Ecca Vandal’s debut self-titled album is a work of confidence, raging musical schizophrenia, cleverness, attitude and arrival. Created in her lounge room over a year and a half, it flexes with a punk rock D.I.Y. spirit yet rides a potent contact high to your grittiest rock records and shiniest pop albums, walking the tightrope between both worlds without faltering. Vandal stretches out, sharing all of herself with no compromise, not limiting her creativity to a particular sound – in the process creating her own – or censoring the inner most thoughts and feelings which makes her relatable and the record pop lyrically. Producer Kidnot and mix engineer Hadyn Buxton’s invaluable input and collaboration to the release only enhances Vandal’s vision.
I caught up with Ecca the day before her album dropped to get an insight into the making of one of 2017’s most diverse and exciting albums.
Congratulations on your record! I feel like I’m calling to say ‘Happy Birthday!’ or something. It’s super exciting it’s about to be out in the world.
ECCA VANDAL: Thank you! [Laughs]. It does feel a little bit like that to be honest. It’s exciting to be speaking with you, it’s been a while.
I know, right! Your debut album drops tomorrow (Oct. 20); what’s the vibe like in Ecca Vandal HQ right now?
EV: Today is quite calm, it’s almost scarily quiet. There’s no noise happening, no amps being plugged in [laughs]—it’s peaceful. I have to say I’m very excited. It feels like it’s been a little while in the making, I’m excited to share it.
I’ve been listening to a sneak peek of the album all week. I adore the track ‘Cold Of The World’.
EV: That’s quite a special one to me.
It’s a love song!
EV: Yeah exactly [laughs], it’s a love song. It’s vulnerable. I wanted to show that other side of me. It’s a completely different mood and extreme from, for example ‘Closing Ceremony’. I wanted to have it on there because these are all the things I’ve felt over the last year while I’ve been writing the album.
The rest of the album is a pretty intense, wild ride. ‘Cold Of The World’ is a nice breath amidst the chaos. The story of the song reflects that too; no matter what’s going on in the world and all the craziness that happens, when you’re with that special person you love, none of that matters and you know everything will be ok.
EV: Yes! You nailed it, totally.
How do you feel you’ve grown from our first introduction to you in 2014 with debut single ‘White Flag’?
EV: I feel I’ve grown quite a bit. Firstly as a songwriter I feel like I’ve grown with my lyrics, in terms of deciding what I want to speak about. Secondly I think I’ve grown by being forced to dig deeper and look internally a bit more. I feel like… I used to just write music for writings sake, now when I’ve been writing this record I really wanted it to capture who I am. In order for that to happen I had to really dig deeper and ask myself some questions about myself. I needed to be alone to do that. This last year I felt like I needed to separate myself from my usual life of going out, going to gigs heaps and hanging out with friends, having a bit of a rawkus kind of lifestyle. I needed to really separate myself and spend time in the studio, to have the time to reflect and write. Through that process, any time you really spend time with yourself you learn a lot, I think that’s the main thing that I got out of the process. I’ve got this record but I also learnt a lot about myself.
What’s one of the biggest things that you learnt about yourself?
EV: I’ve learnt to trust my gut feelings. A lot of the time I’m a perfectionist, I like to work on things until I really feel I’ve tackled it from every angle to get the best result. I learnt I need to trust myself more. I had a whole bunch of songs at the start of 2016 that I thought would be the album, about mid-2016 I had to make a decision; were really right for an album? I knew that was kind of my feeling but instead of sitting on that decision for a long time, I should just trust my gut and go with it. There’s been a few trusting my gut moments.
Another thing I learnt about myself is that I really like performing and I love the stage, I love musicality, what happens in the live sphere but, I’m quite an introvert [laughs]. People think I’m out there and outgoing because when I play I throw my entire self into it. Sometimes though I really like that quiet times, I’m definitely introverted.
What you’re saying reminds me of the Kendrick Lamar song where he raps about being an introverted extrovert!
