Double Vanity are a band whose music expresses feelings that words can’t articulate. With the ability to lure the listener into otherwise confronting self-reflections, the Melbourne/ Naarm 3-piece defy any pre-existing genre to the point they created their own; Airportwave. Amy Chapman (keys, bass, backing vocals) called in to discuss the origins, influences and artistry behind the outfit.
Whilst working at PBS, Chapman became friends with Sarah Blaby (guitars and backing vocals) who then introduced her to Zec Zechner (vocals). The trio soon bonded over an affinity of 80’s cold and new wave sounds that catalysed their creative project; “We started talking about starting a band for a really long time but it took us about four years before we actually got together and started jamming. We formed about two years ago and then we started playing gigs and getting our songs together”. With Chapman previously playing in indie-rock outfit Dumb Whales and Zechner/ Blaby with the punky Plaster of Paris, Double Vanity was a project each artist was intuitively drawn to; “I would say it’s less of an experimental thing and more stuff that I’m naturally drawn to write. Zec writes all the lyrics and the melodies and Sarah and I will write the base music together”.
As the youngest in the family, Chapman bypassed commercial radio in favour of what her older brother and cousins would pass down. It invariably led to Cocteau Twins subliminally seeping into her subconscious, along with that of her bandmates; “They’re a band that the three of us all really loved equally and it’s something we wear on our sleeves without really realising it. When we listened back to Garlands, a lot of the drum machines, guitar textures and the vocals were things that obviously had an impact on us”. Drawing from Elizabeth Fraser’s vocal idiosyncrasies, frontwoman Zec Zechner has cast her own aura through technical experimentation and improvisation; “I think Zec has a similar voice in the way she phrases and articulates her words. That way of singing so freely, not being so concerned about pitch or enunciating your words, is a very free style of performing”.
Armed with a Korg Minilogue and Kawai digital synth, Chapman is also charged with the responsibility of the band’s analogue rhythmic heartbeat; “The Rhythm Ace is from the 70s, it’s Japanese made, wood panelling. It’s falling to bits but its just got such a warm, full analogue sound and it can’t be replicated so it’s very precious”. As a bassist, Chapman would otherwise opt for a natural drummer to keep time to, however the drum machine’s chance inclusion in a Plaster of Paris set inspired its current application; “Their drummer had to have a foot operation so she couldn’t play. Sarah had a Rhythm Ace at home and they just had a go playing a gig with it. I really enjoyed the gig with it and when we tried it out in our early days jamming with synths and vocal effects, we found that it fit really well. It’s become a permanent member of the family”.
‘Escalator’ is the latest taste from the band’s debut LP. Picking up where their shimmering self-titled first single kicked off, the song speaks to existential crises over undulating synths and glistening guitars; “I know that Zec wrote this at a time when she was working a corporate job she hated. It’s really exhausting if you’re an artist and you have to work a job 9-5 to make ends meet and then come home and try to stimulate some sort of enthusiasm in yourself to get to work on your creative project. I think Zec was really struggling with trying to motivate herself to get on with creative work when most of her time was consumed by this corporate existence. It’s something that all three of us and a lot of artists can relate to”. Creating an artistic package that 4AD were famous for, the band worked with photographer Kalindy Williams and designer Luke Fraser to complete a stunning single cover; “The visuals are really integral to how you communicate a song, in my view. We had this shared vision of wanting to have a theatrical mystery to it”. Rounding out the presentation was a video clip, directed by Stephanie Gould, that premiered as part of Leaps and Bounds via projection onto North Fitzroy’s Burrough Underground; “We launched the video as a projection on the shop front and had Billy Lime, who’s a performance artist and dancer from the video clip, dance in response to the music in the window for passer-by’s”.
Whilst a success within the challenging COVID climate, Chapman pines for the return of the Melbourne Music Scene and describes the hole left in artists’ and audience’s hearts alike; “Playing live on a bill at The Tote, you’re introduced to 4-5-6 other awesome bands that you strike a bond with and it’s just really inspiring to see what other they’re doing. It inspires you to do more”. As an all-female outfit that exemplifies the quality coming out of the Melbourne scene, Chapman underscores the necessity to continue to normalise women’s presence in the industry; “You look at bands like The Slits and the stuff they went through as an all-female band. They were stabbed on stage, they were spat on, they were met with such animosity for just trying to play music and express themselves. I feel the feminist movement comes in waves but each time it comes, people are a little more accepting of it. Part of being accepting is not seeing it so much as a movement but as something more natural. Having women play rock music or any kind of music and be really strong performers and communicators isn’t a radical idea, it’s just natural”.
As for the origin of Airportwave, Chapman denotes its inception to Zechner’s on-stage banter; “It came about kind of as a bit of a joke. Zec was doing a bit in our performances where she would announce our songs as if they were airport announcements. She said, in earnest, that our music was ‘airportish’, which I found very amusing”. In devising their own genre, Double Vanity nullify the need for generic descriptors, favouring a fresh epithet they can paint their own style onto; “A lot of people struggle to determine what we are because we’re not really synthy enough to be synth wave, we’re not punk enough to be post-punk, were not poppy enough to be pop, we’re not rocky enough to be rock. We’re a mix of a lot of different things. So we said, ‘Let’s just be Airportwave’. We can define it ourselves”.