Gus Dapperton personally sees to that on his 2019 full-length debut, Where Polly People Go To Read [AWAL]. Instead of the familiar realm of flesh, bone, and boundaries, he presents a new place for popular culture and music. The Warwick, NY singer, songwriter, and vibe maestro invites you to take up residence deep inside of his subconscious as embodied by these ten tracks.
“The album is basically what I see inside of my head, and it’s the dimension you’re entering when you hear it,” he explains. “It’s very personal and honest to me. There are a few emotional roller coasters. I’ve come to terms with reality and the inconveniences inherent in how I see things. Being able to express myself however I want, regardless of the resulting good or bad, makes me feel content and real.”
He also unpresumptuous-ly inched towards making such a statement since his emergence in 2016. A series of anthems a la “Prune, You Talk Funny,” “I’m Just Snacking,” and “Moodna, Once With Grace” generated tens of millions of streams and views as he hovered around 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify and dropped a pair of EPs—Yellow and Such  and You Think You’re a Comic! . Acclaimed by Vogue, The Fader, Pigeons & Planes, and Nylon and pegged among “10 Artists to Watch in 2019” by High Snobiety, he embarked on a globe-trotting journey that placed him in front of sold out audiences around the world. In the midst of such madness, he pieced together Where Polly People Go To Read back in his parents’ home. At the time, the record reflected the current ups and downs of his personal life.
“It captures the whole last year of my life,” he goes on. “The first four songs are the demise of a relationship and heartbreak. By the time the fifth song starts, it’s experiencing love once more. It ends on this harsh reality. It was happening presently in my life, so each song was written in chronological order. I fell out of an unhealthy relationship and then fell in love again. It was super magical when it was all brand new. However, I eventually embraced the sad truth love is not so easy in general for anyone.”
Dapperton envisioned a gritty soundscape befitting of such emotional turbulence. He copped a classic TR-626 drum machine “for one hundred dollars on Ebay” and leveraged its old school 12-bit samples. Writing, engineering, mixing, mastering, and playing everything from “out-of-tune piano, DX7 electric piano, and modulated clean guitar” himself, he achieved his goal. He introduced this signature style on 2018’s “World Class Cinema,” which detailed “erotic side of romance as a relationship is about to die.”
The first single of 2019, “My Favorite Fish,” floats along on delicate acoustic guitar, a squeaky percussive beat, his dynamic delivery, and warm synths. It bottles up the more intoxicating moments of infatuation.
“After spending the summer with my current girlfriend, I wrote ‘My Favorite Fish’,” he continues. “She used to say I was her ‘favorite fish’. This song is all about her and how blissful love can be. It’s probably one of the happiest songs I’ve ever written. I never use acoustic guitar, but it was perfect since the track has a truly classic feel to me.”
On its heels, “Fill Me Up Anthem” rings out over sparse piano and skittering cymbals. His voice climbs towards a grunted emotionally charged crescendo, illuminating the scope of Dapperton’s delivery.
“It’s the second to last song I wrote,” he goes on. “It discusses deceit and how relationships aren’t as easy as they seem. I’m coming to terms with being in love. I had to get it all out this way. The song describes a little bit of jealousy.”
From the green-hued catchiness of intro “Verdagris” to the neon effervescence of the closer “I Ascend,” he carves out a safe space for inspiration to flourish—as intimated in the title Where Polly People Go to Read.
“A long time ago, I drew these ambiguous, genderless ‘Polly People’ in doodles,” he says. “They’re open-minded characters, sort of like aliens, who would exist in the universe inside of my head. They’re eclectic creative types who aren’t afraid to be themselves. They live in an alternate dimension. For the album’s sake, it just means this is the place they go to congregate, study, and whatnot. It’s all in my mind.”
When you come back to earth, it’s easy to identify with Dapperton on an intimate level…
“I’m here going through the same things you are,” he concludes. “I want to encourage others to say what’s true to them. Aside from the fact I need to create music in order to survive, my goal is to inspire expression. This is a place for all of us to go.”