“Passage is like a journey through a certain kind of human experience, in a way. It deals with a lot of death and separation, isolation from other people while you’re alive,” says Aleksa Palladino completely seriously, before breaking into laughter. She’s describing the debut album from Exitmusic, her band with co-founder (and husband) Devon Church, and while she’s not joking—Passage is indeed deep, dark, and incredibly grand in its sound—she also realizes how bleak she’s making it seem. The truth is, for all of its intense moments of yelping vocals, tinkling piano notes, and bellowing guitar lines that come crashing down like a wave, it’s also not a downer. “It’s going to be intense, but ultimately I didn’t feel like it’s a depressing album, personally,” pipes up Church, adding, “People [will] feel like they’re more connected to themselves.”
The beautiful brooding on the album, which is equal parts Radiohead, Portishead, and Beach House, is in part a product of the duo’s creative process, which can sometimes be like a couple’s therapy session. “Devon and I started writing music together a long time ago, and it was the way that we really started to experience each other and ourselves. So it just came from a really deep place, a place that you can’t necessarily talk about in conversation,” Palladino explains. The result may be confessional and moody, but it’s definitely not goth, no matter how many times people call it that. “Adam Green was like, ‘You guys are a goth band.’ And we’re like, No!” remembers Church.
If anything, Exitmusic could be described as a cinematic band—the songs evoke the same sort of bleak eeriness that you see from directors like David Lynch. No surprise, then, that despite making music, their songs are often written by using images as guideposts. As Palladino puts it, “I think songs and visuals are so evocative of each other. So even when we’re describing a sound to each other or trying to understand what our songs are saying when we write lyrics, we do talk about it like something that we’re seeing, the visual thing.” There’s also the fact that the singer-songwriter has a long history with film; in addition to playing in the band, she’s an accomplished actress who has appeared in Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and Todd Solondz’s Storytelling (not to mention her recurring role as Angela Darmody on Boardwalk Empire).
It may sound like a lot, but Palladino insists that it’s also much easier to balance two jobs when your bandmate is your partner. “Because we self-produced and record at home, there’s no line between life and work,” she says. “We could record right now or we could watch TV!” So what will keep the band busy during the upcoming break before their next big tour, which takes them across the US in June? “We just come home and make sure our cat has enough food, do laundry…it’s really glamorous stuff!” says Palladino, laughing once more. This time, we’re laughing with her.
Passage is out today.