Interview: Ecca Vandal

“Some people say there’s a toughness to the songs, and I’d say that’s cool. I’m glad that there’s a female representative of a tough voice. I do feel strong and I do feel tough and I feel comfortable in that sound,” states Ecca Vandal, “I’m a jeans, t-shirt and sneakers kind of girl. I’m gonna wear that, and it’s not necessarily because it relates to the music, it’s because it’s who I am.”

Vandal has been challenging expectations ever since her debut single, White Flag, garnered immediate attention from Triple J and the musical blogosphere, in late 2014. Not only by disregarding the expectations of an industry that expects female musicians to fit into various predefined stereotypes, but by releasing music that does little to conform to anybody else’s preconceptions. This stance is reflected in the musical diversity presented on her new release, End of Time EP, which Vandal surprised fans with on Friday.

“It’s a reminder that whenever I get comfortable in a particular sound, that’s the time when I need to challenge myself to flip it. I just like to keep it interesting, because when I’m inspired that’s probably when it’s better for everybody else,” says the Melbourne singer, “I’m influenced by those different sounds and don’t feel restricted. There are some heavier moments, there are some lush electronic moments, there are some hip-hop moments and that is how it goes.”

Vandal’s answers remain eloquent and intelligent throughout our interview, demonstrating the same passion and clarity of purpose evident in the way she has conducted her career thus far. Since teaming up with producer Kidnot to create White Flag, the pair have remained the sole architects of the sound, writing and performing all of the tracks themselves.

“We actually played in a cover band together years and years ago,” divulges Vandal with a smile, “then he was telling me that he wrote his own beats and played me some songs and I played him some of mine.”

“It’s a great blend of both of our backgrounds, he comes from punk hardcore and hip-hop, so that’s kind of where it intersects; hip-hop, soul and jazz,” she explains, “there was definitely the love of heavier music on both sides, and when it came together we kind of pushed each other in different directions.”

Although the attention received from that initial single meant that she was able to select a strong team to assist her from a management, PR and booking side of things, Vandal has remained keenly hands on since day dot.

“I’m very particular about how I want the guitar sound to be, or a particular drum sound and that sort of stuff, so I’m pretty involved,” details Ecca, “same with editing, I’ve started getting in to try and edit my own videos, it just helps to have a bit of background knowledge, even if you hand it to the pros at the end of the day it’s just nice to know how it all works.”

Along with the more obvious use of skater-punk culture referenced in her logos and imagery, elements of Vandal’s Sri Lankan background can be heard and seen in the recent video for End of Time.

“I think it’s had a huge influence, probably unknowingly up until now. Music is really strong in our culture and singing and dancing is a huge part of it,” she explains, “I learnt a little bit of that when I was little, I’d go to watch those sort of performances, but at the time I thought ‘wow this is so un-cool’! It was around me all the time and I must have been absorbing it somehow.”

Born to Sri Lankan parents in South African, the family made the move to Melbourne when Ecca was four years old, and clearly it’s a heritage she identifies with strongly.

“I’m really proud of that culture and I love it. South Indian music itself is an amazing craft. I haven’t even scratched the surface of it, but I would love to dedicate some time to learn some proper South Indian vocals,” enthuses Vandal, “they can be melodic and rhythmic as well, with all the ragas and chanting. The whole style of Carnatic music is very intricate and you really need to dedicate years to even master a tiny bit of it. I really want to explore more and I would love to integrate that into my music, at some point.”

Although they had not taken the music outside of the studio until after the first two singles were released, Kidnot and Ecca last year recruited a drummer and guitarist in order to perform the songs live, wanting to convey the dynamicity and energy of their tracks. Since then the band have been turning heads, touring the country supporting the likes of Gang of Youths and The Prodigy, as well as major festival appearances such as Splendour in the Grass.

In February and March Vandal and company will undertake their first national headline tour, giving fans a chance to hear the new EP live.

“I’m really excited about that,” she smiles, “it’s going to be a bit of a busy year with some new music coming out, so stay tuned!”

End Of Time EP is out now via Dew Process/Universal Music Australia.

Published in Beat Magazine #1510 on 3/02/2016.

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