For many of us, there are certain feelings attached to the last seven months or so of the COVID-19 pandemic: feelings of existential dread, confusion and, chiefly, loneliness.
These sensations are no stranger to indie pop artist Brendan Rice, popularly known as Gus Dapperton. Rice chose to release his second full-length studio album, Orca, in the midst of quarantine not out of coincidence, but out of relevance to these aforementioned emotions.
“My whole decision to release (the album) through quarantine just had to do with it being an intimate album that was emotionally timely with what’s happening,” Rice said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “I thought, you know, this album has been therapeutic to me, maybe it can be to other people. I hoped it would stick with people through these times.”
And while the album appeals to privacy and introversion, Rice, like most artists during this period, is eager to perform Orca for live audiences again. Though the timeline for a return to touring is blurry, Rice is hopeful that the music will marinate with fans of the album.
“I have faith in this time period. I think a lot of people are going to take a lot of the memories (from quarantine) and sit with them alongside the album, so I hope by the time we’re able to tour, people are still just as excited to see the songs live after sitting with them,” Rice said. “There’s gonna be a special experience for those people.”
Fans who wanted to get a virtual sneak peek at the album played live, however, have already had the chance, as Rice performed at both SOS Festival and ZeroSpace digitally over the last month. These shows were unique not only for fans, but also for artists, who were able to receive feedback in real-time as they could watch their own performances “live.”
“When the SOS Festival happened, we had prerecorded that a day or two before for scheduling purposes. I sat down with the band and we all watched it together, which was awesome because we had never seen that,” Rice said.
But despite the virtual performances, there is no substitute for touring. For introverts such as Rice, the pandemic and subsequent tour cancelations have provided ample time to contemplate the nature of publicity. Studio time, family time and close social time have all been important for the indie star, who has been quarantined at his home in New York.
After seven months essentially in lockdown — an introvert’s hypothetical heaven — even Rice is ready to take on the grand social commitment that touring entails.
“There’s something that generally makes me anxious knowing I’m going to have to interact with so many people when I’m on tour, so this has been a good time for me to reflect on that,” Rice said. “Now, I’m really just ready to get back into it.”
But as it stands currently, with no tour dates on the horizon, Orca still has an intimate purpose. The record serves to unravel our capacity to address our own mental health issues and help others cope with them.
Specifically, the album’s title, Orca, represents everyone’s capacity to hurt. Each of the song titles, according to Rice, complement the record by expressing our ability to heal, via either healthy or unhealthy coping mechanisms. Most importantly, the lyrics stand for the necessity and profundity of helping others through difficult mental times — particularly like our current day and age.
Adapting his second album to fit this motif was a new step for Rice, who wanted to explore the idea of a record with a unified message.
“Nowadays there aren’t as many concept albums. I wanted to get back to a time where I could drop a concept album, where people want to hear the whole thing,” Rice said. “I was inspired by ’90s concept albums because sometimes I’ll just try to make every song a bop, but in reality it’s important to make songs for certain spots.”
The record was important for Rice’s evolution as an artist, and his inclusion of rawer production choices alongside more intense lyrics signify a new vulnerability — a new willingness to engage with music, his deepest passion, therapeutically.
“General forms of therapy and talking about my experiences to other people have been more difficult in helping me with my issues,” Rice said. “Music was the first thing I was truly passionate about and loved, so every time I sit down and make music I’m just thankful to be doing what I’m doing.”