Being assigned the title of “hyped artist” is undoubtedly a win for any new musician, and with every man and his (keyboard literate) dog running their own music blog these days, the amount of hyped artists has never been greater.
But with the hype, comes the often pressure-filled process of following through, an exercise electro-punk-rocker Ecca Vandal knows all too well.
The South-African raised Melbournite landed with a hugely impressive thud last year with the face-melting White Flag and equally awe-inspiring Battle Royale singles, raising both eyebrows and the poised fingers of music writers the country over.
Having just debuted her live show earlier this year, Ecca is following on from a crazy first few months as a solo artist by being announced on the country’s biggest music festivals such as Groovin The Moo and now, Splendour in the Grass, with a debut full-length also nearing it’s final stages.
Before the 2015 current fully takes her under and towards the inevitable lofty heights of success, we were lucky enough to grab a chat with Ecca and get her to show us around her favourite record store, Melbourne’s Poison City Records.
MF: So you started the year with your first few solo shows, are you happy with how they all went?
EV: Yeah, I loved it, it was so cool to start playing live and see people coming down and giving up their Tuesday night and spend it with me. It’s been really cool to meet a bunch of new people who are digging my music.
MF: You’ve performed plenty before with other artists, but as it was your first time playing your own material, how much different was the on stage sensation?
EV: So different! I mean it’s a completely different ball game to, say, when I’ve done backing vocals and things like that in the past. It’s very much just getting up and doing the job with that, but this time it doesn’t feel like work I guess.
It feels very cathartic in a way and that I’m really connecting with people, which is very important to me. So yeah, definitely a completely different experience all together.
MF: I saw the Sydney show at GoodGod and you always know you’re at a promising newcomer gig when Kingsmill rocks up and stands next to you, which is what happened to me. Were you aware people were judging the Ecca Vandal hype with your debut live shows? Does it affect your performance?
EV: Umm, good question. I think at some point there is a bit of pressure because people think, you know, I’ve heard the tracks and I like the video but what’s it going to be like live. Plus theres all the pressure you put on yourself.
So, it definitely contributes but at the end of the day, I’m just trying to have fun and that’s sort of what I focus on, no matter who’s in the crowd. And no matter what kind of names are in the crowd, I don’t care, as long as people are connecting with my music, I don’t care who or where they work. Tt doesn’t change for me.
MF: You recently played Hyperfest and up next is Groovin the Moo [ED: and now Splendour!]. How does an Ecca Vandal festival set differ from a club show and adapt to a bigger stage?
EV: Well the first time we got to experience a bigger stage was the Prodigy support and that was literally my third gig! It was kinda scary, you know, going from GoodGod to Luna Park was quite the transition.
We had a bit more space on stage which was good [laughs]! But I think the music I create and the sounds translates really well on a bigger stage and it was great to listen back during sound check and go “cool this works through bigger speakers” and I loved it. But yeah, I can’t wait for the festivals because I’m all about making people dance and at a festival scene thats gonna be rad.
MF: Energetic is definitely a word I’d use, which is slightly understating it, to describe your on stage performance. Are you going to revel in the larger festival stages and cover as much ground as possible?
EV: I’d like to, who knows what could happen. Energy will definitely be up, just to be there and play amongst such big acts. Most of my band are pretty fit dudes, full of beans, so I’ll be just trying to keep up with them.
MF: Tell me a bit about the residency at the Gaso. With a weekly showcase does it give you a new platform to explore ways of performing, new set lists etc.? How do you change it up each week? It must be fun to have the opportunity to play around?
EV: Oh definitely, I mean, my first Tuesday night gig, gig number four all up, we were still experimenting with our show and seeing what worked and what didn’t. We kind of improvised a lot, and yeah, the ability to change it up week to week was a great opportunity to see what was a good opener, what people were responding to, what we were vibing up on stage and what we wanted to marinate bit longer if we wanted to. We kind of kept it a bit free, so that was fun.
MF: Whats the current phase of recording, are we looking at an EP or full length release soon?
