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Gus Dapperton is Listening to Arcade Fire, Elvis, and Willy Wonka

Published September 30, 2020

Photo by Jess Farran.

This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, the songs they want played at their funeral. In this edition, we speak with the 23-year-old indie-pop darling Gus Dapperton, whose new album, Orca, lends a rough edge to his wry hooks and uppity synths. From his Bushwick apartment, Dapperton shares what’s on his playlist, from Arcade Fire to Willy Wonka. 

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SARAH NECHAMKIN: What was the last song that you listened to?

GUS DAPPERTON: The last song I listened to was the “I’m On Hold” song. There was a ringback tone that was just playing, and it was like this country song and it was saying “I’m on hold.” It was one of the craziest things ever.

NECHAMKIN: [Laughs]

DAPPERTON: The last song I listened to was “What Once Was” by Her’s. I was listening to it on the subway on the way back from hanging out with my manager.

NECHAMKIN: Who were a couple of early musicians to influence you in your childhood?

DAPPERTON: Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, the Beatles, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay. I didn’t really start pursuing music and being a performer until later in high school, but those were the core artists that sprouted musical inspiration in my head. I just loved those songs. I love big epic anthem songs.

NECHAMKIN: Did you go to any concerts in high school?

DAPPERTON: I didn’t actually go to that many concerts, because I had this weird, stubborn thing where every time I would go to a concert, I would get sad, because I would be like, “Man, I want to be up on stage someday. I have to be home working really hard at it.” But I saw Odd Future when I was in eighth grade, and RATKING and Chet Faker. I was into electronic dance music, old school hip-hop music, and alternative music.

NECHAMKIN: Do you have a favorite movie soundtrack?

DAPPERTON: Yes—Palo Alto by Gia Coppola, and the score is by Devonté Hynes. It’s really good.

NECHAMKIN: Do you have a favorite TV show theme song?

DAPPERTON: The Office theme song. It gets you hyped up to watch The Office. Lil Wayne sampled it and did a song. I used to listen to that.

NECHAMKIN: If your life were a TV show, what do you think would be the theme song? Would it be one of your own songs?

DAPPERTON: Yeah. Actually, there’s a song that just came out today called “Medicine” that I made that I sort of wrote as if it were soundtracking the movie to my life.

NECHAMKIN: In what ways?

DAPPERTON: I literally was imagining a movie in my head of a lot of the things that happened on tour. And then I wrote the song as if it were the big epic soundtrack song in that movie.

NECHAMKIN: What kind of movie would that be?

DAPPERTON: A drama—a tragedy drama. Just crazy experiences, onstage and offstage. There was this one time I got lost in Bangkok, and had to get on a flight at 5AM. And I was lost in the middle of the night. I miraculously made it to the airport, and then got on the plane. I had motion sickness the whole time, and I hadn’t slept in 24 hours. And then I was just on the plane throwing up. And then I was in the bathroom and the flight attendants were like, “We’re landing.” I had to crawl down the aisle. We literally landed and I wasn’t even in my seat. And then we were going through customs, and we were in Asia—if you’re sick in the customs line in Asia, they’ll quarantine you. So I had held it in, and as soon as I got through customs I threw up.

NECHAMKIN: Oh my god.

DAPPERTON: And then me and my sister got into a really big fight, and then we made up and we’re just like bawling, crying. All these things, I was imagining as movie scenes. And then I wrote that song as if that were the soundtrack to that.

NECHAMKIN: What would you say you would pick if you had to pick a song that wasn’t yours to be a theme song for your TV show or movie?

DAPPERTON: Maybe “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire. It’s just one of my favorite songs.

NECHAMKIN: If you were to make a playlist for different occasions, what would you put on a house party playlist, for example?

DAPPERTON: I have this one playlist that’s just called “Dance Warmup.” It has a bunch of disco songs. It has “Give Me the Night” by George Benson, “Cola Bottle Baby” by Edwin Birdsong, “Forget Me Nots” by Patrice Rushen. There’s some fun songs.

NECHAMKIN: Do you have any playlists for when you’re crying in your bedroom, or going through an emotional time period?

DAPPERTON: I listen to Elliott Smith when it’s really depressing. Maybe Mazzy Star. James Vincent McMorrow makes some really sad songs that I like.

NECHAMKIN: What about if you’re going through a breakup? I don’t know if you’ve had one, but if you did, were there any songs that got you through it?

DAPPERTON: There was one song: “When I’m Gone” by Eyedress. I listened to that when I was first going through a breakup in high school. It has a really strong connection to me every time I hear it.

NECHAMKIN: Do you have a playlist for getting high?

DAPPERTON: I don’t really smoke, but if I was doing more dancier drugs, there’s this one song called “strongboi” by strongboi that I’d probably want to dance to.

NECHAMKIN: Do you do karaoke?

DAPPERTON: Yeah. One time I did karaoke and I sung “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis. When I did that song, this lady came up to me after, and I think she could tell I was a performer of some sort. That was at Soho House in New York for karaoke night.

NECHAMKIN: Do you have a dream collaborator that you would love to partner with? It could either be someone working now, or someone who’s passed.

DAPPERTON: This guy named Greg Alexander. He was the lead singer and songwriter of the band called New Radicals.

NECHAMKIN: If you could have a dinner party with any four or five musicians of all time, who would you pick?

DAPPERTON: I’d pick the rowdiest, most hilarious people, so Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher. Who else? Maybe Cyndi Lauper. She seems kind of crazy. Those three, Morrissey, Kanye West, and Lana Del Rey, or something.

NECHAMKIN: What do you think you would serve at that dinner party?

DAPPERTON: I don’t know. Pasta or something. Italian food.

NECHAMKIN: Do you sing in the shower?

DAPPERTON: Yes. I just took a shower and it was just singing in it. I was singing “I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen.

NECHAMKIN: Are there any other songs that you would add to this dream playlist of yours?

DAPPERTON: “Pure Imagination” by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka, and then the soundtrack song called “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

NECHAMKIN: Wait, why do you bring up the Willy Wonka one?

DAPPERTON: That’s just one of my favorite songs.

NECHAMKIN: Really? Ever?

DAPPERTON: Yeah. I just watched Willy Wonka pretty recently.

NECHAMKIN: Is there a song that you think if you could play it for everyone in the world, it would save the world, or at least the country?

DAPPERTON: Unfortunately, I don’t think so, but my best attempt would be “Wonderwall” by Oasis. You can’t help but sing that song when it comes on.