Interview by Alexander Laurence
EXITMUSIC is Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church. They both play guitar and
sing. They lived in both New York City and Los Angeles. I spoke to them in
Brooklyn during the CMJ Festival. That week they played a show at Cameo
Gallery with some other bands on the Manimal Vinyl label. Their album is called
The Decline of The West (2007). More people should hear their music and go see
their live show. Check it out now!
AL: When did the band begin?
Devon: The band technically began when we moved to Los Angeles. We started
messing around on the four-track in New York before we moved. We tried to
collaborate but we never quite came up with anything. We were both writing
songs. We were both private as songwriters. Gradually we tried to meld it
together. It was a long process. When we got a computer and started
multi-tracking. We decided on a project and a name. That was five years ago.
AL: When did you start playing shows?
Devon: We recorded our album first. It was finished already. Then we put
together a terrible band. We started playing shows about two years ago. We
started out as a five piece, and now we are a two-piece.
AL: Was there a song that you thought “We have a band here?”
Aleksa: The thing with us is there was never a big plan that we were taking
steps toward. We worked on things for a long time before we were ready to
share it with anyone. At first, we were doing it, because it’s just what we
did. It is a natural part of being. I have been writing music my whole life.
When we started writing together, it moved to the next level. We realized
then that it was worth sharing. We were just speaking with Voices Voices. They
told us that they booked a show before they even had written a song. We are
totally the opposite of that. We had finished doing our first album before
we had booked a show.
Devon: The performance is the last piece of the puzzle with us. We write
and record stuff, and then figure out how we are going to play it live.
AL: When you are recording, are you laying down tracks all the time?
Aleksa: Yes. It’s all a process of layering, right as you hear it. The more
you add to it, the more it tells you a story. Sometimes we have certain
ideas about a song. Sometimes that will get in the way. The song will go where
it wants to go.
AL: You don’t grab an acoustic guitar and play some chords?
Devon: It’s happened, but it’s really not our process.
Aleksa: The best thing for us is when things start out with one sound. For
some reason that speaks so much. From that, you start adding all these other
sounds to it.
AL: How do you know when there is too much going on in a song?
Aleksa: I don’t think we knew that for a long time actually. (laughter).
How do we know that now? I guess it’s when you lose the clarity of the
feeling. It gets too busy. Also the vocals dictate what is working or not working.
Devon: We use less layers. Performing it, we try to do more with less.
Before we would layer a lot of guitar parts. We became better at playing live
and mixing recorded parts with two guitars.
AL: You used to have a drummer in the band. What happened to him?
Devon: He is visiting Afghanistan. We write on computer. Computer sounds are
part of what we do. We like the different textures you can get from
Aleksa: The kind of people that we are. There is a full vision. We are not
nice and trusting, and want to give something over to someone else, to add
their thing to it. The world is a mess. We control what we can. We know what
we want to have on the album cover.
AL: Who did that picture?
Aleksa: My grandfather. He’s an amazing artist. We are very involved with
AL: Are you playing some shows soon?
Aleksa: We always love to tour.
Devon: We will probably tour next year. We will be playing a few shows in
New York in the next few months. Aleska is doing a show on HBO for the next
six months. So we will be on the East Coast. We will be releasing our next
record next year at the beginning of summer.
AL: So, most of the time you have played in LA?
Devon: We played a ton of shows in LA the past year, with Warpaint, Miranda
Lee Richards, and Voices Voices.
AL: How is the new record coming along?
Aleksa: It’s finally going. It’s hard. It took us a while to find the next
identity, or overall statement, of what the next record is going to be. The
Decline Of The West was such a strong vision. It takes a while to exhale
one project, and begin something new. I think that we just got there in the
past few months. We are halfway through the next album, in terms of writing.
AL: Will it be a continuation of the first album, or a new vision about
where you are right now?
Devon: It’s a different sound. Things are dictated more by what we want to
express rather than the form and the gear we are using. It’s a little early
to say what the new album is about. There is this theme of earth being used
Aleksa: It’s starts with sounds. But our songs are only really about a
couple of things. We have a bird’s eye view. It’s a view of life, rather than
specific details. We are stuck in life, with all this beauty, and there’s the
impossibility of being human.
AL: Are there any other influences on your music?
Aleksa: Everything influences you, whether you know it or not. I think
sometimes music is the last thing that influences music. I am influenced by
decay and abandoned buildings. Empty spaces.
AL: Haunted places?
Aleksa: Not haunted. Just that sense of being alone. There are places
filled with silence. It mirrors the place in me that I come from when I am
writing. I am attracted to that. There is something in loneliness that I find
gorgeous. There are all these abandoned structures that earth has reclaimed. T
here is fresh life growing on abandoned cars. It’s that feeling of something
new coming in a space that was dead.
Devon: There is more life in decay. Abandoned places have lost all their
pretensions of culture. All the things that are supposed to be important are
not important there.
AL: It’s not for sale?
Aleksa: It shows how easily all our achievements and efforts can be
forgotten. There’s something painfully stunning about human effort amounting to
nothing. It’s heartbreaking and so beautiful.
AL: What else are we going to do? We know there’s failure, but we can fail
in a beautiful way?
Aleksa: We are all in a boat, and we know it’s going to sink. But we know
we have to sail. We know what the end of the story is.
AL: What is the end of the story?
Aleksa: We all die.
AL: And the spirit may live on. Is there any room for spirituality in your
Aleksa: I don’t know. That is a weird word for me because I don’t live
with religion, or a way how things are going to happen. The only spiritual
impulse I have is to get out of my own way, and be a person who can help in some
way. I think the most important thing you can do with your life is help
animals and people. My whole family are artists. There is a strain of humanity
we are trying to defend and protect. My family has always felt the power of
being human, and the ability to give back beautiful things back to the
AL: It’s good to surround yourself with inspiring people and people who
care what you are doing?
Aleksa: We should just take care of one another. That is so lost in our
AL: We are so disconnected from one another.
Aleksa: Absolutely. Most of the time when I walk down the street people
don’t even recognize that I am a human being. There are so many feelings that
come from that, because I am in their way. It takes us away from the real
experience. It’s just looking at someone, and sharing this daily human thing.
That is spirituality for me.
AL: You must try to connect with people on a daily basis.
Aleksa: Just smile at someone and you change their day.
Devon: A lot of our music is about the falling away of pure experience.
AL: Music is it’s own language.
Aleksa: It’s so hard to say what your music is about because it’s a
mixture of everything that you are going through. Sometimes for us, that
experience is a little heavy, because there is this desire to be more connected in
general. It’s a long-standing ache that people can’t remember why they are
aching. Our music is about everything and nothing. I don’t know.
AL: Listen without fear.
Aleksa: Or with fear.
AL: Because you are scary people.
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