EV: Yeah, exactly! A lot of people think when they meet me that I’m really quiet and that really played on my mind. I was trying to figure out why I’m like that? I’ve really enjoyed the solo time. I need both to exist. I need the stage and live music and party. To me it’s all about balance. I have figured out at the end of the day I’m happy when it’s a bit more chill.
Was there a time during the process of making your album that you felt was most special to you?
EV: Yes, there’s three things that pop out in my mind. First would be song ‘Cold Of The World’ because it came together quite quickly, it’s the song that I play the most keys on. I played on a beautiful Rhodes, I played all the synth parts through the verses. It was nice for me to get back on the keys because I haven’t done that for a while. That was a special moment just during the tracking of that song. It was in the thick of winter and it was cold, I was by myself in the lounge room—it was really a moment.
Second would be when I got Dennis [Lyxzén] solo vocals [for song ‘Price Of Living’] delivered back on the email and we opened it and listened to it. It was a moment for all of us, me, Kidnot and Haydn our mix engineer; all of us have been massive Refused fans for so long. To hear his iconic sounding scream was a moment that was very special for us.
The third one would have to be collaborating with Sampa the Great [for track ‘Your Orbit’] because I love the whole process of collaboration and I feel she brought so much depth and fore to that song. It was two females coming together.
I love how the new album is a culmination of all parts of you and of the things you like – punk, hip hop, rock, pop. Often people have limits on music they listen to whether it’s genre etc. I like that you’ve basically gone ‘fuck it’ and you’re doing it all rather than choosing to push one genre or angle.
You’re promoting and embodying diversity in your music.
EV: Yes, definitely! That’s something that I am so passionate about on all levels—inclusivity. I’m not into lines that divide us. That was something I had to ask myself, like you said it; do I let go of a certain thing? Do I push a certain angle to get the gigs or radio play? At the end of the day I had to ask, will this truly represent me or am I just trying to push something because it’s popular right now. I really had to take the risk, I feel like it is a big risk. It’s almost like the harder way, because as you were saying people are often fans of just a certain style or genre or sound.
I hope through this process I can find more of an audience who are like you that do love different styles of music. I think I’ve found a few. There are a few people that have just been so beautiful and they just reach out and drop me a line to say they really love the music because it’s diverse. I really value those people because it means that we’re really like-minded, we have lots in common. I go through the day listening to Rihanna to John Lennon to Outkast to Miles Davis. I love when I meet people that also consume music the same way I do, it excites me.
When you find those people it’s like that thing from The Simpsons: “One of us! One of us!”
EV: [Laughs] Yes!
I love the art for the new record too.
EV: All of the inside of the new record art is cut n’ paste!
That’s awesome! I love the original photo Kidnot took of you that was used as a silhouette for the cover art. It’s nice to see your image through the eyes and lens of someone that’s really close to you and that knows you so well. I get a real sense of authenticity from it.
EV: Thank you. I can’t wait to catch up with you in Brissie!
Exclusive Ecca Vandal merch, music & ticket bundles are available only from: eccavandal.com
National Australian Album Tour Dates:
Nov 3rd – Fremantle | Fremantle Town Hall
Nov 4th – Adelaide | Rocket Bar
Nov 9th – Newcastle | Cambridge Small Room
Nov 10th – Sydney | Oxford Art Factory
Nov 11th – Wollongong | Rad Bar
Nov 16th – Gold Coast | Shark Bar
Nov 17th – Coolum | Sol Bar
Nov 18th – Brisbane | Brightside
Nov 24th – Ballarat | Karova Lounge
Nov 25th – Melbourne | Corner Hotel
Read another chat I had with Ecca here: Ecca Vandal on: Learning From Fugazi, Her Early Life in South Africa & Taking Inspiration From Skateboard Culture.
*Images: 1) collage art by me, original photo by Kidnot; all other images courtesy of EV’s IG, art by MSG Gallery.