A Tarantula Whispering Bad Thoughts Into Your Ear – A Q+A With Surrealist Troubadour Gus Englehorn

Photo by Estée Preda.
Banner photo by Ariane Moisan.

Gus Englehorn is an Alaskan singer/songwriter, now based out of Montréal, whose innocent-sounding bleat and whimsical turns of phrase belie the spooky undercurrent that swirls beneath his scruffy garage rockers. Englehorn released his debut album, Death & Transfiguration, in 2020, and recently played a show at Pittsburgh’s Collision in support of his new record, Dungeon Master (Secret City Records), due out 4/29. Gus was kind enough to answer some questions for Bored In Pittsburgh. Check it out below:

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Who is Gus Englehorn? A tagline or catchphrase, if you will. 

Gus Englehorn is a complicated man.

Cliche question out of the way early; who/what are some of your influences, musical or otherwise?

The way I write songs is a mix of the song structures on Sgt. Peppers kind of combined with the dissonance that John Fahey uses in his guitar playing mixed with the humour of Frank Black and Daniel Johnston. I’m also really influenced by movies, dadaism and surrealism.

Photo by Ariane Moisan

How did you get your start in music? 

I started playing guitar when I was 16 years old and from that point on I started dreaming of being a songwriter. Seventeen short years later I released my first album Death & Transfiguration and now I’m about to release my second album Dungeon Master, which strangely only took 6 months to write.

Your lyrics strike me as very evocative and imaginative. How would you describe your songwriting process? 

Thank you! There’s a lot of collage going on when I write songs. I try to write songs everyday but I rarely finish one in one shot. Usually it’s more about coming up with a bunch of little ideas over time and putting them together in a way that makes sense to me. I’m always trying to tell a story too so it’s really about trying to make sure the music magnifies the impact of the words.

Is there a track you’ve recorded that you’re especially proud of? If so, why?

A: My favorite one so far is “Tarantula.” I guess I just like the imagery of a tarantula whispering bad thoughts into your ear. It also only has 15 words in it and I usually need a lot more than that to get my point across.

You played a show at Collision in March. How was your time in Pittsburgh? What impressions did you get of the city? 

Pittsburgh seems like such an amazing city. Seems like it has the perfect ecosystem to support a good art scene. I also love how hilly it is and all the beautiful Victorian houses. Collision was probably my favorite venue I have played yet! We actually got Covid coming back from Austin and we quarantined for 5 days in Bellevue.

Are there any Pittsburgh artists that you’ve been listening to lately? 

Photo provided by artist

The Del-Vikings!

Is there anything that I forgot to ask or that you’d like to let people know about you, your music, or anything in general?

I’d like to take this opportunity to plug my new album Dungeon Master coming out April 29th! And also I’d like to thank you for taking the time to interview me!

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Many thanks to Gus Englehorn for taking the time to answer these questions. Make sure to follow him on social media, check out more of his music, and stay tuned for Dungeon Master!

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