2020 quarantine anthem Supalonely, which Dapperton was featured on. September 2020 saw the release of Orca, a 10-track record that was written before quarantine. Since then, he shared that creating music was increasingly difficult, as it was hard to create something he liked. However, his latest release, Henge, is well worth the wait.
Releasing on July 7th (2023), Henge is a cinematic journey that takes place through 11 tracks, beginning with the climactic “Sunset” and ending with reflective spoken word on Sunrise. The album is filled to the brim with passion, each track truly immerses you in the world of “Henge”. There’s even a second collaboration with BENEE, the upbeat single Don’t Let Me Down. This album truly has something for everyone.
Ahead of the album’s release, 1883 Magazine sits down with Gus Dapperton and talk about the record, his creative process, upcoming tour, and more.
To start, I wanted to congratulate you on the release of your latest single Sunset, which is the first track on your upcoming album. How are you feeling about the response to it so far?
To be honest, I haven’t gauged the response much. I’ve been really busy since it came out. I think that I can tell my day-one fans are excited about it. We played it a lot on tour, that was the only unreleased song we were playing, I think a lot of people were excited when they realized that was the song we opened with on the last tour. That was fun to see.
It seems like it’s been pretty well received. This was the fourth single released before the album, is this the final single?
I have one more, I think. Coming out on the 30th.
When Sunset was released, you shared that for a while it was hard to create music because of your music theory knowledge. For this track, you shared that you were able to let some of that go and create more freely. What was that like?
There was such a beautiful thing about not knowing a ton when it came to writing songs. You’re strictly doing it by ear, and by feel, whereas now when I start playing something, I relate it to other songs with similar chord progressions. I just start deep diving too hard, it’s nicer to write based on just the feel. I feel like with that song, I was just plucking around on the guitar and something nice came about. I was able to not think about it too hard, and not think about making the song formulaic and suited for most people to digest. I just wanted to make this long journey of a song, and hope for the best. I find it increasingly more difficult, as the years go on and I learn more, to make things I’m super satisfied with. That one I was able to kind of forget all of the theory and just go for it.
I went to music school, so I get that. It limits your creativity in a way. It’s cool that you were able to get away from that. You’ve expressed that Sunset is the song you’re most proud of, why is that?
I just like the sonic landscape of it. I like how many big, extreme sounds are in it. I’m proud of the synth work that I was able to accomplish on it, and the melodies and guitar tones. I think all around, production-wise, it’s something I’m proud of as a producer.
It’s super cinematic. It’s a great starter, really immerses you in the world of this record. What was your inspiration while you were creating Sunset?
Well, I had a few songs done, and once I start to see an album concept, I specifically try to write something for the intro and outro. I had the words down already, sunset and sunrise. I was just thinking about the sun going over the horizon, and then being catapulted into this new world.
The outro, Sunrise, I would love to hear more about that track. It’s a standout, with the spoken word. How did that all come together?
A really funny story, I was in Asia on tour a couple of years ago, and in South Korea, a fan gave me this book. I couldn’t understand what they were trying to tell me, but they gave it to me and it was one of their favourites. I went home and never looked at it, but a few months later I did. There was a note from her inside, and it said “This is my favourite book, I’ve underlined a lot of things I’ve found inspiration from, you’re in it.” I looked in the back of the book, and I was in the citations, cited as an inspiration. It was On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. I read it, and it’s now my favourite book.
So I tracked down Ocean, I just found him online and we started talking. I told him I had a proposal for him, but he was super busy. He was on book tours and teaching, he didn’t have a lot of time. But, I sent him a mood board and my mission statement for the album, and he was super down. We hopped on the phone, and he was giving me some input about how the interlude should sound. It was so serendipitous because he was talking about things he liked from other artists, like Miles Davis never resolving to the tonic on purpose. Before I even heard that, I had consciously done that in the interlude. I wanted it to end in a way that was not satisfying, feeling like it should repeat or keep moving. He was stoked to hear that I had already done that, and he thought the music was awesome. I didn’t even give him any notes, he just came in with the most beautiful poem.
That’s amazing that you were able to connect like that, through a fan experience of all things.
I know! It was awesome.
Henge is your first album since 2020’s Orca and the world has evolved so much since then. How has your artistic process changed from Orca to Henge?
