With the release of their latest album, A Riddle for You, The DuPont Brothers shine a light on personal growth – theirs, yours, a community’s. With a grander sound than their last release, an acoustic album, the duo presents bigger ideas and shows growth lyrically and musically. With the help of producer Michael Chorney and a handful of guest musicians, A Riddle for You accomplishes the great feat of bringing the listener closer to discovering their own purpose and vision.
GW: How has the tour been going so far? Any memorable moments?
Zack: Tour is a time we always look forward to. It’s a chance for us to play in front of fresh faces and ears in new markets and continue to build momentum in the towns we’ve been returning to. Our new album is our finest work to date and our live set is in a really fiery place emotionally and sonically. We were prepped to hit the road with a lot of confidence. A stand out night on this past tour was a Nashville showcase at The Basement. We walked into a room filled with people who have never seen us and were shown nothing but serious love for the songs and performance. Being graciously accepted by one of the most notorious music industry-based and songwriting-centric cities in the country felt incredibly rewarding. We’re looking forward to returning to Nashville in the fall once our vinyl is released.
GW: On A Riddle for You you talk about people never leaving a town – are you speaking about a specific place or just the idea of the ‘small-town stickaround’?
Zack: Ah yes. The line is in the first track called “Hand Me Down Reasons”. The song’s theme revolves around the idea of staying true to yourself as an artist while facing the realities of the trade. “Waking in circles putting money down. It’s no wonder that people never left this town. It’s in their veins.” I’m digging into what it’s like for an independent act to branch out of their hometown while also honoring and never forgetting the importance of community at home base. It’s always a balancing act when transitioning from being a local band to a touring act. Burlington, VT has been a crucial scene in developing our musical maturity. Our artistic family, local bands, publications, radio, talent buyers, etc. have played a huge part in our evolution as a band. We owe a lot to our hometown and don’t ever want to forget it.
GW: Musically, what have you done differently with this album than your last?
Zack: This album was a fueled by the kindred spirit of collaboration with us, our producer Michael Chorney and the musicians who put their innovative stamps on the album. We took what we did on our last record, a self-produced acoustic duo album, and enhanced it with new minds and approaches. That’s what the future holds for us. Sharing our songs with other artists just feels right. It’s opened up a really strong avenue of creative direction and we are not looking back for the time being.
GW: Which song is the most personal on your new album?
Zack: They are all personal numbers and are meant to evoke the inner thoughts and emotions of the listener. The vulnerability comes from our writing styles. Both Sam and I lean deeply on our intuitions of the human experience when crafting a tune. Some are about personal accounts and experiences, while a few tell the story of other people’s lives and journeys or even take on a character roll at times. We both have to believe in what sparks the song to come forward in order to write, which makes each tune very true to itself.
GW: Which song is the most fun to play?
Zack: Oh man… To be honest we write so many songs that the new stuff is always the most fun! But of this particular batch, I really don’t have a favorite. They all bring out different sides of the writing so it keeps things current. I love the dynamic range and harmonic challenges of “Trespassers” the same as I LOVE opening up a grand finale style number like “The Arbor”. It really depends on the scene at the show. We always try to play to the room as best we can.
GW: What’s an instrument you want to learn how to play?
Zack: I’ve always been partial to the drums. It’s just such a cool role to have in the band and a truly physical instrument. The major deterrent is the setup and breakdown process. I always think I want to play drums until I’m helping a drummer move a bunch of hunks of metal and wood on and off stage!
GW: Are there any new musical techniques or styles you are trying to learn?
Zack: I’ve been going in for some more slide work recently. After playing with Blake Mills and always being a big Ry Cooder fan, I felt inspired to pick it up. You need such a light touch to get a nice quality note and it opens a door for another texture in the music. It’s hauntingly similar to the sound of the human voice. I’m doing my best at getting more comfortable at it and am enjoying a new challenge on an instrument I’ve been working on since a very young age.
GW: What’s something you’re trying to get better at?
Zack: Patience… HAHAHA. Patience with my brother, myself, the people I love and within the lifestyle of a budding artist. An infinite lesson that I’m chipping away at. The more we do this, the more we understand that longevity is the key to success. It takes time to grow a band but if you’re not growing as a person you will always hit the wall.
GW: What’s a dream you have for the band?
