Purveyor of: Androgynous Glitter Melancholy
File next to: Blondie, Siouxie and the Banshees, New Order.
Art d’ECCO is more than a Bowie throwback. This B.C.-based provocateur is keeping it genre- and gender-fluid. Inspired by isolation, absurdity and his favourite music, the album Trespasser was released just under a year ago on Paper Bag Records and is already wiggling in the ears of many. Dates for his upcoming tour can be found below. Wavelength’s Maria-Carmela Raso had a chat with d’ECCO just in time for his performance on August 17th at stackt.
You have released two albums and obviously spent a lot of time building each of the songs. What is your relationship with your music once the creation part is over? Do you enjoy listening to your music?
Listening back to Day Fevers was a frustrating experience and one that would educate me moving forward — informing me on where I needed to be better as a songwriter and as a recording artist or what have you. As for Trespasser, I was listening to it a lot while I was working on it, right through until the mastering and pressing. I couldn’t let little things go, everything had to be “perfect” and it was just too taxing, so for now I only hear the songs when we play them live.
It seems that solitude and isolation has been a theme and inspiration for your last album Trespasser. Has this changed the way that you create now?
I no longer live in the Gulf Islands. My band is in Vancouver and I live in Victoria. I’ve got my home studio. My running trail is nearby. The ocean. It’s quiet here and devoid of any distractions, so in many ways, nothing’s changed. But the extreme loneliness and isolation that I went through for half a decade while writing and starting this project was the blessing and the curse of it all. I think I’m writing better music now than I ever have, so perhaps the whole “living in a vacuum” trope is just one annoying paradox. I suppose we shall see when this next record eventually comes out…
You have mentioned the idea of needing to have a certain “value add” to cut through the white noise — the overwhelming amount of good music that’s out in the world. Besides visual aesthetics, what do you think are some other types of “value add”?
Good Songs. That’s the only thing that matters. Melody is king. A unique voice, a refreshing take. Hardly anything is new or “original” these days — but the filter by which an artist or band puts their collection of musical influences through can be vital and exciting. Breaking the rules and pushing boundaries are important. An interesting look is important — all these aesthetic related things I was referring to before as the “value add” is just that cherry on top. If you have shit songs, no amount of window dressing will save you. But if you can somehow capture my ever-shortening attention span with a killer song, and combine that with a refreshing or compelling aesthetic — you’ve got me listening with all my senses.
“How does one become successful?” — a question many ask. What are you thoughts on your success? Has it been due to luck? Hard work? A good team? Creativity? Routine?
Focus. Get a job and save your money. When all your friends are out partying on the weekend, you’ll be at home working on your music. When you’re taking the bus or walking to work, you’ll be listening to your demos on earbuds — what can I change? Is the chorus good enough? Is there a better way of saying that second verse? When you feel heartbreak — instead of getting fucked up with your buddies at the bar, you’ll be at home channeling that pain into melodies and songs. And after enough time, you’ll have something worthy of sharing to the world. You’ll spend your evenings taking YouTube tutorials teaching yourself how to use Logic. Or Ableton. Or whatever. You’ll teach yourself everything you need to know in order to get it heard. You’ll drain every resource imaginable to make it happen too — are your parents rich? Do they want to fund your music career? Probably not, right? Well you better learn how to survive, ‘cuz it’s both heartbreaking and exhilarating, and very few make it out the other end in one piece.
How have the songs evolved from the recordings to live interpretations? Can you talk a bit about the process of transitioning from a solo project to performing live with a band?
I write all the songs and demo them — drums, bass, vocals, all the other instrumentation, etc. I then present them to the band and they learn the parts. We record it properly with a producer/engineer – referencing the demos and improving them in any way. When it comes to playing live, a lot of the instruments (synths, strings, percussion, sax etc) get triggered by my drummer on an SPDSX — until I can afford to travel as an 8+ piece band, I do my best to sound as close to the records as possible, even if it’s a little bit odd hearing instruments in the mix that aren’t physically being played on stage in real time. Baby steps…
There is a lot of vulnerability in creating and sharing these creations. Fear can often be debilitating/paralyzing, but it can also trigger survival instincts and propel one forward. From your experience is fear a motivator or a hindrance?
You’re talking to a straight guy who wears a lot of women’s clothes and make-up on stage. I was terrified dressing in a glammed-up costume — who the hell am I? It was unnerving and terrifying – exactly what Art d’Ecco needed to be. But to be honest, it’s routine now, and something that feels quite normal, not only with my live show and what people have come to expect, but just in general — it’s 2019, the discourse around gender identity has changed a lot in recent years.
My initial inspiration into the physical presentation of this music was one of a contrarian approach: What is everyone doing in this rock/alt genre? Dudes in jeans and t-shirts? Cool, I’ll do suits and glitter. Fear of rejection is something that can be weaponized as soon as you realize it has the power to inspire and bring people together. Stripping the masculinity out of my appearance was the last thing I thought I’d be doing with my music career, and not something I’m married to either. It just happened organically, and will continue to evolve just like everything else. My biggest fear is being generic and boring — that’s worse than death.
What is music’s purpose to you? Has this changed since you first started learning/performing/creating?
Music has healing properties. It transcends language, cultures, age, generations, etc. The feeling one gets when they hear an incredible song for the first time — that powerful rush of dopamine, the excitement to share it with a friend or a loved one… all of these ways we interact with music on a consuming level is something I’ve always felt excited about, nothing’s changed there. It’s a privilege to be able to share my creations publicly and on a professional level, something I’ll never take for granted.
Do you prefer writing and creating as a solo endeavour? You spent some time in bands, I’m sure that the writing process is quite different. Is there anything about that kind of collaboration that you miss?
When it comes to writing music, I work best alone. Once the song is fully flushed out and I’m comfortable with bringing other performers in, I do so carefully. I’m very selective with whom I work with as I believe there’s got to be a place for their specific talents. We also have to vibe as humans. Everyone that’s been hired, has been on-board with the vision and gets what I’m trying to accomplish sonically speaking. I worked with Jason Corbett on Trespasser and he was an excellent conduit for my creativity. We spent hours and hours in close quarters tracking parts one by one building up each song. So in many ways the record was a collaboration. I love making music and my love for recording studios is evangelical. It’s where the magic happens. If there is a God, she lives in a music studio.
Art D’ECCO – Tour Dates:
- Aug 14: Burnstown – Neat Cafe
- Aug 15: Montreal – Brasserie Beaubien
- Aug 16: Sudbury – Up Here Festival
- Aug 17: Toronto – Wavelength Summer Music & Arts Festival @ stackt
- Aug 18: Riverfest Elora
- Aug 30: Seattle – Bumbershoot Festival
- Sept 15: Portland – Rontoms
- Sept 16: Boise – Neurolux
- Sept 18: Denver – Hi-Dive
- Sept 19: Fort Collins – Pinball Jones
- Sept 20: Lincoln – Lincoln Calling Festival
- Sept 22: Fargo – The Aquarium
- Sept 23: Winnipeg – West End Cultural Centre
- Sept 24: Saskatoon – Amigo’s
- Sept 25: Calgary – Palomino
- Sept 26: Edmonton – Rec Room
- Sept 27-28: Revelstoke – LUNA Sound