The Dupont Brothers: The Essence of Harmony || THREAD MAGAZINE
When you first meet them, Sam and Zack DuPont appear to be polar opposites, but onstage, the duo has a bond that older brother Zack calls unmistakable. Five-and-a-half years apart in age, the DuPont Brothers officially teamed up a little more than a year ago.
The brothers, ages 23 and 28 respectively, are quickly becoming known for, as Zack puts it, their “lighthearted banter and heavy-hearted songs.”
The boys grew up in Delaware and were raised in a musical family. With a folk singer mother and visual artist father, the brothers were immersed in a world of creative fusion from an early age. Zack, who went to St. Lawrence University in New York to study music, moved to Burlington after school, starting his own eponymous band before teaming up with his brother.
They describe their music, which seamlessly combines the minimalistic styles of folk and Americana with the honesty of rock n’ roll, as “Vermont-made Folk-Rock-Americana,” with an added bit of intimacy. Playing off of their opposing energy, the pair understand their differences, but pull from their individual strengths and experiences to create harmony-oriented pieces that compliment each other.
I met Sam and Zack at Burlington’s Battery Park. It was early afternoon, and I found them taking refuge from the August heat in the shade of the park’s bandstand. I sat across from them, cross-legged on the concrete, and listened as they told me of their music and inspiration, bouncing stories and ideas off of each other.
Sam, the quieter of the two, has a more private and reserved nature. Articulate and careful, it was almost as if I could see him forming the words in his mind before he spoke. Everything he said had a purpose. His demeanor was true to the duo’s music, thoughtful and intentional, but poetic to the core. Zack was well spoken and had kind eyes. He was warm and talked openly about his love for music and the duo’s experience on the road.
“We played a set on Broadway in Nashville. It was honky-tonk country and country rock all night long.“ Zack began. “We had a midnight set, which is just inappropriate,” he continued, laughing.
“We didn’t belong there,” Sam agreed.
“But we just showed up anyway. It was nine degrees and the doorman told us to get in line, even though there was literally no line,” Zack continued.
“There was this little red walkway and he was just like ‘get in line,’” the younger DuPont said in his best southern accent. “He just got right up in my face. Big, aggressive man, too. And he’s just looked at me and said ‘no you’re not.’ I kind of froze. It was just kind of like, really?”
“So, I just looked at him and said, ‘you’re right, we’re not.’” Zack said. “We meet a lot of characters.”
As I listened to them speak, I was amazed with how at ease and in-sync the brothers were. They spoke passionately about their experiences and love for their art, exuding honesty, the very quality that has earned them a fan base that keeps growing.
With only a year of playing together as the DuPont Brothers, Sam and Zack have an impressive 25,000 tour miles and more than 200 shows under their belt, a feat that has allowed them to grow closer as a duo and as brothers.
“Our music is more harmonious than ever before,” Zack said, referring to the sibling cohesion the duo has become known for. “We write music that resonates with each other, and I think it translates and resonates with other people, too, because it’s so visibly happening.”
“The tunes just feel like they belong to one larger piece,” Sam added. “We’ve both inspired each other to evolve as writers and as musicians.”
Writing, the brothers told me, is one responsibility they share. This is not surprising; with lyrics that are simple yet expansive, the brothers have this seemingly innate ability to articulate everything you’ve ever wanted to say, but could never find the words for. The poeticism in their writing and voices is something that simply must be experienced to be understood. Their songs aren’t just made to be listened to. They’re made to be felt.
“Our writing is very relatable,” Sam said quietly, his gaze fixated in the distance. “It’s metaphorical. It’s open-ended.”
With DNA on their side, the blend of their voices isn’t surprising, but their talent goes deeper than that. Sam and Zack’s strength as a musical duo lies in how well they know themselves and how well each knows the other.
“Even when one of us is off, it still sounds so miraculous, because we give and bend with each other. It’s freakish,” Zack said.
The duo performed their first show as the DuPont Brothers at Burlington nightclub Nectar’s Lounge in December 2012. Though they were playing an End of the World party, their success was just beginning. The show, they said, had about 15 people in the audience when it began, but turned into a packed house.
“My recollection of this might be a bit exaggerated because of the excitement,” the younger DuPont added with a laugh. But their refreshing modesty aside, Sam and Zack both knew they were on to something. “It was just so fun and so apparent that this was a special thing. After that, things moved really fast.”
After their show at Nectar’s that December, the pair recorded a live EP, The DuPont Brothers: Live in the Studio,with Egan Media in a single day. The following March, Sam moved to Burlington from Arizona, where he worked at a treatment center for teens. Sam spent the month crashing on his brother’s floor, before getting settled on his own.
The duo credits their success so far to hard work. Adopting a do-it-yourself model, the guys act as their own agents and managers, planning and marketing every show and every tour. The most impressive part of the duo’s DIY attitude is the fact that it’s working.
“We never buy hotels on the road just to save money. We’re incredibly thrifty. We’ll literally buy cans of soup and eat the soup at venues when we can, to just try and pinch as many pennies as possible,” Zack tells me, half-laughing.
With their tour route and budget always mapped out ahead of time, the duo has toured both ways; sometimes with a bit of cash ahead of time, and other times with none at all.
“Somehow it always works out,” the younger DuPont brother stated confidently, blowing smoke from his mouth as he spoke. “We survive. We’ve really started to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”
The duo does want help, though.
“We’d really love an agent. That’s kind of our next step,” Zack said. They also want to increase their audience and bring their music beyond Burlington.
The brothers will use the funds they raised from a recent Kickstarter campaign to record their new album, Heavy as Lead, and hire a booking agent. The record, which Zack says will be a “Fall and Winter, introspective album,” will be filled with acoustic duets and have an October release date.
The DuPont Brothers have remained humble, despite their success. In the last year, the duo has shared the stage with many national acts like Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Ben Sollee and The Lone Bellow.
“It’s really cool to think about how well it has gone,” said Sam, who until moving to Burlington was completely self-taught. “I’m just blown away. I have a lot of gratitude for the people that have been my guides in this profession, that have really pushed me to grow and be better at what I do. And I’m so humbled by the fact that things are lining up.”
Zack, always in step with his brother, said he feels the same way.
“We take a lot of pride in our work, and it feels really good to look back on our growth,” Zack added. “It’s important to know why you do what you do. For us, it’s because we love it and know in our bones that this is what we were meant to do.” ‡
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THREAD MAGAZINE