INTERVIEW: Gus Dapperton

Following the release of his debut album ‘Where Polly People Go To Read’ last year, Gus Dapperton’s profile has been recently booming. With his Benee collaboration ‘Supalonely’ taking Tik Tok by storm, a whole new wave of listeners have been discovering his vulnerable, smooth and DIY soundscape. 

Taking a moment of reflection on the person he was becoming from touring his debut album, he realised he needed to change. Falling into a spiral that was triggered by the unbalance in his life, he did some soul searching to understand more what the healthy balance would look like. The end result of that reflective period is the honest and ultra-vulnerable sophomore record ‘Orca’. 

From the opening moments of ‘Bottle Opener’ to the epic finale that is ‘Swan Song’, he brings you into a candid world of thoughts and emotions that hears him unapologetically opening up to listeners and being more at ease with the internal conflict that can occur. 

I recently chatted to Gus Dapperton about the symbolism behind ‘Orca’, the strive to find the right balance in everything he does and dive into the creative process behind ‘Bottle Opener’ and ‘Palms’. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your sophomore record ‘Orca’ is a deeply personal and reflective collection of tracks. Why did the title ‘Orca’ feel like the perfect cohesive representation of this record? 

GUS DAPPERTON: I mean simply enough, Orca Whales are one of my favourite animals in the world. But I wanted to make this metaphor for feeling trapped and to represent the suffering that coincidently happens when you feel that way.

The title of the album represents everything’s ability to hurt, and then the track names represent everything’s ability to heal, for example ‘Medicine’, ‘First Aid’ and ‘Antidote’ are all qualities of healing. The content then represents everything’s ability to help in those circumstances. So I really wanted to make that metaphor. And I think Orca Whales are a notable animal to reference in extreme suffering and extreme consequences when held in captivity. 

TB: You’ve been very honest in admitting that this album was inspired by the unbalance that was in your life around the time of the release of your debut album. So going into the next chapter with this record, what are you doing to be more aware of the healthy balance you need so you don’t find yourself in that cycle again?

GD: By the end of January I was on the last leg of touring before I was taking a big break, and it really caught up with me. I think I got to comfortable saying ‘yes” to all these tours and things, where as in reality, growing up I was very much an introvert, and touring requires me to be very extroverted. So I think I just need a healthier balance of locking myself in the studio for long periods of time, as well as being on the road. I just need to have equal amounts opposed to extremes of one or the other. 

I learnt a lot writing this album about understanding what I need to do going forward to stay healthy and what my limits are. 

TB: The album opens with the short but captivating ‘Bottle Opener’. The lyric “you never let them get to you, I always let them get to me” immediately captures your attention. So can you explain to us the ideology behind this lyric? 

GD: It’s funny cause I’ve spoken about some of the tracks from the album a lot, and then there are some that I haven’t spoken about at all and ‘Bottle Opener’ is one of them. So it’s really fun and exciting to get to talk about these songs finally. 

But yeah, I specifically wrote that song as the introduction. Some of the song titles are literal, and some are metaphorical, and ‘Bottle Opener’ is meant to be the opening song to represent me opening up about what has been bottled up inside of me. And then the rest of the album is me continuing to open up to everyone.

With the vocal delivery, I was trying to represent the voice of my conciseness saying “you never let them get to you, I always let them get to me”. It’s just talking about how I let everything that happens to me influence how I think and feel about things. My dreams came true when I was able to tour music, but it it’s also a blessing and a curse taking it on so young, and not really having the experience to know better, and not let things effect me the way that they did. 

TB: The groovy rhythm of ‘Palms’ is infectiously catchy. Do you mind explaining how this track creatively came together? 

GD: ‘Palms’ was actually the first track that I wrote off the album, and ‘First Aid’ was written around then too. I guess that was me discovering the concept, and what the theme of this next album was going to be. I guess it was the first song that I really opened up on, so once I did that I discovered that I really wanted to explore this and dive into every detail about these feelings. 

That song in particular is about two people being empathetic, and understanding the anxiety of one another, and how to sit in silence and understand how we are both feeling instead of having to talk about it in real life. Instead we can sit and acknowledge how we are feeling together and embrace our anxiety. 

I actually had the song pretty much done, but I had this part at the end which was this big epic chorus and I was a little unsure on it so I sat on it for a little while. So when I finished the other tracks I ended up revisiting it and changing the end and making it more so this bridge and mellow fade out. 

TB: Have you recently got your palms read or gone to a psychic? Do you believe in it?

GD: It’s not that I believe in that stuff, but I don’t disregard anything in being impossible. I’m just like open minded to everything, and all the possibilities out there. I got my palms read one time, when I was sixteen and it was a really interesting experience *laughs*. 

TB: You worked with Australian singer-songwriter Chela on ‘My Say So’. What was it about her artistry that really got you excited you to jump in the studio together?

GD: We wrote that song together in Los Angeles about a year ago. Honestly, she’s always been one of my favourite artists . My friend Matt was always a big fan of her and put me onto her music, and I think I was just intrigued with the fact that she did a lot of everything herself like I do. She directs a lot of her own music videos, choreographs her dancers, plays bass, and produces a lot of her own stuff. 

We connected online at some point and figured that we’d just get in the studio and write a song. It happened really quickly and naturally. We then ended up touring together in Australia which was really awesome! 

TB: Reflecting on the journey you take between ‘Bottle Opener’ and ‘Swan Song’, why did these feel like the natural selections as the opener and closer.

GD: Well like we were discussing before, ‘Bottle Opener’ is like me opening up and foreshadowing what the journey was going to be. And then ‘Swan Song’ is also labeled like that represent my final words. It’s kinda like my last testament on the album. 

It’s supposed to land on this harsh reality of coming out of depression and being hurt and learning how to handle and deal with all of those things, but being content with the idea that there is always going to need to be these lows to have these highs. 

TB: Your collaboration with BENEE ‘Supalonely’ has gone absolutely viral and become an anthem in it’s own right. Where is one of the weirdest or strangest places you’ve heard the song playing? 

GD: Well, man, this kinda sucks, but here was this one time me and my girlfriend were at a vigil for George Floyd in New York City. We did a moment of silence, and everyone was down on one knee. It was absolutely silent, and this car drove past blasting ‘Supalonely’, and I was just like “fuck” inside my head. It was the worst timing ever. 

But it has been weird because I haven’t been able to properly experience that song being a hit as we’ve been in lockdown the whole time. So it’s going to be interesting going on the road after this, and experiencing that song with crowds for the first time. 

TB: This lockdown period has inspired some people to pick up a new hobby, or find a weird new obsession. So what has been something you’ve picked up or obsessed over during this period? 

GD: I direct some of my videos and am somewhat involved in film, but I’ve been getting way more into filming and editing during this time as I’ve gotten some new cameras. So I’ve just been learning how to use them, and have filmed some music videos and things. I just wanna get more well rounded with all of the things I do. 

’Orca’ is out now!