The independent artist from upstate New York is getting millions of views on his few cinematic music videos, selling out international shows right and left, and playing music with his best friends and younger sister. Thanks to his charming, totally unique sound and personal style, labels are clamoring for him, but he's staying indie for now. As evidenced by his videos, he loves to dance his vogue-ballet-shuffle, literally dancing to the beat of his own drum.
Before a sold-out show at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade, we caught up with Gus Dapperton at The Standard, East Village.
GUS DAPPERTON: It’s not. My real name is Brendan Rice. Nowadays I prefer people to call me Gus.
Where’d the name come from?
Growing up I had a lot of characters that I would embody as different creative outlets persuaded me to do so. Gus Dapperton was in the back of my head when I was honing in on this one sound.
You’re not 21 yet are you?
Do you have a fake?
Yeah, I have a really good fake that seems to work every time. It didn't work in one of the most important circumstances.
Well, you have to tell me that story.
Me and my friend Matt were trying to get into this after-party for this pop star and we didn't end up getting in. [Laughs.]
Who was it?
I'd rather not say. [Laughs.]
I'm back and forth between Philadelphia, Long Branch, NJ, and New York. I was living in Philly, I have an apartment there, but right after I started the lease we went on tour, so I've kind of just been on tour since that time. But I think I’ll move to Red Bank, NJ, when the tour is over.
Where did your unique style come from?
My style derives from what I wore as a toddler because I think my sound is also influenced by the artists that my parents used to play growing up around the house. The sound is nostalgic to me, and I think my style is, too. So, basically, I wear a lot of things that I wore in the late ’90s as a toddler, like overalls and the way my pants fit me is a little baggier and cropped. I had a bowl cut as well, so things like that.
Where do you find the confidence to be yourself?
It's less of a confidence thing. I would say I'm not very confident, but I would say that I'm in touch with reality, which I would like to describe as knowing that in order for there to be pleasure, things have to be [painful]. It's very inconvenient to be yourself, but that inconvenience offers a higher reward. So, ultimately, if you understand that then being yourself just comes more easily. I wouldn't say that I’m confident, though. I'd say that I am more inclined to be myself.
What's your trademark dance move?
I don't know what to call it, but all my dancing derives from this one move. I basically combine the upper half of my body with vogueing and ballet-type moves and then the bottom half of my body is just like a shuffle.
What songs do you dance to alone in your room?
A lot of disco. I like to watch a lot of music videos. Me and my roommate Haze put on some Michael Jackson videos and dance to them. There’s also this artist Chela. She's super good at dancing. I try to learn all the choreography from her videos.
How’s that going?
It’s hard. She does this one move in “Romanticise.” She kicks her leg and then it's kind of like a split and that's all the one thing that I really haven't been able to do but the rest of it I pretty much have a down.
I like shoes. The ones I'm wearing right now are Capezio disco shoes. They're like jazz shoes, but I only really wear them when I dance and perform.
What's something you weirdly know a lot about?
Structural functionalism. It's a social concept in anthropology about societies that are afraid of change.
Yeah, and more specifically where I'm from in upstate New York. Just a bunch of fucking idiots, really.
What was your first kiss like?
My first kiss was spin the bottle and it was with like five other people. It wasn't very special. I was in fifth grade.
Have you ever hooked up with a fan?
Yes. [He looks down bashfully.] A couple times.
What's the most impulsive thing you’ve ever done?
There’s definitely times I get blacked out drunk and do a lot of impulsive things.
What was your funniest drunken night?
This isn’t funny but one time I really blacked out and I couldn't find my way home. I was at a club with my friends and I got lost for a brief period of time and I came back with a bunch of ice pops in my pocket. I was on the dance floor dancing just eating ice pops. And then I got lost again. And they found me and then I got lost again. Apparently I was knocking on a fire department’s garage and they called me a cab home.
So that’s the kind of drunk you are.
Yeah, I think I pretty much black out every time I drink. And I don’t have to have much. I drink mostly beer now, but if I have more than one shot of any type of liquor, it’s game over.
When I was in eighth grade, I started cutting my own hair. I'm decent at cutting hair now. I do my bandmates’ hair and did my roommates' in college. I've definitely given some bad haircuts, but I think most of the time everyone's pretty happy with the outcome.
Sometimes I regret not talking to people because I don't know when I'll see them again.
What keeps you up at night?
I have trouble sleeping and what keeps me up is it's very stimulating when the rest of the world is quiet and I'm really alone with myself. It just stimulates my creativity, sleep deprivation and being up at night.
What's your guilty pleasure?
I was watching this season of The Bachelor because my sister was into it and there's this one girl on it, Bekah Martinez. She's amazing. I love her. I have a huge crush on her. She’s great. I really don’t like the guy on it. He’s such a tool.
What’s the most embarrassing this you’ve been caught doing?
Weird nitpicky stuff my sister always roasts me for. I only wear white midcap socks. I'm kind of a germophobe. I can’t wear socks twice in a row, so she’ll always catch me examining my socks and folding them and having them straight in a row. Just a hundred white midcap socks.
What's something you pretended to like for a long time?
Abercrombie and Fitch in 6th or 7th grade.
When's the last time you cried?
Like two weeks ago. I cry every now and then, but it's more like a joyful tear, like when a good, emotional moment in a movie hits you. When I finally saw Call Me By Your Name and Timothée Chalamet’s sitting in front of the fire, I was like, “Fuck.”
Is there a song that changed your life?
There was this period of time when I was really depressed senior year of high school. I was 17 and had knee surgery. I was out of school for a month. Then my Mac crashed, my ex-girlfriend started dating my best friend, and one of my family members passed away. I was really, really sad, couldn't be any lower, and really fucked up on Percocet from my knee surgery. There were a couple songs that trigger this a place that I was at every time I hear them. One of them is “Gold” by A2. One of them is “Inside World” by Alex Burey. And the other one's by this artist Eyedress and it’s called “When I'm Gone.” Every time I hear those songs, they bring me back to that place, and it's sad but it’s just a super real moment.