It’s been six long years since Passage lit the way for the New York duo’s career. Those years in between saw huge developments, both positive and negative, in the lives of Exitmusic’s Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church. Aleska’s acting career is on the rise, leading to her relocation to Los Angeles, while Devon’s growth as a musician is leading up to solo work to follow this epic and final record. We don’t want to harp on the causes of the band’s dissolution, only to say that this last album, The Recognitions, proves it’s a damn shame.
We spoke with Aleksa and Devon about the new record, influence and the future.
Your style seems to pull you in multiple directions, but certain influence wins you over. Who had your attention musically while you were recording The Recognitions?
Aleksa: Influence comes from everywhere, not just other music. I often feel like I’m a collector. Moments, feelings, sounds, textures, images… they get added to the well. That being said, there were a few records that came out around the inception of The Recognitions that I’m sure influenced it in some ways. Bon Iver’s “Bon Iver” really had my attention. The sensitivity to the production, the elegance. Really breathtaking album. Other Lives’ album “Tamer Animals” was another one. Such a sophisticated record. But the thing is, while those records really touched me and moved me, the discernible influence is limited. when you write, you write you. My hand is a little heavier, a little unrefined. So a lot of what influences me doesn’t necessarily show up on a record. I have my own sound and it has its own life. I like other peoples music more than I like my own, but I make what I make.
Devon: On tour, prior to recording the Recognitions, I’d wind up doing a lot of night driving while everyone else was asleep. I find driving at night a little scary. I’d listen to Portishead’s 3rd, Burial, John Maus, things appropriately scary. Also, Basinski’s Disintegration loops, but only during the day, so I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel… That’s what I remember, in terms of listening preferences circa 2013/14. I think all those musicians had slight influences on the sound of our record, but at that point it’s like sprinkling some spice on a big pot of soup… I have no idea really how Exitmusic came to sound the way it did, or what that means…
I’m hearing two distinct styles and two strong influences to one table on this record, clearly two different people vying for influence. How did this change over time in the band, especially with the recording process of The Recognitions?
Aleksa: Well, I’m not sure, really. There were two people writing the songs, so I’m sure there are different influences merging together. But yeah, now that I think about it, one of my initial visions for The Recognitions was to have 1950’s rock and roll/ rhythm and blues influence… not in the musicality… but in the Sha La La’s. In the vocal harmonies and refrains. There was something about the Sha La La’s at the end of “To The Depths” that felt like the acceptance of defeat, with open hands. Not grappling to hang on, but in allegiance to the fact that everything passes and everything changes. And still, life goes on. Dancing after death.
But influence in general is light on our work. Its definitely less cerebral than that. What comes out, comes out, and were just trying to shape it. More impressionistic. We had also just wrapped up almost a year and a half of touring and I was so sensitive to noise. My body felt abused by the impact of volume it had been getting hit with night after night. So that influenced a lot too. Wanting quieter, more introverted songs, like ‘closer”, “trumpets fade” “the gold coast” etc.
Devon: In a sense, we were less up in each other’s shit on The Recognitions and let each other have more latitude in the areas where each was strongest. I felt like I had more time and space to create soundscapes and experiment with production on this record, and left Aleksa alone to write lyrics and melodies, where in the past we’d both be more involved in the minutiae of every little thing. Of course we’d both act as each others editors, and work on parts together, but it seemed more spacious and less like ‘vying’ than on Passage, and I think it results in a more inviting record. I think Passage was an intense, beautiful record, and this one is more subtle. Like I can’t imagine listening to Passage on repeat, but The Recognitions would be a nice one to space out to…
“Iowa” comes so quickly on the record, considering its profundity. Did it feel like something you had to reveal before too much time passed?
Aleksa: Honestly, the track list changed a few times over the years. There were so many songs, a lot still unreleased. That I think ultimately we deferred to Jeff’s (felte) opinion. It was too much for us at that particular moment to sort through. These songs weren’t easy for us to revisit, it was a hard time, you know?
Devon: Yeah, but it eases into the profundity pretty smoothly, right? We felt like it was a strong song and there’s always that imperative to put your best foot forward on a record.
Devon, how did teaching in India and Taiwan influence your hand on this record?
I would say not at all, not in any conscious way. I was in Asia about 15 years ago. I was confused by this question when I first read it in an email a couple weeks ago. But it occurred to me that the traveling I did in the few years (aged 19-22, in Central America and Asia) before coming to the states and focussing on music did have an effect on my overall aesthetic. I recently got back from Mexico (which was the first time I’d traveled for travelling’s sake in a very long time), and was just enjoying the way the colors of the walls in San Cristobal would decay into the night sky and the street light and the silhouettes of the mountains in this seamless, beautiful, complex way, just the opposite of a lot of the cold, prefabricated, flat lines of Winnipeg, my hometown in Canada. I’ve never been too drawn to clean lines, creatively. I like the complexity of decay, how distortion can become something angelic…
A question for each of you – Which artist from your formative years has stood the test of time? Who becomes more relevant as you get older?
Aleksa: All the artists that influenced me in my formative years still influence me today. I’ve been fortunate enough to have never been trendy or in the know on what is “new” or “now”. So it isn’t often that a new artists get added to the well. But once your in you’re in for life. Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, John Lennon, Roberto Murolo, Bob Marley. They are always relevant to me. More than relevant, fundamental. Conor Oberst is invited to join them in the well.
Devon: Leonard Cohen. David Lynch. Dostoyevsky. But I’m trying to cut loose from my anchors these days.
Where do you see these new roads leading? What do you two have in the works?
Aleksa: I’m working on an album. I’m filming a tv show called $1. I filmed a movie this winter called “the Irishman”. I’m writing a few short films. I’m stretching and seeing where else the light hits.
Devon: I’ve got my first solo record coming out on Felte label (who also released The Recognitions), later this year. It’s a pretty major departure from anything I’ve done in the past, but has some crossover with the textural and somatic/emotional elements in Exitmusic. I’m excited about it, and occasionally terrified, which I think is a good sign, right?