Our writer, Jonathan Joseph shared a very special interview with Australian singer-songwriter and producer Ecca Vandal as she headlined and opened for various shows as part of this year’s Canadian Music Week. According to the popular Australian radio show Triple J, Ecca Vandal is the “new wave spirit of Blondie,” a 90’s riot girl group, Gwen Stefani, Sex Pistols and M.I.A. Born Sri Lankan and raised in South Africa, the young star has garnered fame and a massive buzz in Australia after dropping her first single “White Flag,” which helps her earn nominations and awards. She was also profiled for a feature in The Rolling Stones Australia magazine. In addition, she also earned a nomination for “Music Video of the Year” at the 6th Annual Rolling Stone Awards earlier this year.
Jonathan spoke with her about her latest performances, what growing up for her was like, culture influences, her music, her dream band, Bjork, her parent’s reaction to being a musician and much more!
Jonathan: Hey! Welcome back to Canada and thanks for sitting down with me. So, you just finished performing at the Rivoli, how was your show?
Ecca: It was great really, it was like my first ever show in Toronto. It was also a showcase, which is different for me, but I had a lot of fun.
Jonathan: Tomorrow’s going to be exciting for you, as you share the stage at the Phoenix Concert Hall with The Psychedelic Furs, how do you usually prepare for a big show like that?
I’ve been told the Phoenix Concert Hall is a really cool theatre. That it in itself feels kind of epic. I warm up a little bit during the day and to be honest I try not to do much just to conserve my energy.
Jonathan: What can fans expect from your live show?
I think just on that note, probably high energy performance. It’s quite a lot involved. My live band that I play with is ‘full of beans’. I just try to keep up with them most of the time *laughs*.
Jonathan: I want our fans to know everything there is to know about you, so just to start things off, can you tell me what’s the story behind your name?
My name is ‘Ecca’ for short, it’s an abbreviation. ‘Vandal’ means to me, actually means “vandalizing” my own sound, not getting stifled or stuck in a particular genre. Actually “vandalizing” that, making sure that I remind myself to deface my own sound and to get comfortable in a particular genre, but keep pushing it.
Jonathan: You were born in South Africa and you’re Sri Lankan. Has your upbringing and cultural influences impacted your music?
Yeah, most definitely. You also would probably understand it – but music is in our culture, so is dancing, so is food *laughs*, similarly with South Africa. Definitely some things came with it, in terms of the beats and its influences. I love the party music, the traditional party music with the Sri Lanka is bayila. I love that. I guess maybe you could hear it in some of the punk rock beats. Some of the drum patterns are quite complicated and remind me a little of that. There is definitely things that have filtered through
Jonathan: What was your parents reaction like when you told them that you wanted to do music?
Good one! They weren’t quite happy, they weren’t quite pleased. They wanted to put my head into a box and wanted me to try to be a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant or engineer – as a lot of Sri Lankans are. When I told them that, I was actually accepted into a music school. That was really kind of a catalyst for me to pursue music. And that was that, they weren’t very happy. I don’t think they are still very happy about it to be honest *laughs*.
Jonathan: You’ve done multiple interviews, earned nominations and awards, especially for your single, “White Flag”, so they (parents) should be proud, but did you expect such a big of an impact when it dropped?
Yeah it was quite unexpected to be honest, because that was the first single I put out and the first video I put out. I didn’t expect it to be that..you know, it was such a great launching pad for me. People really connected with that song so I felt very blessed that we’re now able to be across the other side of the world based off of a release from only a few months ago. I feel it’s still starting to filter out there, but the cool thing about social media is that I get really lovely messages from people who take the time out of their day to let me know that they are liking my music, so that’s the impact I see, which is cool.
Jonathan: Leading off that, technology is obviously so much more prominent in this generation than it was 10-15 years ago, how has social media impacted your music and how you share it?