EV: Looking at a full length which is exciting. So it’s become a bit more about finding those tunes. And it’s feeling like a story, now, like a whole album which is great. We’re still making music and tweaking in the studio, a bit of writing on some tunes that might make the album.
It’s kind of good, because there’s no real pressure at the moment so we’re just going with what we think will be a strong album. If some of these songs we’re writing right now make it on there, all good, and if not that’s fine too. I’ll just keep writing and they’ll find a release somewhere else.
MF: Are you at the point of thinking about name and cover art, I know you’re quite hands on with visuals and whatnot?
EV: Totally, I’ve already started. I am very much part of the visual side of things. That’s already begun, ages ago actually. But now working on it tangibally, I’m quite involved, working with an artist called MSG, who has been on board for awhile, he designed my logo and everything with me. We’ve had hands on sessions for the record, looking at all the pieces, which are quite handcrafted: the artwork. It’s been real special to be hands on with him.
MF: You have a Record Store Day release coming up. Tell us about the double A side you’re releasing?
EV: Yeah, I can’t wait. Thats another thing MSG was a part of, the cover art for both singles. And we just thought it would be a really fun way to release them as a physical thing. A lot of people have been asking me when they can get their hands on a physical release and now we’ve got it on vinyl and I’m so stoked. Always been a bit of a dream to get my music on vinyl!
MF: Do you consider yourself a vinyl-phile? do you collect the physical stuff?
EV: Oh I love it! I don’t think I’ve bought a physical CD in awhile to be honest. I’m more about vinyl with a bit of iTunes. But, vinyl is really special to me.
MF: Lets talk inspirations, I know you get this a lot as a new artist with such a distinct sound. Are you aware of what inspires you when writing new music, do you go “Oh this song sounds like that band I like” or is it only afterwards when people point it out?
EV: It’s mostly afterwards actually. I don’t like to listen to music when I’m writing. Because I don’t want to be influenced by specific songs or artists or sounds or anything like that.
When I’m in a focus stage of writing music for a few months I don’t listen to new music for that reason. I like it to be more organic. Whatever comes out, comes out. But it is really interesting to see how people perceive it. They might align it with certain artists and sounds which I found super interesing. Some of the comparisons that come out, really sorta surprise me.
MF: What kind of music did you listen to in your formative years, the lock yourself in your bedroom teenage years?
EV: Those years, I was listening to a lot of my sister’s CDs at the time. All the early R&B, hip-hop from the golden era, even jazz. Soul music. Traditional African music as well, growing up in South Africa. Gospel and traditional. Sometimes I’d lock my self in my parents room and listen to their CD collections! Soak it all up.
MF: If you don’t like listening to new music when you’re writing, do you jump right in, say just afterwards? I saw somewhere you were vibing on the new Kendrick recently?
EV: Oh yeah totally. Now I’m into it because I’m not in the early writing stage. Now I’m totally vibing Kendrick Lamar. He’s just an animal, you know, he’s really inspiring.
I think Little Simz is really amazing right now. Theres a whole bunch of amazing artists doing some cool stuff that you can’t help but listen to. Even if you want to focus on your own stuff for awhile it’s really hard to block out the really iconic albums, like Kendrick, that come out. You’ve just gotta get on the wagon. Because it’s just so good!
Watch: Ecca Vandal: Battle Royale
MF: Now that you’re immersed in the scene yourself how do you discover new music? Any help anymore from the sis?
EV: Ha, not really, she lives in a different state now. It’s mostly the guys I work with, like Kidnot. He’s always going “you gotta check this out” and he’s the one who, early on when we first started writing, was showing me Bad Brains, Fugazi, all sort of new music that I’m now in love with. The Deftones.
And he still is now. He’s also amongst some merging artists as a producer. He’s amongst a lot of fresh sounds and he gets me to check them out. Same with my guitarist Stacy Gray, he’s always checking out new artists. We have this thread on email where we all link stuff to share.
Ecca Vandal is releasing a double A-side 7″ this Saturday April 18th as part of Record Store Day. You can catch her at the just announced Splendour in the Grass festival, this July and Sydney’s Come Together festival in June.
Gallery: Ecca Vandal @ Poison City Records / Photos by Michelle Pitiris