With: Bridal Party
Where: Capital Ballroom, 858 Yates St.
When: Friday, Nov. 25, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $22.66 (incl. taxes and fees) from admitone.com
Art d’Ecco grew up in Victoria with dreams of stardom in mind. But like many artists with grand plans in the music business, he never fully believed that could be achieved while stationed on Vancouver Island.
“I couldn’t wait to get out of Victoria,” d’Ecco said of late 1990s-era Victoria. “The culture, the nightlife, it felt like a little town trying to be a city. Now, it actually feels like it is trending towards something much bigger.”
Eager to collaborate with like-minded individuals, D’Ecco, 39, moved to Vancouver during his 20s, hoping to acquire some knowledge while based in a city that has birthed its share of musical A-listers. He seized every opportunity, seeing it all as a form of work experience, but eventually grew tired of the hustle and need to constantly network. “I eventually got really, really burnt out. I sold all my guitars and effectively quit music.”
He moved to Salt Spring Island in 2013, and it was there his love of music-making returned. His process was relatively insular, but the mechanics of making music for music’s sake was revelatory, he said. That period of inspired creativity led to the release of four albums over a six-year period, the most recent of which, After the Head Rush, d’Ecco will celebrate tonight at the Capital Ballroom.
D’Ecco moved back to Victoria four years ago, where he plans to remain permanently stationed. Contrary to what he believed when he was younger, D’Ecco said Victoria has become a viable homebase from which one can make a living in music. His show at the Capital Ballroom will likely be sold out, thanks to the support of local modern rock radio station The Zone, which has been playing his propulsive single, Only Ones, heavily in recent months.
“I’m on an indie label [Paper Bag Records]. I have no business being on commercial radio and yet, I’ve got three singles that have charted in Canada, thanks in large part to The Zone beating that drum. I’m forever grateful to those guys.”
The performer birthed his gender-bending alter ego during a 2016 concert at the now-defunct Copper Owl nightclub in Victoria. D’Ecco, who chooses to keep his real name private, emerged on stage in Ziggy Stardust-esque glam rock garb, with full face make-up, to the surprise of his bandmates. “Their mouths were agape,” he said with a laugh.
“I had gone to the mall and bought this human-hair wig and lots of make-up, with the thought of totally leaning into the idea. It was a way for me to rebel. I didn’t give a f— what people thought. I was raging against the glut.”
At one point, his androgynous, avant-garde appearance — complete with Cleopatra-style bangs and ghostly pancake make-up — was d’Ecco’s calling card. Concerts in Victoria that followed his Copper Owl debut quickly became must-see events, partly because of their unpredictability. D’Ecco said he was angry at the time, and by planting a glam rock stake in the ground, he was making “a grandiose statement.” His on-stage persona went through a variety of iterations, before slowly morphing into something that more closely resembles his true personality today.
Outré expressions are no loner his top priority. “I’ve grown up. I’m not as angry as I was. And the world has changed. Out of respect for the non-binary community and the transgender community, it would be unfair for me to continue on as that. I would feel like I was trespassing into some territory that was not really honest.”
The pandemic gave him a chance to reflect and retool. What he came up with was something akin to d’Ecco 2.0. “It’s just me, with a little bit of a bleach out,” he said with a laugh.
The music on After the Head Rush has not lost any impact, however. The Strokes were an early inspiration; he loved their brand of sleazy rock ‘n’ roll, along with their aesthetic appeal, which pointed him in a direction that combined glam rock, synth rock, and indie rock. Though he’s most often associated with glam rock, d’Ecco feels that is too narrow of a definition.
He wants to eventually be known as a musical multi-hyphenate. “I’m holding out for producer-singer-songwriter. Being a performer is just one silo of what really gets me off. I love being in the studio. I love songwriting. I love composing. I would love to produce a band. The future is hopefully bright in that regard. My skills are wide and shallow, let’s say. I can do a little bit of everything.”