ICON: Your new album Orca is about internal pain and suffering. Has there been any life events in particular that you drew inspiration from?
Gus Dapperton: “I think the tipping point that really defined the inspiration for this or summed it up was I started writing it about one and a half years ago. It was about the trial we’ve had on tour and the really dark emotions and parts of living that lifestyle that we’ve endured.
One time I was on a couple hours sleep when I loaded in for my show, didn’t’ have anything to eat, got really f**ked up that night and then I got lost and we had to leave for the airport at 5am – I was just lost in this Seoul, South Korea. No one could find me and everyone went to the airport. I miraculously showed up at the airport and got on the plane. Me and my sister got into this huge fight and that whole plane ride I got motion sickness and was throwing up and then we landed and my sister and I made up. We were bawling our eyes out for a couple of hours and that night we had a show and we were about to call it quits, but we played the show. The power went out so we just played the rest of the show acoustic with everyone chanting the words and it was pretty special. So, it’s just about having these huge emotional lows and highs that I wouldn’t normally experience in everyday life.”
The album also has a healing and redemption aspect to it. What do you want your listeners to take from Orca?
GD: “I’ve been saying the motto and the mission statement for the album is that everyone one and everything has the ability to hurt. Everyone has the ability to heal and everyone has the ability to help. It’s me defining what my beliefs are.”
“I’m not really religious but I do have a lot of faith in humans and learning from our mistakes. Everyone can hurt but everyone can heal as well.”
You’ve noted changing your name to Gus after struggling to embrace your identity under ‘Brendan’. Looking back at that decision, would you have done anything differently?
GD: “I honestly wouldn’t have done anything differently. I look at my life now and I’ve grown so much with people that I don’t think I would have grown with if it wasn’t for all the changes I had made. My dream growing up, I lived in upstate New York and my dream was to live in New York City, not necessarily as a musician or do that as a career. I wanted to always do that, but it wasn’t necessarily a dream of mine. My dream was to move to New York City, to fall in love and to be with good people and I’ve achieved that.”
Legendary producer and mixing engineer, Spike Stent mixed the album. What was it like working closely with someone who has worked with so many incredible artists?
GD: “It was just an honour. I think, not to hate on other artists, but I think I’m a bigger fan of mix engineers than other artists. I’m a big fan of engineers and producers and master engineers because I’ve always done it myself and understand the attention to detail that’s required and how masterful you need to be. I’ve always been a huge fan of Spike and it was really an honour, I didn’t know what it would take for one of those mixers to want to mix your stuff. So, we talked about it and I met him in real life and we just hit it off, it was really a dream come true.”
Did he lend any advice you’ll take throughout your career?
GD: “Not advice, but this is the first time I’ve heard someone mix my voice and mix my recording before and I guess the advice and knowledge I’ve learnt from that is that you definitely need to have someone’s ears on your stuff. Because hearing your voice back and doing it yourself, you might make decisions that are not solely based on how the mix sounds and how your voice sounds and how you played a certain instrument and you really need someone to be impartial to that.”
What is the pressure like to back up the success of your debut album with this second project?
GD: “I honestly don’t feel any pressure. I’ve felt pressure in the past to appeal a certain way, but I’ve kind of just said, ‘F**k it’. I’m just going to make music that’s going to be beneficial to the progression of music and if people like it that’s great and if people don’t like it, I understand. But I don’t feel pressure anymore, I think I’ve been lucky to surround myself with people who don’t put a lot of pressure on me.”
Do you believe that’s an experience thing or a mentality you’ve brought with you throughout your life?
GD: “I’ve gone through phases of feeling that way. When I was coming up and no one was listening to my music, I always felt that way. I knew what I was doing and felt it was the right thing to be doing. I wanted to make music and I wanted to make innovative music. The first time someone reached out and said my music helped them through something, is when I knew I was doing it right. I didn’t really feel that pressure to be doing anything differently and then I think when I started touring and releasing more music and going to all these places, I sort of felt more pressure – that might’ve swayed the way I did things a little bit. But I’ve learnt from that experience and I’m back to where I was. That what I’m doing is right and I’m trying to make the most innovative and progressive music I can. I hope that people like that.”
What did you learn between the two albums?
GD: “I’ve just grown more in terms of being able to look deeper inside myself as opposed to what is on the outside. I used to write a lot about physical things like love and heartbreak and romance and things you can see and envisage and with this album I’m writing about things that are a lot more internal and deeper inside me, just reflecting on things I feel more vulnerable about. I guess, it might not be a learning thing but it might be more about gaining the courage to do that.”
The past four years have been quite transformative for you. From releasing songs in your bedroom in upstate New York to embarking on world tours. How are you handling the change of pace, particularly during the pandemic?
GD: “I decided on our last tour that we were going to take a long break. I just needed a breather to reflect and figure out what balance is going to be good for me in terms of making music and touring the music. I was going to take this time off anyways to figure [it] out. I didn’t plan any tours or anything and then the pandemic happened, so I was in the same spot I would’ve been anyways.”
You made a visit to Australia in 2019. How would you say Australian crowds differ from that of overseas?
GD: “It’s funny, every crowd is different. Australian crowds are great, everyone is lively, and everyone is keen to sing the words of the songs back to me and dance. I think it’s similar to maybe how crowds are in the UK. In America, the crowds are a bit jaded sometimes, like sometimes they’re a bit nervous to express themselves and they want to appear cool and they don’t want to embrace it too hard, but I think we as a band make everyone feel comfortable with embracing it. I’m really going after it and making everyone feel included, so I haven’t experienced it too much. But in Europe and Australia, a lot of people let loose.”
What do you hope to achieve in the next five years?
“I’ve always been addicted to change, a lot of people fear change, but I really love change and different environments.”
GD: “I always loved changing my hair and wearing different clothes and changing what my music sounds like and changing all these things. I just love indulging in different art forms. In the next five years I’d love to write a movie or take on something in the film world. Just do different things with music and what the boundaries are.”
Gus Dapperton’s newest album ‘Orca’ drops on September 18. For more from the artists, visit his website here.