Art d’Ecco finds their footing
Photo provided by Art d'Ecco
Creativity is a difficult thing and sometimes we don't find the voice we're looking for the first time around. In the case of Art d'Ecco it was their sophomore release Trespasser that really solidified the way they wanted to take their music, so they effectively buried their previous work. We caught up with Art d'Ecco on the heels of their next project and a near-Ottawa stop at the Neat Cafe Shop in Burnstown on August 14 to talk about Joni Mitchell, beginning again and DIY.
Ottawa Life: How did your cover of Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight" come together and what made you apprehensive about tackling the project?
Art d'Ecco: I was approached last year to do a cover for the Joni Mitchell 75th anniversary on Strombo's show. At first I said no, because with all respect to Joni, I had never really dug into her. I kept listening to the song and I felt like it was impossible to cover. It has weird open tunings and has spoken poetry parts, so deconstructing it was hard. I spent a day putting it through my filter, and my label asked if I wanted to release it, and people seem to be resonating with it.
I understand your recent stream of writing came after selling off a lot of your gear and looking after your grandmother, so what led you back to music following this period?
When I moved to the island that was six years ago. So that involved this album called Day Fevers too. We're nearing the anniversary of Trespasser, and we started dropping singles around this time. It was this whole era in my life, getting a deal, assembling a team and touring it a bunch. I'm in a new process now, I live in Victoria instead of the island now. My band lives in Vancouver while I'm building a home studio here. I've already started the follow-up to Trespasser. It's crazy being in a vacuum where you just make music for yourself, and then people are looking at it and analyzing it. In October we'll be heading into the studio. The band backing me live right now will be with me in the studio now, so it's a different group and producer. There will be another single in the fall to round out the year and I'll be moving into a new era of Art d'Ecco.
And why did you decide your live band would be better for recording this latest iteration of yourself for the next album?
Dave has been my guitar player going back to Day Fevers and all of them are just really easy-going, chill guys. We're all around the same age, we all have the same sense of humour, no one is a black sheep. It feels like a gang in a band. I'll send them all demos and they're just really excited to record it. I think it's going to be a really positive experience where I can lean into to everyone's strengths where I am limited.
I understand you see Trespasser as a kind of second debut, so why do you see Day Fevers as more of a stepping stone?
When I was writing Day Fevers, I was still looking after my grandma and I'd sold most of my instruments. I had this one beaten up acoustic guitar and a MacBook that was 10 years-removed from being efficient. I'd take my guitar and an iPhone and drive down gravel roads to record in the forest. It was so primitive that I was laughing at the thought of someone driving over and seeing me singing in my car. I had a good producer and crew, and the hallmarks of their creativity is all over that album. I didn't have the language to explain what I was chasing, so it was a decent example of my song writing. It helped me set myself up to explore my creativity, building up my gear again. I'd be researching around like "What's that synth sound on Portishead's Third?" So Trespasser was really a year zero, and then Day Fevers is the primordial soup. If Trespasser was Tom Petty, then Day Fevers was Mudcrutch.
Some of your early videos for Trespasser were drematically coloured, so what led to the more DIY look of your "Who Is It Now?"?
The "Who Is It Now?" video almost never saw the light of day. I'm friends with the guy Mike Lipka who starred in it. He loves making and being in movies, he's like a Tarantino with his knowledge of movies. I was telling him how frustrating it is because of the expenses to make music videos. You would have to DIY it now or else you're spending $10-20,000 on something that might not even get a premiere. He just said "I'll shoot a video for you, what's it about?" I told him "Obsession and trying to reconcile that inner voice." Him and the director Matt Eastman just took the ball and went around Toronto shooting it. I spent a week looking at the footage to scrap together a narrative, it just had to be stitched together. It was this really collaborative project and it worked great for being shot on an iPhone. It was as DIY as the other videos, but just the production value was just a little lower. It looks a little grimier, it has that Buffalo Bill feeling to it. I can say the next album is a concept record to that effect, everything has a through line!
In this way how did you find mostly self-producing that Trespasser, and how do you see that informing this new record?
I didn't get a co-producing credit on Trespasser, but I certainly will on this new record. The producer's job is super vague, so for instance David Bowie went into "Let's Dance" and Nile Rodgers talked about that starting as a weird folk song. He would say "You say dance, You gotta dance." There's a lot of producers now with a crazy dynamic range, from pressing record to engineering the record to deciding what the final takes are to making these crazy Frankenstein-takes. All those decisions I just feel I'm not comfortable giving up control on. With Jason Corbett I mostly just asked "Do you feel like punching me in the face on that take?" As for the sonic-sculpting and deciding where everything goes, I love that part of it.