Music Spotlight: EXES
We’ve been huge fans of indie-pop duo EXES since The Art of Saying Goodbye in 2016, and we can’t get enough of their new collaborative EP with Jome Nothing’s out to Get You—out today. The duo, composed of Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Allie McDonald + LA-based producer Mike Derenzo, creates beautiful soundscapes of love + heartache with soft, dreamy vocals + chill electro production. The 4-track EP brings a whole new layer of musical perfection with the addition of LA-based songwriter Jesse Epstein + New Orleans-based writer + producer Christoph Andersson of Jome. We chat with Allie + Mike all about the collaboration + the duet-filled EP.
Asymmetric Magazine: Congrats on Nothing's out to Get You! Can you tell us about what this EP means to you?
Allie McDonald: We wrote this EP while secluded from the outside world. We spent about four days in the house that Mike grew up in on Northern California. Words and sounds became all that mattered. I can honestly say I have never felt more safe, vulnerable, happy and sad in those four days. It was almost like a therapy session—a retreat even. The four of us experience anxiety in varying degrees, which is where I suppose the name of the EP Nothing’s Out to Get You comes from, and this retreat allowed us to isolate ourselves in this safe, creative space.
Mike Derenzo: It was a very special experience to retreat from our day-to-day lives to go and hang out with friends to make music. We have collaborated with the guys from Jome in a variety of ways, so it was specifically awesome that our first foray into a full collaborative project was with them.
AM: How does this EP compare to Before You Go and your previous single releases?
Allie: It’s a full on collaboration EP. We’ve written with both Christoph and Jesse from Jome, but this is the first time we’ve really created a new soundscape together. Also, duets! I love the way Jesse’s voice sounds like a warm, cozy sweater around my voice.
I can honestly say I have never felt more safe, vulnerable, happy and sad.
AM: We love your work with your 2017 release Better Better with Jome, too!
Mike: Christoph and Jesse are some of my best friends in the world, so it’s awesome that we get to create things together that people enjoy! We always have a great time working with each other, as Christoph and I focus on the production while Allie and Jesse craft the topline.
AM: Do you have any other collaborations in the works?
Allie: Definitely. We love working with our friends and always try to figure out a few sessions with our buds when we’re together in LA. We like to work with Peter Martin and Jonathan Sim who play drums and guitar with us at our live shows. We’re still writing and working on new music, so there are probably a few new collaborations in the works, as well—who knows.
AM: Who is your dream collaborator you haven't working with yet?
Allie: Definitely Matty and George from The 1975. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships was an incredible album. They’re both very talented; I’m a fan. Oh, and honestly probably Chris Carrabba from Dashboard Confessional. Lyrically, that band shaped my songwriting—one of my earliest influences. I discovered I had maybe too many feelings when I started listening Dashboard.
AM: What other musicians are you currently listening to?
Allie: Soccer Mommy, Phoebe Bridgers, Now, Now, Aries, Mallrat, Girl Wilde
AM: Are there any consistent themes you typically pursue through your music?
Allie: Love, loss of love, long distance love—love is definitely a common thread. I always say that my worst quality is that I feel too much, and my best quality is that I feel too much. I write what I feel. Luckily, for my writing, my romantic life is quite a rollercoaster.
My worst quality is that I feel too much, and my best quality is that I feel too much.
AM: Where is one place that you feel completely in touch with your creative self and your music?
Mike: I’d say at my studio in Venice. It’s located in my backyard with these huge windows/doors that open up to a huge amount of trees and vegetation with the perfect amount of sunlight cascading in.
AM: We caught a few of your sets—School Night and Moving Castle World in LA to name a few. Tell us a favorite memory from playing live.
Allie: I love playing live. Those were great shows. My favorite moment at a show has got to be when we played Cain at the Troubadour last year. That song is so important to me. I think it was the second time the post came around—the ‘I’ll never get to hold your hand’ bit—and everyone in the audience sang it back to me. I stopped singing and let everyone carry the tune for me. I was blown away—in absolute shock. It took everything in me not to cry. I just kept thinking, ‘Wow, I hope Cain is watching this right now.’ What an incredible moment. It’s been about a year since our last gig, so it’s definitely time to figure out a performance soon. We’ve got lots of new songs we’re excited to play. I’m also dying to get a tour going, as well. Jome + EXES would be an absolute dream tour. Best buds!
AM: What can we expect to hear from you next?
Allie: Music. Always. We can’t stop making it—it’s a problem. So, new tunes throughout this year. I think 2019 is going to be a good one for us. I think we’re creating some of the best music we’ve ever created.