It’s a huge impact. It’s great to contact people directly through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. You know what’s cool is people actually take the time to write you a message. People are busy these days. I really appreciate hearing from people that kind of like what I’m doing and that’s really cool to just be able to get that on my phone. Sometimes, negatively, there can be quite a lot going on because you’re always on your phone. I try to avoid being on ‘screen’ constantly because we are always surrounded by screens all the time. But it’s still a really good thing, a positive thing to connect directly to people who are digging my music.
Jonathan: You mentioned earlier how you don’t want to put a label on your music. I’ve checked a few other interviews and everyone has a tough time putting you into ‘that’ category – a genre. As I was watching and thinking about it, I saw numerous times where you’ve been compared to various artists or various genres. Me personally? I think your sound is very unique. Something that’s never been really heard of because there’s so many influences like subtle hip-hop influences from punk, grunge and more. So with all that said – personally, what has been your favourite comparison you received so far?
Ooooo, interesting! Favourite as in funny? Or favourite as in accuracy? *laughs* I have some funny ones – I think the funniest one I got for “White Flag” was if Nine Inch Nails were to do an aerobics track.
And some of the other ones I got was for “Battle Royale” – one of my favourite songs – it was a huge compliment…it reminded people of The Deftones, which is one of my all-time favourite bands. Some people say they can hear some really female artists like Gwen Stefani and M.I.A…I think they are both amazing. I’ve had quite few back home, it’s hard to remember to be honest.
Jonathan: In another interview, you spoke about seeing Bjork as a hero. What do you see in her that you would like to bring to yourself as an artist?
She is just a “boundary-pusher.” I don’t think she takes notice of who’s following her. She does what she wants to do and she pushes the boundary and takes it to the next level with every body of work that she releases. She’s an artist, she’s not just a musician. She’s an artist – the music comes first and foremost for her. She’s an amazing musician, but it’s all encompassing. She crosses so many different platforms – visual to music to dance to orchestration. So many different platforms. So that’s something I’m really inspired by.
Jonathan: If you could make your very dream band with you as the leader singer, who would you want your bandmates to be (dead or alive)?
Oh wow, that is a tough question! First I got to say, I’m very happy and blessed with the band that I have already. I think to be honest, they all fit the bill quite perfectly, if I could just say that, but okay…I’d probably have Abe Cunningham on drums, he’s from Deftones. Oh goodness, I’d have Gas Lamp Killer on production and beats, I’d probably have Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine on guitar, and then I’d probably have one of Damien Marley’s um..flag-wavers in front of the stage. *laughs*
Jonathan: So where do you want to take your music and how do you want to take it to the next level?
I feel I’m on the mission at the moment. In terms of connecting my music on a broader level, like being able to play my original music on the other side of the world, so far away from the bedroom it was created in is really special. The fact that I was able to do that today for the first time is really cool and if I can continue to do that and sustain it, eat and live off that – that would be the goal.
Jonathan: So since we are BestFan, what are you a best fan of (it could be anything)?
I’m a best fan of food.
Jonathan: What type of food?
Oh! Number one is Sri Lankan food and it’s probably one of my favourite type of foods.
Jonathan: Oh I totally agree!
You agree? *laughs* So I’ll take my mom’s cooking.
Jonathan: You got a favourite dish?
Oooo yes! Many! Biryani is always good, chicken palandi, eggplant…like bring it on! Anything spicy like tomatoes and chutneys. Ugh, I’m a big condiments fan. Any sambals, chutney, chilli, jams *urgh*. Bring it on! I would just say Sri Lankan food, but just food in general too.
Jonathan: *So to close things off, any final words for your fans?
Stay connected with me. I love hearing from you and come down to a show and I’d love to meet you face to face. I love doing that so that’ll be cool.
Jonathan: Awesome, thank you so much again for the opportunity..
No! Thank you, I’m glad!
Ecca Vandal is set to go on tour with the Gangs Of Youth across Australia starting May 15 to June 2. She is currently working on her debut album, which is expected to release in the coming year. You can check out the visuals to her latest single “Battle Royale” below.