EXNATIONS - Sound In The Signals Interview

We recently had the chance to interview EXNATIONS, an indie pop band based out of Brooklyn, NY. Sal Mastrocola, Taylor Hughes, and John O'Neill told us more about what led them to music, more about writing their debut EP, and more about their new single "Knife". Check out the full interview below.

EXNATIONS is an indie/pop trio based out of Brooklyn, NY and Baltimore, MD. You released your debut EP last year. Tell us a bit about how the band started and what led you to music in the first place.

Taylor: Gosh, it’s crazy because I don’t have memory of a time where I wasn’t already consumed by music. I asked for a drum kit when I was 5 and got a hard no. Instead I got a strat with no amp, I started there, then violin and piano. It took a long time before the drums and I met. I started drumming around 15, honestly since then I’ve been on the hunt for the right group. I met Sal 2 summers ago, we wrote Never About the Money and hit the ground running less than a month later.

Speaking of your debut EP, "Tiny Sound In The Dark", I've read that you've said "the sounds, textures, and themes we explored on this record brought such a jolt of new energy and enthusiasm to my songwriting process". Can you describe that writing process and what made it feel new and special?

Sal: I’ve spent most of my musical life playing in punk and emo bands - two guitars, bass, drums. There’s a lot you can do with that palette. But starting a synth based project blows your sonic palette wide open. The possibilities were almost endless - and I had so much fun carving out the EXNATIONS sound with my bandmates out of the endless well of possibility and creativity synthesizers can offer.

You released your new single, "Knife" on Valentine's Day. It was originally written for the EP, but was reworked and co-produced by your friend Eric Taft, who recently worked on Underoath’s "Erase Me". What was this experience like and what do you hope fans get from the new song?

Sal: Working with Eric was a blast. He has an ability to create space and depth in a mix like no one else. With Knife, he helped us achieve the stark contrast that defines that song’s identity - the vibey, chill grooves at the front of the track juxtaposed with the anthemic bombast of the song’s crescendo. It came out sounding bigger and grander than we could have imagined. I hope listeners put on Knife and have as much fun hearing it as we did making it. Rock the f out.

You also released a new video for the single that you filmed on your iPhones. The prelude video, 'Knife: An Ode To First Loves That Die Brilliantly' set the tone and intrigued fans. What was your vision going into creating the video? Are there any stories from filming you'd like to share?

Sal: The only story to share is how smoothly everything went on this one. We defined the overall vision and tone of the video together, then operated independently to execute it – filming parts on our own time, lighting our own shots and creating our own ambience. Filming the rock out part in the bridge was particularly fun. Believe it or not, it’s more exhausting to fake rocking out than to actually do it on stage. I was definitely breathing a little heavier after my third take filming that part.

You teased upcoming summer tour plans on your Facebook. Any news you can share about upcoming shows?

Taylor: I’m so bad at secrets, I’ll confirm that we’re hitting the Midwest in July and we’ll be touring with a band we met via Instagram, haha!

Performing live really brings music to life. What goes into planning your performance and what makes a great show for the band?

JOHN: This is a great question - one that not too many publications typically focus on! Experience playing together REALLY helps here in my opinion… Sal and I have been playing in bands together for 12+ years, and with that comes a level of understanding and trust. I think it’s obvious when you see us live also, that Taylor has seamlessly become our rock - our foundation.

Planning a performance to me starts with packing the car - being organized, having confidence in your gear - making sure you have every little thing. Being ready to adapt (and not lose excitement or positivity) when something inevitably goes wrong is the mentality we try to keep. Vibe is everything, and if there’s any underlying tension - you can feel it, and the crowd can feel it…
Generally - we love to move around, and goof around. It keeps things light, and when we’re having fun, everyone else seems to… for the upcoming tour during the summer, we’re going to start experimenting more with lights, projectors, choreography, maybe 2-3 more percussionists, and possibly a full choir - so be sure to come check us out!

You've also teased that you all have already decided which songs will be on your next EP. 2018 was good for the band; what will 2019 bring and what should fans expect next?

JOHN: I truly think 2019 will be next level for us! The new tracks are our best yet; and we have lofty goals as a band this year. We want you to hear us on the radio, and in TV shows… we want to bring you fun, unique merch - and as always, make the live show deeply memorable. As fans, if there is ANY way you think you can help us in the music industry - let us know! Message us on IG (@exnations), join the street team, and intro us to your music industry friends! We’ve gotten such incredible support so far, and we can’t thank everyone enough!

Thanks for the interview. Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for having us! I think that’s all for now, keep your eye on our Instagram stories! we do a lot of studio updates and giveaways there. Info about EP #2 should be surfacing soon!


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