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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos



When I last met with EKKSTACY in his green room on a boat in Sydney’s Darling Harbour, he said “I’m just gonna make an album for fun. Maybe it comes out, or maybe I quit music forever and never do anything again.” Lucky for us, he went with the former. Last month, the Vancouver born artist unveiled his self-titled album - delivering a body of work that feels both intuitive and considered. 

Photographs by Vasili Papathanasopoulos.

Clothing, artists own. Accessories, artists own.

WARNING: The following article contains themes including mental health, drug use and suicide.

Having interviewed EKKSTACY, born Khyree Zienty and known as Stacy off the stage, a number of times since his career launched in 2020, we meet over zoom four weeks before the release of EKKSTACY. He’s fresh from the slopes in Vancouver, taking in his first extended break following an extensive year of touring - which included his debut Australian tour. He played two shows in Sydney, one he describes as “so wack” and the other as “that was weird, but it was fine.” His sold-out Melbourne show however holds fonder memories, “the show in Melbourne bro was so fun.” He notes having to perform three shows in London (and cities across Europe and North America) before achieving sold-out status like he did with his very first Melbourne performance. The musician finds a connection between Melbourne and his home country, “it kind of feels like Canada, weirdly, cause the weather’s so fucking horrible.” I’m inclined to agree.

Clothing, artists own. Accessories, artists own. Image: Vasili Papathanasopoulos.

Stacy has always been candid about his mental health and previous struggles; following his parent’s divorce he entered a substance-induced a state of psychosis. Soon after he dropped out of high school and began working the night shift at Amazon. It wasn’t long before he turned to music full time to fill the void. He told me when we first met in 2022, “I started making music because I had nothing. I was going through a lot and felt like I had no one.” Stacy made his debut in 2020 with stupid kids, followed up by a string of singles that could be classified as emo rap. Everything was leading towards his highest streaming song to date, 2021’s i walk this earth all by myself. Stacy’s hazy vocals above lo-fi beats and minimal production created a space to highlight the songs introspective and relatable themes. From there arrived his first body of work, NEGATIVE, and the trajectory of Stacy’s career began to bloom.  A second collection of songs, misery, dropped the following year and ushered in a new sound fuelled by indie-rock and new wave influences - a realm where his artistry feels right at home.

"...pretty much every song I write is kind of about the same thing. Just I say it differently."

There’s a dichotomy of loneliness and shared connections explored across the album, as the musician documents life in his early twenties. He focuses on on love, lust and relationships, with a driving undercurrent of mental health. For Stacy, he see’s it much simpler. “Dude, honestly, this might sound stupid, but I think that pretty much every song I write is kind of about the same thing. Just I say it differently. Every song's kind of just about feeling like, being drunk, being lonely, and a girl [laughs]. Like what else is it about basically? Or like maybe being homesick. That's as deep as into it as I get. But I think I left that in the past. Or killing myself, that's a common theme.” Whilst yes, these are themes explored on his previous bodies of work, EKKSTACY presents them in a more considered light - his introspective yet candid lyricism continues to evolve whilst retaining a straightforward approach. He said earlier that he writes about the same topics, and I ask if he finds writing a therapeutic form to release his thoughts and navigate his emotions. “Writing as therapy? Nah, no, not anymore. Used to when I was younger, but I mean you can only say the same thing so many times and it's, you know? Like, I'll still say the same stuff, but it's just like, 'damn this is kind of…” he trails off before finishing his thought. “Damn I thought I'd be over this by now [laughs] type shit.” 

Clothing, artists own. Accessories, artists own. Image: Vasili Papathanasopoulos.

The Vancouver native is now based in Los Angeles, where he lives with fellow musicians including members of AlexSucks. He credits California as a sonic influence on the album, with taking in the sun and learning to surf helping inform its lighter soundscapes. “Being there was cool. Surfing there and stuff helped with like making brighter songs compared to like the last record which was a little darker.” That brighter side delves deeper into Stacy’s mesmerising take on indie-rock. There’s this driving presence within his music, particularly prevalent on EKKSTACY, that pulls from the nostalgia of post-punk, alt-grunge and rock. However, Stacy recontextualises it into a contemporary palette and very nearly creates his own genre. We have tracks like bella, fuck and goo lagoon that offer high octane soundscapes, whilst songs such as get me out and the headless horseman lost his way take a more mix-and-match approach with their subdued verses before erupting into a raucous chorus that will melt your face off. It’s this duality, this multi-faceted sound, that is the beating heart of EKKSTACY. There’s something new at each turn, with every song building in anticipation for what is to follow.

“I was kind of just winging it, which is kind of weird 'cause usually I don't do that,”

Clothing, artists own. Accessories, artists own. Image: Vasili Papathanasopoulos.

