gussy is the physically enthralling performer making music from melodrama
“I think it’s okay to talk about how you’re feeling if that will make you feel better.”
Gussy writes music about quiet moments. Waking up in the morning. Riding the train. Visiting a nail salon. These are times when we’re left alone with our feelings. The Sydney-based singer finds beauty in that self-indulgence, elevating even the most trivial of passing thoughts to a heightened realm. It is introspective electronic pop that manages to be both tongue-in-cheek in its narcissism and also completely sincere. This, they admit, is no accident.
“There’s a pressure for artists to be serious. I think it’s specific to women and queer people. It’s so easy to not be taken seriously as we’re the butt of so many jokes. All the camp icons have had this ability to convey genuine sadness, even while emoting in a really public and over-the-top way. I think maybe that’s what connects those people to queer culture. We’re constantly being pushed by hetero culture to expose ourselves to the world and I want to confront that by expressing my vulnerability on my own terms.”
A track like Looking at Myself does just that. Over layers of skittish synths, Gussy both fiercely critiques and calmly accepts their capacity for self-absorption. The accompanying music video sees the musician recount these revelations dressed in shiny thigh-highs and an accusatory deadpan stare. The dreamily-produced Away From Home recalls past mistakes and missed opportunities over a delicate beat, repeatedly imploring an absent lover for guidance. Gussy’s debut EP, slated for release later this year, is similarly willing to make a public spectacle out of private angst, albeit with greater technical refinement. Listening to Gussy lay their every insecure thought bare, normalises all the self-indulgent wonderings and emotional excesses of their audience. We are being given a break from wallowing in the unknowable and indefinable mess of our own feelings.
The singer’s physical presence is likewise resistant to limitation. The way they move across a stage encompasses all manner of verbs. Sometimes there’s gyration and the slinky slithering of hips, other times a coquettish lightness, all prancing and pirouettes. When seated before our camera, Gussy is willing to glide between conflicting moods: from clownish to aggressive, meek to frisky. Their style of performance is boundless but controlled, marked by a studied precision born from years of formal ballet training.
“I started dancing when I was four and kept doing it until I was almost eighteen. I danced full-time later in high school and was obsessed with pursuing it. But there were certain physical constraints in terms of my anatomy that meant I was never going to become a classical star. That kind of wigged me out in the end, because professional dancing had always been my endgame.”
So it was that Gussy ultimately found music and filmmaking. As a devoted fan of Kate Bush, Roisin Murphy and the narrative-driven songs of Bobbie Gentry, the singer has long favoured artists who find sincerity in melodrama—those women whose humanity, Gussy tells me, is “grounded by the joyous honesty of their camp qualities.” Gussy credits Canadian polymath Grimes for encouraging their disregard for the constraints of academic formality. “She showed me that it was okay to make music without training. Music is a wonderful and exciting thing and it’s there for the taking, basically. It changes people and it changes policy—it has a practical application in the world—and it’s yours if you want it.”
Pausing for a moment Gussy then confesses, “I’ve been experimenting with so many different genres lately, trying on different musical personas, and I always arrive back at the same thing. I cannot be tasteful. For me, the camp stuff comes out because I don’t have another way to explain how I feel. I’ve felt all of my life that I’m too dramatic. I’m an intelligent person but the things that I have to say are all very silly. My music is purely about the spiralling thoughts I have about myself and about relationships.”
And while the honesty of Gussy’s songs makes them feel genuinely relatable to the listener, Gussy doesn’t perform as much for the audience as he does for a personal exercise. Like the academic rigour of their dance training, Gussy’s performance style operates as a test of physical boundaries—their cartoonish range of expression is not designed to simply entertain but rather as a literal and ambitious reaching out towards their ultimate potential. Even while they sit for a portrait, casually shifting poses from total serenity to grotesque laughter, Gussy’s isn’t attempting to humour an audience. They are making themselves laugh.
“I make music for myself. If I ever hoped that people listened to it, it wouldn’t be in the sense of offering something to them, which I don’t believe is inherently selfish. What I mean is that I’d like to add my own perspective to the world as a way of saying, “I think it’s okay to talk about how you’re feeling if that will make you feel better." That sounds extremely corny but it’s true.”