The 'alternative' section of the record store has always been regarded as a lazy catch-all for clerks too lazy to get into specifics. In their defence, however, it's near impossible to think where else to put an artist like Ecca Vandal. Her self-titled debut album, out at the end of the month, could easily be mistaken for a compilation featuring a mix of different artists – and yet, it all coexists peacefully in the house Vandal built.
“There's a lot of musical heritage that factors into what we do,” she explains over coffee in a quiet corner of a Fitzroy cafe. “Even in our day-to-day lives, we listen to everything and take inspiration from it all – Miles Davis, Fugazi, Mr. Bungle, Kendrick Lamar. It's never settled on a single sound or idea of what music can be. I wanted to make sure that this record was something that accurately portrayed everything that I love about music.”
The ‘we’ alludes to Vandal's musical partner, Richard Buxton – AKA Kidnot – who is sitting next to her at the time. Buxton agrees that the sound of Ecca Vandal is one that is unflinching in its diversity. “It's not something that we try and force, though,” he says. “It's just the way that we naturally come up with ideas. We like to see the way that they evolve, and to see how they reach the point that they do after we pursue them.” Buxton, formerly the bassist in Melbourne punk hopefuls Trial Kennedy, met Vandal by chance a few years ago through a few different mutual friends and musical circles. The two have more or less created every song under the Ecca Vandal moniker on their own, writing and arranging right down to the very last beep.
Although Vandal acknowledges their differences, she believes that it's their common ground that allowed for Ecca Vandal's creative process to thrive. “We connected over our love of art that is unpredictable – that scares you, that excites you,” she says. It's something that really excites us about music, and something that sets common ground for what we want out of a song. Our vision allows us to try anything – we love having the freedom to experiment and do different things. There's a real understanding there.”
Since emerging as a figure to watch on the scene a few years ago, Vandal and her cohorts have found themselves performing to a myriad of different audiences. Along with the slow but sure build of her own fanbase, Vandal has also opened for the likes of The Prodigy, Queens of the Stone Age and DZ Deathrays. Given how different each of these acts are alone, it's telling that Vandal has refused to become chameleonic in her approach – it's all about standing out.
“It's something we're very much aware of, and it's definitely played on my mind,” she says of her square-peg status in the current musical climate. “Sometimes, I honestly don't know who I can play with sometimes – I'll have such a clear idea in my head of bands to work with and tour with and there'll be hesitation and reluctance on their end. At the same time, we've been afforded some really great opportunities from people who have embraced what we do. They've wanted to challenge their own audiences. We've been lucky enough to play in front of some really welcoming and open-minded audiences. We haven't had to tone down what we do for anybody.”
That doesn't appear to be something that's going to change with the release of Ecca Vandal – it's perhaps even more fearless and bold in its approach than the singles that have helped carry her name. It's born from the collaborative nature of Vandal and Buxton, who get just as much out of the process as they put in. “I'm inspired by what Ecca does all the time,” says Buxton. “Here's a solo artist – a solo female artist at that – who is chasing a sound that's so different to anyone else. It's not set to any guidelines, it's not pandering to whatever triple j is playing. To me, her shit really stands out. To be uncompromising is a really inspiring, really important thing.”
Ecca Vandal will be released on Friday October 20 via Dew Process/Universal Music Australia. Ecca Vandal will be touring nationally in November with tickets available from eccavandal.com.