The documentary paints an abstract picture of a shy kid growing up with an abusive father, culminating in divorce; the kid languishes for a period of time only to skyrocket to fame. Despite his short life, there could have been any number of ways to document his slice of musical history. Why did you choose to focus on his youth for nearly the same amount of screen-time as his musical career?
Jones: You're certainly right that there are a number of ways we could've documented Gus's impact on music. Given his abrupt and sudden death, it quickly became clear that -- outside of the fans that really know his work -- the greater world was ready to write Gus off as SoundCloud rapper who died to soon.
But he was so much more than that, and felt it was important to show people that he was this amazing human first. He lived for 21 years, and his career spanned roughly three, so I would make the argument that we could've easily spent more time on his youth given that ratio.
I noticed that Gus's brother wasn't interviewed. Was there any reason why?
Jones: Oskar chose to help behind the scenes rather than to be in the spotlight.
Was there anyone else you wanted to interview for the documentary that didn't make it in?
Jones: Mrs. Hartman[, his high school English teacher]. She helped him a lot in high school, [and acted] like a mentor to him and fostered his creativity. She worked together with Liza to make sure Gus got his high school diploma and also conspired with Liza to assign him an essay so that he could apply to college.
Peep's grandfather snail-mailed him letters frequently. They were a mixture of updates and checking in, musings and inspirational guidance. The letters anchor the documentary, acting as emotional notes that guide our hazy descent. How did you come about using the letters as a spine for the documentary?
Jones: Not long before we visited Peep's grandfather at his home in Cambridge in May of last year, Liza started sharing these beautiful letters that he had written to Gus over the years, and she had saved. Terry informed us about these as well and told us how special they were. When we saw them, it was undeniable and everything sort of came together from there.
Silyan: They just carried this immense wisdom. It was clear that the letters meant a lot to Gus, so it made sense to use them in such a way.
In addition to the documentary's emphasis on Peep's childhood, there's a focus on fame and its hurdles. Care to discuss what you discovered during the interviewing of the entire cast of characters -- the differences in how each event was told; who claimed to know Peep better than the others, and so forth?
Jones: What became clear is that everyone we spoke to had very strong opinions on all aspects of Peep's life, whether they were there for it or not. We were fortunate enough to speak to so many people and have a team of people doing their own research, that we were able to parse out what felt most true. The documentary is a reflection of that.
The documentary examines the ill-fated tour that culminated with Peep's death. He was struggling, overworked, drugs and behavior normalized -- yet the documentary does point at a specific omission: that long gap in time between people in his crew discovering his unresponsive body. How did you go about tackling such a sensitive topic?
Jones: It's extremely sensitive and there are, of course, still a lot of questions swirling around what exactly happened that day. We felt that the way it was edited together in that brief section of the film covers that day in a way that is factual without getting into extreme detail. If we did, the film would've taken a true-crime sort of turn, and taken away from the goal of making a film about him as this person that tried to be everybody's everything. We wanted to celebrate his life.
Let's end it on a sentimental question: What do you think Peep would be doing if he were still with us?
Jones: I think he would be continuing to make music with people he loved and constantly evolving and pushing towards new horizons.
Silyan: He'd most likely be surprising me. He constantly defied my expectations and broke boundaries... shifting and changing as people tried to catch up to him. His foray into fashion would have grown, he would have delved into acting, kept using his voice to speak up in what he believed in, and, of course, his music would have continued to blow me away.
This interview has been edited and condensed.