It takes me a while to discover what the next thing is going to be. Once I do, I consciously change the approach drastically so it isn’t boring, stimulating new ideas. With each new album, I consciously change the approach. With Orca, I just sat down on the guitar and wrote everything in a stripped-back way. With this album, I wrote the names of the songs first before writing them. I had these really strong themes and concepts, it was about finding the mood and sounds, then building the song around that. With Orca it was more about internal reflection and mental health, stuff like that. This album is about struggles after quarantine, and having this push and pull of wanting change and freedom and chaos, but then also wanting health and safety, and routine. They’re different in that way, too.
Yeah, definitely. What does a typical session look like for you? Or does it vary?
Previously, my sessions have all been me writing on guitar or piano. Sometimes I’ll record voice memos, airdrop them to my computer and start making a beat. With this new album, I worked a lot with Ian Fitchuk, who’s an incredible writer. He would come over to my apartment and we would start brainstorming ideas, and playing some things. It’s all very at home, in my apartment. I usually come up with the chords and melody first, before I start producing things. Typically, talking for a while before starting… trying to reflect on what I’m feeling and what’s going on in the world, just to tap into something real and not just pull stuff out of thin air.
For sure. Don’t Let Me Down is your second collaboration with BENEE, following SUPALONELY. It was a bit of a pandemic anthem, it was everywhere. What made you want to reunite and do a second collaboration?
I like working with my friends, and people I get along with. I don’t reach out to a ton of people. Once I started collaborating with her on SUPALONELY, I wanted to do more. It was a bit transactional, which wasn’t anyone’s fault. She lives in New Zealand, so it was just like, sending me the song. This was before COVID, so we didn’t have Zoom yet. It was just like, hey, we thought you’d sound good on this, here’s the beat and the song. I just wrote something pretty quickly and sent it back. I wanted to do more than just that. We talked a lot more, since then. Since it was during COVID, the song was elongated with the press for it. We still would always communicate and had to do some random performances. But yeah, I like getting my friends involved in my albums. Just wanted to work with her again.
Yeah, absolutely. I love the accompanying music video, could you tell me a bit about it and how it came together?
The music videos for this album have come together really quickly, in crunch time. I had some plans with other directors, but it wasn’t working out. I had to come up with a few ideas. I knew I wanted dancing to be involved in all the videos. It’s something I’ve shied away from over the years, but something I love seeing, so I wanted to do it more. I had a strong aesthetic for what I wanted everything to look like. Once I had the dancing and the aesthetic, the rest came pretty easily. I was so hyped that I could get together with BENEE in real life, and do a duet dance. That was super fun.
It turned out super well, for sure. I have one non-album-related question, I would love to hear about your monthly music playlist Cumulonimbus. What was the motivation to curate a monthly playlist to showcase up-and-coming artists?
To be honest, it was my manager’s idea. It was because I always shared new music with them, from up-and-coming artists that I like. There are a lot of artists in the city, in the scene where I live, that I’m a huge fan of. I know a ton of people out here. It felt like a good opportunity to showcase a bunch of those people. It was my manager’s idea, but it’s something I’ve become super interested in now. I love doing it.
That’s awesome. Back to the record, you’ll be heading out on tour this fall. What are you most excited about, when it comes to being back on the road?
I can’t wait to play the new songs. I’ve been trying to make our set more of like, a show. More of an event. It’s not going to just start and stop songs, with talking between each one. It’s going to be very thought out and musical. Hopefully very exciting. I’ve had more time to dial in a very fluid set, which I haven’t had time to do on previous tours. Just excited to play for everyone and play new songs.
Yeah, more theatrical. Is there a song you’re most excited to play live?
Honestly, I love playing Sunset. I loved playing that. Now, it’s going to be more fulfilling since people have had the chance to listen to it and digest it.
That will be fulfilling. To wrap up, what do you hope listeners take away from this record?
Before this record, my goal was to inspire. I always wanted to inspire kids in one way or another. Orca was very therapeutic for me, so I made it more of a release. This album, I wanted to make it to inspire the next generation of artists, in the way that other artists inspired me growing up. I think at the end of the day, it’s not about me. It’s never about the artist. It’s just about the people who will be inspired by it. I hope that’s what they take away from it.
Henge is out now.
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