Exitmusic Contemplates a Final Bow With New Album and Single, "The Distance" (premiere + interview)

Jedd Beaudoin
Photo: Philistine DSGN (Clarion Call Media)

The marriage between Exitmusic's Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church may be over but their musical partnership continues. At least for now.

Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church met in the early years of adulthood, became a couple and soon began writing and recording music together as Exitmusic. From the start, the pair's relationship was open for all to see, across a series of recordings that included The Decline of the West (2007), From Silence (2011) and, now, The Recognitions. It's an album that almost wasn't made as Palladino and Church's marriage began to disintegrate not long after 2012's Passage.

Palladino says that the release of The Recognitions brings with it a certain sense of emotional release, the ultimate letting go of the partnership between herself and Church. Speaking with her via phone a few weeks before the release of the record (due out 20 April via Felte), it becomes apparent that the record's public arrival brings with it certain duties and responsibilities that mean Exitmusic isn't over just yet.

There are interviews to conduct, possibly some live shows and one or two other matters that will keep Exitmusic on ongoing concern for a time. There's a new single, "The Distance", on which Palladino gives a typically devastating vocal performance over contemplative keyboard figures.

The track evolves into something darker, more lysergic over time before finding its resting place, more ellipsis than full stop.

A cathartic and beautiful listening experience, The Recognitions seems destined to become one of those albums we turn to in time of need, a thing of beauty that has emerged from pain, something we're reminded of via this new track.

The Recognitions, out 20 April, may be ordered here.

This album has some heavy origins to it.

I feel like all our stuff has had heavy origins, but in the past, it was usually about life before we were together. This one was written while we were separating. It was a really intense process because we weren't really talking outside of when we were working. There wasn't any hanging out. We would just get together and write and record.

How much time passed between the idea to end the relationship and the idea to make a record?

It's so strange. Our entire marriage was based on writing songs. It was all we did. By the time we released any music we'd been writing and recording together for probably seven years. In some naïve and innocent and really beautiful way, we really believed in what we were doing. I think the band meant more to us than any individual part of our relationship.

It's interesting to think of a band spanning the natural life cycle of a relationship.

When we got together, we were 21, and when we separated, we were 33. A lot happens. You change a lot. You change at different paces. You change in different directions. I think that people can relate to the idea that at a certain point you're holding each other back by staying together.

You described this time during which you weren't communicating. Is there a turning point in all that? A moment when you have to sit down and talk about things?

Not in a nice way. We had to get divorced. There were legal issues that we had to discuss. For a few years, we had to ask ourselves how we could detach in the cleanest way. We'd basically grown up together, and so much of who we were was the other person as well. It's a real separation. It's not like two adults who've had full lives coming together and then deciding to split.

I don't think we had any boundaries. We didn't know where one of us ended and the other began. It wasn't until recently that we were able to come together and say, "Oh yeah, you were my best friend for a long time." There's a lot that we share and that we have shared. That can be a real positive thing going forward.

Did you have a moment where you thought, "I don't have to put this out there"?

No. The artists who have always really moved me have put everything out there. John Lennon comes to mind. People who didn't have a separation between their life and their work. Some of the things I've written in the past might be hard for people to understand if they're not me but I'm either writing about loss I've had in life and people I've loved who I've never really had the chance to know. There's something exciting about having something meaningful to share.

So, no, it never felt like there was a moment where it was too personal to share. It felt like it was the completion of a story we'd been telling and a life that we'd been living for a long time. I also think we've always had a fanbase that connects to the emotions of our work. It felt like sharing this last part of it was the best way to have closure and the best way to make it real.

Was there a particular song that really kicked off the writing for the album?

Aside from when we were on tour we never really stopped writing. We did a couple of massive tours back-to-back. We did like 16 months of touring for Passage. We knew we needed to make another record. I don't remember which songs were first, but we started working on some ideas. About six months into that I went away to do a film and then a TV show. It was during that separation that the realization of how we were keeping each other small was really starting to come into focus. Whatever was written around that time didn't have lyrics yet. There was just a lot of little sketches.

The lyrics on this one were harder for me than they have been in the past. Some of them came out without me even having to write. "The Gold Coast" just poured out. But there were others that I really had to sit with for months. I'd change little words here and there or try to find the words for what it was that I was feeling. It was a long process.

I think of singing as primarily an emotional endeavor. Are there difficulties in recapturing some emotions after they've rested for six months or if they're still a little too raw?

For me, the moment I sing or even act, there is a mood that wants to come out. It'd almost be harder for me to do something that's happy and cheery. I think there's something about singing, like when you're really almost wailing, just the physicality of doing that and hearing your own body make that sound puts you right <i>there</i>. You're in a place of complete vulnerability and then, at the same time, this empowerment, this ability to reveal something really emotional.

Let's talk specifically about "The Distance". Do you remember where and when that one turned up?

That was written years and years ago. I wrote that one night while Devon was at work. It must have been 2007. I wrote that around the same time I wrote "Sparks of Light", which was on Passage. I basically wrote it about meeting Devon. It was one that Devon had really always loved, and I didn't see that much value in.

When it came time to start submitting songs Devon suggested we revisit it. I wasn't interested, but he suggested we pull it out to see if there was anything we wanted to add. We did pull it out, and there was very little we changed. We had just a few atmospheric sounds. That was it.

There's something about how unpolished it is, especially vocally, that suits it. It became one of the favorites at the label. It was actually the label's suggestion to end the record that way. I think that's kind of beautiful to end the record with how you met, how you found that person.

So, what happens now? Is there talk about live performances? Maybe new music in the future?

I think it's really one step at a time. Right now is the first time that Devon and I are really talking again. You want to be careful of not overstepping your own comfort, let along the other person's. Other music? It's all unfolding for us.I know we write well together and I know that that's a unique thing right there.

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