For the past decade of his music career, Art d’Ecco has strutted through glossy rock productions in platform shoes, clad in white face makeup and a bobbed black wig.
He’s carried the mantle of 70s glam-rock greats, knowing that people listen with their eyes as much as their ears.
Refusing the bearded, rugged mold of a rockstar, he sang in an androgynous whisper and dared listeners to think strangely of it.
But with his newest release, “After the Head Rush”, he’s shed the glamorous, binary-bending regalia. d’Ecco now wears cropped blonde hair and his bare, natural face: a sharp departure from the eccentric look he’d cultivated for years.
By refusing to hold the pose he struck at the beginning of his career, his image has settled into something that feels more candid to him.
“I’ve been grinding away at this Art d’Ecco character for ten years, and times have changed. The grander statement of gender identity and being androgynous is not transgressive anymore, and I have no place to stick that claim.”Art d’Ecco
“I thought it was time to pivot and do something more honest with my image. Obviously, I’m not a natural blonde, so there’s a little bit of fibbing going on!”Art d’Ecco
“After the Head Rush” seems to mark a great deal of changes for d’Ecco, both musically and personally. When we spoke, he had recently moved into a new apartment.
The empty walls were the same bright white as his hair, both promising fresh beginnings. Through shedding the character, he is singing from a place closer to his authentic self, a place he’s felt more comfortable inhabiting lately.
“I had this whispering delivery on ‘Trespasser’, and I was doing a concept about the entertainment industry with ‘In Standard Definition.’ With this album I think I’m using my most natural singing voice. There’s a lot more confidence in the way I’m singing,” he said.
Stripping back the theatrical image has brought a refreshing candor to “After the Head Rush,” with d’Ecco spinning his lived experience into song. This approach was inspired by a visit to his hometown of Victoria, BC, Canada, which he cites as the first spark of inspiration.
“I was inundated with a flow of memory going back to these old stomps. That’s the parking lot where I would sneak out on a Saturday night and drink with my friends. Oh, there’s the bush I puked in. It stirred up all these emotions in me.”Art d’Ecco
These recollected scenes of youth became the well of inspiration he pulled from. While walking through the annals of his childhood and teenage years in Victoria, he reflected on the increasing distance between himself and those times.
“I’m at that part of my life where I look back on my teenage years and my adolescence and tap into a high of nostalgia. When you approach middle age, you realize that before the stress of taxes and mortgages, you felt an adolescent joy,” he said.
The entire album is infused with that intense rush of memory, a golden aura of nostalgia overlaying the music. The songs are full of tenderness for the past, written from the perspective of a sobering future, after youthful optimism has faded.
Beyond the play on Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”, the album title embodies that idea, with d’Ecco placing himself “after the head rush” of youth, entering a new era of his life and music.
The album’s title is also a cheeky reference to his biggest hit, “Head Rush”, delivering an answer to those wondering what would come afterwards.
If “Head Rush” is a rock anthem suited to dancing in a bar full of reckless bodies, “After the Head Rush” is the soundtrack for the hangover afterwards, waking up crusted in glitter and sorting through last night’s memories.
But don’t mistake it for thin, frivolous party music. “After the Head Rush” is full-bodied and maximalist, with complex instrumental layers breathing and moving together on each track.
Strong guitar lines drive the album forward, and d’Ecco deftly blends adjacent sub-genres of rock, pulling from new wave, funk, glam, and art rock influences that all “melt together in the pot”. Playful horns, vocals, and synths accent the consistent tethers of guitar and drum.
The tracklist strikes a balance between the glittering energy of youth and weary, time-worn pessimism.
“Get Loose” and “Until the Sun Comes Up” are exuberant danceable tracks, but these party anthems are threaded between “Midlife Crisis” and “Run Away”, much moodier tracks using dry wit to cope with middle-aged ennui.
D’Ecco keeps space for both of these contrasting mindsets on the album, running next to each other on parallel tracks, showing how one is created by the other.
“There’s a duality with this album. When you’re young, it’s all about the party, it’s about having fun and falling in love. When you’re much older, you’ve got baggage, you’ve got fatigue, you’ve got to adopt a cynical playfulness to survive. I want to write a timeline jumping back and forth. Half of the album is the upbeat party, and the other half is songs about being old and tired.”Art d’Ecco
Working within an industry obsessed with youth and the next big thing, many musicians adopt a winking, hush-hush attitude towards their age. But d’Ecco tackles the topic fearlessly, with humor and finesse.
“I Was A Teenager” dances to the tune of its own wry angst. “I was a person / not yet in debt / not yet a citizen filled with panic and dread,” d’Ecco sings, setting existential fear against catchy call-and-response vocals and a hand-clapping groove.
“Midlife Crisis” puts forward a similar perspective: “Midlife so crushing I could move underground / but I just signed a lease for this / the penalty keeps me around.”
Given d’Ecco’s years of experience as a musician, this honesty is a way of striving for timelessness, having seen musical trends come and go. With the rise of streaming, and the viral hit machine churning out immense profits on TikTok, there’s a new pressure for artists to bend to the algorithm.
Yet despite this turn to digital music, d’Ecco remains fiercely analog, steadfast in his creative vision.
“I long for crafty songwriting and intelligent music production, not ephemera that comes and goes. I want my music to have staying power. The only way to combat it is to fight back, be yourself, and write good music.”Art d’Ecco
On the album’s final, titular track, d’Ecco sings a repeating refrain: “Now that it’s all gone, gone, gone…”. At the climax of the song, his vocals are soaked in reverb, and we can hear each word echoing, already moving into the past, leaving afterimages of itself.
It’s a fitting way to close out an album that holds onto the past, reliving its beauty. But by heralding these memories of youth and sending them on their way, the future is opening up.
Art d’Ecco is poised to launch in a new direction, and as long as he continues performing, he’ll be tapping into a different kind of rush.
“At the end of the day, any musician that you talk to can stand by this statement: we just want our songs to be heard. Bringing that song to a live audience, nothing beats that. It’s a genuine high, it’s the ultimate head rush.”Art d’Ecco