I ask him about his process whilst creating the record, in particular crafting the albums sonic realm. “I was kind of just winging it, which is kind of weird 'cause usually I don't do that,” he responds before posing a question back on me. ”But I kind of feel like it sounds like I was winging it, right?” EKKSTACY presents itself as an album led by intuition, to Stacy that intuition seems to have presented itself as “winging it.” To me, there’s cohesion and consideration but also spontaneity and experimentation. Primarily made whilst on road, the record ushered in a new way of creating for Stacy - one that he says helps the process of winging it. “When you sit in the same place for so long and make music, it's gonna inevitably kind of just sound similar. Which isn't bad, but you know, when you're touring and you're everywhere, it's like kind of hard to stay on the same energy for stuff for very long. So I was just making all types of weird shit every day.” This led to the musician expanding upon his previous sound, and delving deeper into the influences that helped form his artistry. He cites Current Joys, Lil Peep and The Drums as some of his biggest musical inspiration and it’s clear to see why. Their nuanced approach is subtly embedded within the DNA of EKKSTACY, but he takes it further. The pairing of these hazy-meets-energised soundscapes and Stacy’s hypnotic vocals is a match made in heaven. Whether he’s stomping above driving percussion and hard-hitting guitar work, or floating above more atmospheric sonics - his undeniable talent transcends. The light and shade in his vocal tone draws you in and keeps you captivated no matter what sound he’s cocooned within. 

Clothing, artists own. Accessories, artists own. Image: Vasili Papathanasopoulos.

He tells me another influence for this album was his new found appreciation for vinyl records. “I got into records this year, like vinyls, like actually listening to albums through.” Stacy previously thought it seemed “posery,” but his newfound appreciation for the tactile medium has turned that thought around. He says listening to vinyls “really did kind of change how I thought about stuff and how I make my own music too…  that's a big part of like a lot of how I'm working recently”

Even his collaborations had a sense of spontaneity about them. His respective tracks with TrippieRedd and The Kid LAROI were born from a simple text. “They both just DMed me. Just randomly, super random. I'd just be like on my phone and I'd be like, 'oh wow, okay. What's up dude?' Same shit, super cool.” His dream DM slide in? “Beach House or Joji.” Whilst the album boasts two superstar collaborations, Stacy keeps his musical circle small. He’s once again enlisted producer and longtime friend Aaron Paul O'Brien, professionally known as apob, but also self-produced a handful of songs on the record. “I do much better when he's around because we know exactly what we're doing, or like sharing a brain when we make music,” he says of their collaborative partnership. apob and Stacy typically work on the more upbeat, in-your-face tracks, that are more considered. For the songs where he endeavours alone [i guess we made it this far and i can’t find anyone], he takes a more stripped back lo-fi approach.

Clothing, artists own. Accessories, artists own. Image: Vasili Papathanasopoulos.

Each time I meet with Stacy, he has a very serene and contemplative presence, almost an antithesis to his presence whilst on stage. Having seen him perform at the inaugural South By South West Sydney last year, there’s a wild and uncontainable energy that radiates from him as he performs. “If I'm not like thrashing my head around as hard as I can... I hope people know that just means I'm like fucking bummed and bored, and I get bummed and I get fucking bored on stage when it's not fun,” he warns. There’s a camaraderie between Stacy and his bandmates when they perform, all feeding off each other to create a fun experience for all. I question how he prepares to hit the stage and getting into that mindset, when off stage he seems to be the polar opposite. First he tells me he has various states of mind, before going on to say “There's some kind of weird chemical reaction that goes on… That's like a mix of like large and like, excessive amounts of gin and like being scared and then also being excited that comes together.” The Sydney show I attended had less than 500 people in the audience, and could technically be classified as a corporate event (it was the opening launch party of SXSW Sydney). Yet still, Stacy had the audience in the palm of his hand. It’d be fair to say that he’s not long for the world of intimate venues as his momentum continues to build. However, Stacy likes this phase of his career. “I’m happy, you know, I'm kind of at the perfect place right now. Like a thousand people is like such a fun number 'cause it's huge, but at the same time you can kind of see everyone… anything under like five [hundred] is sick for me. And then obviously it's a different thing once it's like above like five [hundred], but it changes, you know, changes a lot.” 

Before ending the call and heading back out onto the slopes, Stacy answers one final question. “If you really want me to answer this. It's gonna take me like two minutes,” he say as he begins to ponder. The question posed to him: “which three songs off EKKSTACY would you play to someone to make them an instant fan?" I myself confess I struggled to select only three, and shortlisted five [bella, goo lagoon, get me out, fuck, the headless horseman lost his way]. “It depends on who it is. If they were like more of like by the book, like kind of pop person, I'd show them like bella, you know, but if they were like more of like an indie kid or like a punk kid… I'd really take a look at them and I'd be like, ‘okay, I kind of know what I should play,’ you know? But my favourite song is like goo lagoon and all the ones that I produced alone, like i don't have one of those and i can't find anyone and shit like that. And I guess we made it this far. Like those ones I like 'cause I did them by myself, you know?”

Clothing, artists own. Accessories, artists own. Image: Vasili Papathanasopoulos.


Photographer: Vasili Papathanasopoulos

EKKSTACY is out now!

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