Track by Track Gus Dapperton takes us through ‘Orca’

The NYC-based artist gives us a track by track run-through of his second album.

Sharing his highly anticipated second album ‘Orca’ in September, Gus Dapperton is giving us a track by track run-through of his vulnerable and powerful new record.

Written back in 2018 and following the emotional rollercoaster of touring life, Gus’ second offering - following his debut album ‘Where Polly People Go To Read’ - was born out of the highs and lows he was experiencing during that intense time in his life.

“Though starkly different in tone to his debut,” we said in our review, “‘Orca’ remains inherently ‘Gus Dapperton’ with his signature growling vocals and effortless alt-pop grooves and indie licks showcasing an artist stepping up musically, while also finding strength in his vulnerability.”

Read his track by track now.


‘Bottle Opener’ is a literal metaphor for being the opening track on the album, and also for me the first chance to open up to the feelings I’m going to be spewing on the album. The lyrics start out by saying “you never let them get to you, I always let them get to me” and that is an indication for what the rest of the album is going to be about - foreshadowing how I let all these feelings and this journey effect me in a negative way and I have this unconditional support system that hasn’t been effected by these changes and have helped reel me back into reality. Sometimes I write songs for certain purposes and this song was for the specific purpose of being the opening track on the record.


The second song on the record is ‘First Aid’, which was the first single I put out on this project. It is definitely a key song on this album. It talks about me as a person - neglecting these parts of me and pushing them to the back of my mind and trapping myself inside my own head. The negative effects of neglecting parts of yourself. A lot of this album is me relating back to my youth and back to my “past self” and this song talks about this more literally about “Brendan”, my name, in the third person, and “Gus” in the first person. Most of these songs are unresolved journeys of feeling stuck and depressed and all these glimpses of hope in the end that can hopefully bring you out of it. For example in this song it talks about my family and my friends and they are what helped me heal, they are my first aid, they wrap me up and heal me from all these wounds I inflict upon myself. When the music video for ‘First Aid’ comes out you’ll see the exact narrative I had in my head and how it relates to the song and tells the story, it is a very verbatim re-enactment of the lyrics and story of the song.


‘Post Humorous’ is the third song and second single. It is maybe the funnest track / the most upbeat. Though it seems upbeat, lots of times I like to make music that contradicts itself so though it has more upbeat in the chords and melodies the lyrical content is not. It is music that naturally draws me in. The song talks about my first experiences of death as a child and my experiences of death now and how they correlate with each other. Maybe when I was 3 or 4 and had to go to my great grandmother’s funeral, go to the ceremony and the church I didn’t understand the seriousness of death. I would go around treating life like a joke and treating life like it has no consequences so this song addresses that, and then having these people in my life that reel me in. The chorus goes “as a reminder, ready when you find her, repress the iridescence of a fire, and would you mind him, steady when you find him, confess the incandescence of a dying light” so it is talking about a flame that is going out, my flame that is going out. I’m a dying light, but be prepared for these forces that are going to try and keep this flame going and keep this flame alive.


‘Bluebird’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album and most immediate tracks on the record. It has a similar theme to ‘Post Humorous’ - where I’m comparing my youth and some of my first memories to where I am now and how it all directly correlates and ties back. The song talks about how everything I’ve ever done in my life roots back to my home and my youth. The lyrics are “my grave puts all my weight on hold, my grave roots all the way back home” so wherever I am or however I’m feeling at any point in time it relates to my youth. I had a lot of resentment for my youth and my childhood and how I was raised that I was a bit discouraged from pursuing art in the way I wanted to and from trying new things and I am forgiving that and letting go of that resentment. Everything happens for a reason and perhaps if I wasn’t discouraged I wouldn’t be so passionate about what I’m doing now - about life and music and art. Everything that happened in my life is why I am where I am now.


‘Palms’ is the first song I wrote on the album. Lots of time I’ll just write songs without the attention of releasing them, more for the sake of my own self expression and personal release but this was the first track I wrote for the new album, the first track written since ‘Where Polly People Go To Read’ and I thought I was onto something where I wanted to explore details of this path. This song talks about two people being empathic towards each other and relaying that they don’t need to talk or try and force this type of conversation, they acknowledge their anxieties both exist so they are empathic and don’t need to talk, they can “read each others palms” and we can both experience each other without being too explicit. I feel anxious and I know others do and it can be hard to force yourself to be extroverted and lay your cards on the table / lay yourself on the line. This song is about having mutual understanding of one another’s anxiety.


I wrote ‘My Say So’ with my good friend Chela I had the initial idea of the chorus and then we filled the gaps in together and the production. This song is about being afraid of conflict and feeling too weak to get into conflict, to “fight back”. It is about taking it in without reflecting your own thoughts and experiences on a situation, which isn’t a great way to go about life but unfortunately that is the case sometimes. I guess we both had similar experiences and decided to explore the thought process more in the writing. The first lyric is “I wear a mask and you’ve become so scared of that” which is talking about how I’m a different person and throughout the song it talks about how this antagonist uses it to their advantage.


‘Grim’ is about how in a certain period of my life I felt on the edge and that the Grim was catching up to me in everything that I do. It talks about how it gets so close but it still wont catch me, I’ll make it out. One of the lyrics is “I can feel the grim behind me I can’t help but egg him on” – I know I’m close to the edge but I can’t help but have close calls for the thrill, you want dangerous scenarios because the grim is so close but you feel nothing -motionless to this idea.


The next song is ‘Antidote’, the most direct and forward metaphor on the album. It is about someone who is afraid of getting too close to someone, always defensive and pushing them away – they are afraid to love. This is talking about how your counterpart in this narrative is getting too close and we shouldn’t pursue - because I’m a wild animal and I will attack if you get too close to me. But we have to find an antidote that will work for us - the punchline is “you’re reaching for a hand to hold from a wild animal with no antidote” and that is the direct metaphor. We can’t get too close unless we have this resolution.


The next song is ‘Medicine’ which is the most important track on the album in a way. It sums up the theme of the album. The title ‘Orca’ represents everything’s ability to hurt – the track titles like ‘Medicine’, ‘First Aid’ and ‘Antidote’ represent the ability to heal and the contents and the journey represent the help, having people around you that are helping you get out of this hurting process and healing. This song talks about someone who is self destructive because they know they have so much to fall back on and they become addicted to the healing process. It isn’t so much what gets them into trouble but the healing process afterwards that they get addicted to – feeling this love around them, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, it is caring thing, “Every time they try and fix me up I get addicted to the medicine”, addicted to the healing process, not the process which got you hurt in the first place.


Last song is ‘Swan Song’, similar to ‘Bottle Opener’ where the title is named after where it sits on the record. This is my swan song, my final testament. This song talks about how religion and science also equate to pessimism and optimism. Where do we sit on everything that has happened on this album, everything that has been said and all the progress we have made. It settles on the harsh reality of just getting out of this funk and sort of contentedness – no more and no less. We realise there have to be dark times to have the bright and happy times. At the end it lands on “I’m content that we’ve landed in the middle but I won’t forget everything I’ve learned to get where I am now” - we’re going to have these highs and lows but I’ll never forget the process made. My last testament / my final words.

‘Orca’ is out now via AWAL.

Tags: Gus Dapperton, Track by Track, Features

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