Zack: The dream is to continue to be realistic in what we’re doing to nurture a long-lasting and sustainable career path. The trip is not to be on TV, magazine covers or become a household name, although we certainly would honor either of those opportunities if they presented themselves to us. It’s about figuring out who we are as people and artists within the songs and helping other people relate and emote through our music. Healing, growing and learning are all tools that we have to influence our own lives in tandem with our appreciators. That shared connection is the most humbling aspect of what we do. We want to continue to work hard at what we believe in for the right reasons.
GW: You mentioned in another interview that these might be some of your most personal songs to date – can you expand on one of your songs and the story behind it?
Sam: My brother and I have always drawn from places of experience within our writing. Each tune dives deep into personal concepts, ideas, stories and observations derived from growth and the human condition. The hope is that the experience or subject matter within each song is relatable to those who choose to dig into the material. For example, “Greens and Yellows” is personally very specific. It's more or less a breakup song. But, if the focus is shifted from my own experience to the experience of the listener, different connections could be drawn. The wider ideas in the tune cover ground around loss, powerlessness and acceptance. There's a lot of room for interpretation. Perspective can make all the difference – that is just one of the many wonders of songwriting I suppose.
GW: Being so much more of a personal album, was it difficult to record or write the material? What was that experience like?
Sam: Songwriting has always been a very healing and cathartic practice for me, I use it to sift through and process my experience. I was actually very comfortable recording these songs in their complete form. Zack and I had toured on the batch of tunes a handful of times before tracking, so they all had their time to settle into themselves. The initial tracking went smoother on this album than any other project I have ever been a part of. We had keeper takes of each song by the end of day two.
GW: ‘Ben’s Song’ seems very personal – is that the story of somebody you knew/know? It’s a beautiful song – I love the line ‘Survival suits you.’
Sam: Ben’s song is about a family member who has had a very rough time with medical issues since early in life. Survival has been the name of the game for him and at times has been his closest friend. It’s a heavy song for us and we can’t really play it every night. It's mutually important for us to keep the tune fresh.
GW: Is ‘Trespassers’ a story based in truth? What’s the story being told there?
Sam: Trespassers is in fact comprised of all true accounts! It’s a compilation of ghost encounters and paranormal experiences I have had and heard of over the years. There are actually three separate stories in the tune. The first is from my mother, the second from a dear friend out in Arizona and the third from yours truly. They are all very literal accounts.
GW: It seems like this new album has a lot to do with becoming who you are – how has that process gone for both/either of you?
Sam: Real growth always seems to be challenging, no matter what it revolves around. Growing a fledgling band on the road is a unique circumstance with its own specific set of challenges. It’s something that certainly takes adjustment and time and shows you exactly who you are in the eyes of new people each night. I’ll go out on a limb and say that growing “The DuPont Brothers” has been equally challenging and eye-opening for both of us. This band has been a vehicle of self reflection like nothing else ever has. It’s forced us to examine ourselves and our band in equal proportion and in turn, has made us better humans and musicians as a result.
GW: What’s something you learned during the creation of A Riddle for You?
Sam: My main lesson during A Riddle for You was the importance of positivity and spur of the moment creative expression in the studio. Michael did such an amazing job of bringing the best out of my brother and I. The creation of A Riddle for You is a capsule in time that I will always value and cherish. The session revolved around deep trust in one another; we’re absolutely going to carry that trust into many records to come.
How does playing music help you grow and become a better person?
Sam: I’ve always believed that on a very core level, music is bigger than the musician. It is participation in something greater than yourself and that alone can be profound. It’s the feeling of connection that has always healed me. Connection to the audience, to the other musicians onstage, to musicians that have influenced us, or even complete strangers. The songs are all gifts, but the real gift is feeling others connect to them. Feeling that connection has made me a happier, healthier and more self aware person.
GW: What’s a talent you have outside of musical ability?
Sam: Zack and I both play a mean racquetball and I hold a purple belt in Hiraido Jiu Jitsu (although I haven’t trained in about 3 years… It’s not exactly easy on the hands). We’re both also pretty good at soccer and video games.
GW: What’s a dream you have for yourselves?
Sam: My real dream for us is that our songs continue to impact people in a positive way on a wider and wider scale as time goes on. It’s important for us to have realistic goals, it’s not about “blowing up” or “breaking out” as much as it is about just putting in the time to have this band continue to sustain itself and its members while continuing to grow in quality and outreach. We both do this first and foremost because we love it more than anything else. The hope is that the songs get heard and understood while we do our best to share them in any way we can.