Ecco2k: Exploring individuality through multifaceted art

How Zac Arogundade is leading a defining movement through inspiration and creativity

PXE+album+cover+courtesy+of+Ecco2ks+Official+Facebook+Page.

“PXE” album cover courtesy of Ecco2k’s Official Facebook Page.

By Andrew C. Freeman, Collegian Correspondent

After learning visual software at five years old, creating his first fashion label at 16 and starting his first band at 10 years old with a close friend, who would join him 18 years later to tour the world in a series of 23 sold out dates, Zac “aloegarten” “Ecco2k” Arogundade refuses to be defined by those around him, be they critics, peers or industry members.

Arogundade is an emergent creative working to express himself through as many avenues as he can master. Whether it be through fashion, music or graphic design, Arogundade has worked to spearhead a movement to inspire new forms of self-expression and individuality within the youth of the world and provide them with unique forms of community and unification through such expression. Over the past 10 years, his music collective “Drain Gang,” comprised of vocalists Bladee, Ecco2k, Thaiboy Digital and producers Whitearmor and Yung Sherman have grown a diverse community of international fans who come together to discuss their shared love of “Drain” music. Despite the group’s veiled exterior and generally mysterious aesthetics, many fans feel a uniquely intimate connection to the group’s members, which can largely be attributed to the multifaceted efforts of Zac Arogundade.

When the first video was posted to the official Drain Gang YouTube channel in late 2013, the names Bladee and Ecco2k were presented to the world for the very first time. It was the music video for their song “Bleach,” displaying both artists in black and white “The North Face” clothing, dancing and singing in various white rooms and environments. The song presents a heavy synthesized bassline looping underneath reverb-soaked trap-inspired drums, with Bladee’s vocals displaying his soon-to-be signature style; reverbed drones paired with autotune usage that is eager to push the line between tasteful and excessive. As the song progresses, more synthesized percussion makes its way into the mix alongside the vocals of Ecco2k, who presents his voice in a slightly higher register than his counterpart, making use of a noticeably different flavor of autotune. This video quickly found its way onto various music forums across the internet, and while most passed it off as talentless kids using autotune as a crutch, some saw something a tad more inspired and nuanced and decided to stay tuned in.

Those who did would soon be presented with Arogundade’s first solo song under the Ecco2k moniker, titled “HOLDMEDOWNLIKEGRAVITY.” While this song did take steps to advance his sound, the most notable piece of Drain history attached to this song can be found in the YouTube video’s description: “Produced by Whitearmor and Yung Sherman, Visuals by Ecco2k.” While Arugundade was already the group’s official visual director, this was his first directorial credit[1]. From this point forward, various Drain Gang visual projects, clothing lines, online campaigns and tour posters would be labeled as visually directed by Ecco2k.

In 2015, Arogundade released his first solo-project as the Drain Gang artist Ecco2k, titled “Crush Resist (CR_2015),” a short assembly of experimental noise music consisting of three songs: “1st Crush [Antifreeze],” “3rd Crush [Crush Resist],” and “7th Crush [1st Kiss].” This project strayed far from the sound that Drain Gang fans had come to know from Ecco2k or any of the group’s members, implementing bitcrushed vocals, sparkly sound effects and soul-crushing noise. It was with this release that Arogundade cemented himself as the premiere Drain Gang member to watch, displaying intriguing artistic vision and vocals that were notably impressive when compared to those of his contemporaries.

In the following years, fans would be starved of solo projects from Ecco2k. Despite this lack, Arogundade was of course still hard at work. Over the next four years, he would play an integral role in the significant rise of his fellow Drain Gang members, Thaiboy Digital and Bladee, who both saw notable visual transformations under Zak’s artistic direction. While Thaiboy and Bladee continued to release music, Arogundade created a new fashion brand in 2015 titled “g’LOSS,” performed his first solo live set at Berlin Atonal in 2017, and walked the runway alongside Bladee in 2018 for Alyx Studio during Paris Fashion Week.

When fan’s hunger for new Ecco2k music was finally satiated, it was through his 2019 debut album titled “E,” which boasted no features[2], and executive production from both Gud, a Drain Gang signed producer, and Ecco2k himself. The album’s production centers around synthesized plucks, lush sweeping pads, and bubbly keys, which work wonders underneath (or sometimes overtop of) Ecco2k’s vocals — likely the biggest selling point of the record. While Ecco2k had dabbled in a higher pitched vocal style in the past, such as on “Lip Service” by Thaiboy Digital which released a month prior, or “Vanilla Sky” by Ecco2k and Bladee from July of the same year, many songs on “E” feature vocals which border on androgynous, and seat themselves in a vocal register higher than anything Ecco2k had displayed in previous solo works. The album was a complete reinvention of the sound Drain Gang fans had grown accustomed to, and it was pulled off with a degree of polish and artistic intention which was unheard of from any of the group’s members at the time.

In the years leading up to his next project, Arogundade continued to design the group’s merchandise, and direct music videos for his fellow members. When it became time for the world to hear more solo Ecco2k music, the date was March 31, 2021, when he released his first proper EP, titled “PXE.” Spanning just 10 minutes across 5 songs, “PXE” acts as a wonderful teaser for what Ecco2k may have in store for fans on his next full-length release. The project takes notes from “E,” primarily in the visual department, and throws them together with screaming guitars, a glitchy sound palette, and a notable return to the noisy style of “Crush Resist.” The project was released alongside an animated visual for the EP, which displayed two sides of Arogundade’s musical self: Ecco and Echo. Echo being a visibly more feminine representation of himself, sporting long hair, stylized makeup, a black leather outfit and a confident pose, while Ecco has short spiky hair, no shirt and a rather closed off disposition. In the dialogue box featured in the video, Echo says to Ecco “Come out of your shell, come into the light,” displaying in full the artistic and personal evolution that Arogundade has gone through over the years as the musical artist Ecco2k.

That evolution is what makes the work of Ecco2k so inspiring to thousands of youth around the world. Arogundade pushed through hardship and a struggle to fit in by making himself the standard to fit into. He is carving a path and beckoning for people like him to follow in his footsteps, while simultaneously calling for those who follow to be individualistic and chisel out a trail of their own.

For more information about Zac Arogundade and his life as a black man, a queer man or an artist fighting conformity, read The Face.

[1] The “Bleach” music video is directed by Rasmus Svensson, who Arogundade would frequently partner with to direct and edit future Drain Gang videos.

[2] “E” is notably the first Drain Gang project to feature no vocal guest appearances.

Andrew C. Freenan can be reached at at [email protected].