Pop Protegé Isaac Dunbar Tells Us What Happens After the House Party

Isaac Dunbar

Isaac Dunbar, photographed by Thom Kerr.

This is SOUND ADVICE, a weekly destination for playlists curated by Interview’s friends, enemies, and lovers. Over the past few weeks, we’ve gathered playlists from Wisp, Vegyn, and DJ Dave. This week’s guest is pop-protegé Isaac Dunbar. The 21-year-old musician is a true believer in musical maximalism: think 70s disco meets 2010’s Gaga. After the breakout success of his previous records Apartment A and Backseat Girl, Dunbar avows his own version of Americana masculinity, singing, “I’m man enough to be a party girl and dance all night.” Before the release of his new EP, Beep Beep Repeat, which dropped today, Dunbar joined us to share a playlist that tells a story—“If you can decipher it, you ate,” he says cheekily—and reminisce about the soundtrack to his passenger princess era.


Where do you dance? I dance anywhere I can. I’ve been loving Break Room 86 in Koreatown lately. They play the best music, all 70s through late 80s. 

Who’s the queen of pop? The queen of pop is Lady Gaga. 

What was your first concert? My first concert was Ellie Goulding when I was in fifth grade. I went with my best friend at the time, and I wore a really bad outfit.

Bluetooth or wired headphones? Wired headphones. They’re more visually appealing to me as opposed to Bluetooth. 

How has living in New York influenced your sound? It changed everything. Going to gay clubs and meeting new people lead me to expanding the sort of… palette of references. I needed it. 

Favorite music venue in NYC? Baby’s All Right. It was the first place I had performed at professionally and I’ve seen some of my favorite artists there. I love how intimate it is. The staff was really sweet to me too when I played it. 

What’s the best and worst thing about teenage stardom? The worst thing is people being able to publicly see you in your most cringiest years. And it’s documented. Forever. The best part is you feel cool, and that was so necessary for my hormonal messy self. Now that I’m 21, I feel a lot of things. 

Go-to post-show meal? Pizza. I need to eat something really unhealthy to make up for the cardio workout I do on stage. 

What song reminds you of your hometown? This is such a good question. I love this. It’s really hard to pick just one, but I would pick “Sleep Apnea” by Beach Fossils. I first heard it in my freshman year of high school, around 2017 I believe. I (technically) grew up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and this song reminds me of being a passenger princess riding through Hyannis with my mom with earbuds in being so sad for so many reasons. I was a very moody teen. It also reminds me of the only boyfriend I’ve ever had. I cried so much to this song when we had to leave each other. 

The world is ending. What are you wearing? I am wearing my long jean skirt, my black Margiela tabis, a boxy tee with a simple graphic (cropped to my waist), and my fake Balenciaga City Bag with the little fringes that I got from the Silverlake Flea.

Describe your recording process in 3 words: All over (the) place.

Favorite city you’ve played in on tour? My favorite city I’ve played is New York City. The girls do not play in the city. Every single lyric screamed from the bottom of their lungs. A close second would be Philly. 

What’s your current era? And what’s your next? My current era is a little pissed off energy combined with spite. My next era is total freedom, pure pop, and pure experimentation all in one. Extreme familiarity combined with extreme newness. 

Your new song “American High” is about American party culture. What makes an American party? An American party is so funny to me. It also depends on what you mean, do you mean classic Americana or just an American party? When I think of Americana, I think of beer, cigarettes, and men yelling at a television with buffalo wings alongside stale tortilla chips with prepackaged dip. But just a regular “American” party to me would be a cute house with cute people and games.  Cute little drinks and a debrief at the end of the party where we gossip and let out our feelings. Maybe a little cry, a little ghost story moment, then we watch a movie in the living room and fall asleep in our makeup. We wake up with a little anxiety and go get brunch. 

What song on this playlist makes you cry? “Morning Sun” by Dave Bixby. When I first moved to L.A. in November 2023, I got to my new place. I cried so much leaving my friend who was my roommate at the time. When I landed and entered my new place, this song came on my playlist. I absolutely sobbed. Coming to “sunny California” and feeling so many emotions, it was a super cathartic moment for me. I sobbed my eyes out but now I fall asleep to this song almost every night. Also, the playlist I made for this tells a story if you listen in order. If you can decipher it, you ate. Mwuah I love you, Interview