an intimate interview with gus dapperton, by his girlfriend
Photographer Jess Farran asks the musician about embracing individuality, becoming ‘Gus,’ and feeling as free-spirited as Peter Pan.
Photos by Jess Farran.
Gus Dapperton’s music is inspired by world class cinema and heartache, but also by his girlfriend Jess Farran, who happens to be the subject of his dreamy new single “My Favorite Fish.” The two met on the set of a photo shoot for Milk Makeup, and they've been collaborating ever since. “She shot my favorite photo of me,” Gus says. And their closeness results in some of the most vulnerable depictions of Gus yet — Jess photographed Gus in a darker, more sinister light, compared to some of the playful shoots we’ve seen of the quirky musician in the past. The photos, as well as a special interview between Gus and Jess are making their debut today on i-D, ahead of the release of Gus’ new album, Where Polly People Go To Read on April 19 via AWAL.
“The photos were personal so we decided to interpret them together. It was Jess’ idea to interview me,” Gus says. “She never acts like she knows me even though she does, I can see it in her face that she doesn't judge me, and I admire her artistic integrity.” Anyway let’s get to the good stuff — we’ll let them do the talking from here.
In what ways have you had to grow up within the past few years?
I’m not sure, but I have grown up faster than a lot of my peers because I was one of the first people to take a risk. For example, just dropping out of school with no game plan, that helped me grow up a lot faster than if I would have just stayed in school. And just feeling pain, like your whole life starts off pure, and then you slowly learn the evils of time as life goes on. The last few years I’ve learned a lot of evil, and just learning to embrace that pain— I’ve grown with that a lot.
You’ve noted that your birth name, Brendan, is the younger version of yourself that didn’t feel fully comfortable embracing their individuality, and Gus, your self-given name, is never uncomfortable embracing their individuality. What advice would you give Brendan if you could?
To Brendan I would say that there’s a whole world out there beyond the constraints of Warwick and your high school, you have to look at things on a worldly scale and not just a local and intimate scale. You have to consider everything for what the world considers it, not just how it’s perceived in your hometown. I think one of the biggest challenges was that the town I grew up in was so isolated, and informing my younger self that there’s so much more to life would be beneficial.
What was the hardest thing about becoming Gus?
It wasn’t that hard just because it was hard trying to be Brendan, so becoming Gus was a huge relief to me. It was my true self slowly surfacing, and it was a relief to me even for how inconvenient it actually was. I started to not give a fuck about anything, it was actually a weight off my shoulders.
Do you ever miss that old version of yourself?
No. I think it lingers inside of me, just things like being really shy. But just because I’m comfortable being myself doesn’t have anything to do with my confidence and being confident — thats different, thats a mentality and not expression. I’m quite reserved and introverted, so I don't miss that much to be honest.
Even though you make it clear that as Gus you don’t need to feel understood, what is the hardest thing about sometimes still being misunderstood?
I don’t mind being misunderstood, but I don’t like when people make assumptions about me that they don’t fully understand. I don’t like when people look at things on the surface and pretend to know everything about me or everything about a certain lyric or song or phrase. So I don’t mind being misunderstood, but I don’t like when people think that they understand something about me when in reality it is a completely false and fabricated idea derivative of their own wants and needs.
You seem to take on the persona of one of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, what’s the best and worst thing about living inside that type of fantasy?
Well to be honest, I feel like I’m more like Peter Pan, but the best thing is the innocent and naive tendencies of never growing up and just embodying the purity of youth and constant learning. I think that’s super great. You know, just not being afraid to show your excitement and all of your quirks and passion. The worst thing would be that less and less people take you seriously in adulthood. To me the definition of maturity has nothing to do with age, it’s just how keen you are to empathy and understanding and how that affects your reaction in a particular situation. So I think there are plenty of kids who are much more emotionally mature than adults. I think adults are impacted by their surroundings, more so than children, because adults are trying to fit in too. Kids aren’t necessarily trying to fit in, they’re just hurt when they don’t. It peeves me when adults don’t respect someone because of their age or their youthfulness. I think that’s wrong and maturity isn’t measured that way.
What is one moment from your childhood you wish you could relive?
Probably every Christmas before I realized that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I definitely like to believe in fantastical things and I thought that this world was capable of those things when I was younger. I didn’t even want to spoil the fun, it was just that I enjoyed knowing that he was around and knowing that he was keeping things safe by sparking the hope of millions of children. I think that sense of hope keeps some people at peace, but that was always amazing to me just believing in something fantastical.
Do you believe in anything fantastical now to keeps that hope alive?
Art and music and cinema and photos are all a language that can be received equally by any human. Any human can find enjoyment in those things and that is magic to me. You don't have to know what language anyone is singing or speaking, there doesn’t even have to be a song with words in it at all, but someone on the opposite side of the world could listen to the same song as you and it could make them feel the same exact way that you do. There’s nothing about language that can do that, but there’s something about music and notes and harmony that can be a common ground among every human, it is truly magical.
What is one moment from your future you can’t wait to live?
I don’t think much about the future and I don’t think much about the past. I am just really focused on the present because I don’t want to miss anything, but I honestly can’t wait to raise a family. I cannot wait to have a family of my own.
So, the photos we took are much more dark and sinister than your usual lustful, playful aesthetic — how did you feel when you first saw them?
I felt like before that I was evolving, and once I saw the photos I could see them as a physical form that I had evolved in to, it was a growth to my present self. They definitely made me feel more — it was less of a butterflies sort of feel where you’re anxious and nervous, and more of goosebumps type of feel.
Were you more hesitant about them?
And now, six months later, do you feel the same way?
Yes, but I think that was a stepping stone in vulnerability of me portrayed on camera. I've been more prone to that vulnerability now just by taking pictures with you, so they’re not as impactful in terms of anxiety of vulnerability. I feel more used to them now.
Did you recognize yourself in them or did you have to learn to see that part of yourself?
I recognized them, but that was the first time I had seen myself portrayed with such vulnerability, and I think it was just a new feeling and understanding. I had slowly and subconsciously been getting a grasp of that growth and evolvement before it was put in front of me.
Last question — if you could stay forever young, would you?
No, but I feel like my mentality is just youthful. I used to always want to be forever young, like I used to want to be 19 forever because it’s the last year you can be a teenager. Now I’m okay with growing up, I realized when I did turn from 19 to 20 I did have the same mindset and the same ideas in regards to expressing myself and acting on my imagination and creativity— that will never change for me.