EXNATIONS explore darkness with 80s sounds

Updated: Aug 24, 2018

You know those epic moments in 80s films, where the climax is resolved and a song starts to build in the background and goose bumps appear on your arms because some movie curator managed to correlate an incredible song to a cheesy moment? For example, Lloyd holding the boom-box in Say Anything, Jake and Samantha finally get together in Sixteen Candles or of course, the last scene in The Breakfast Club where Simple Minds’ “Don’t You” starts to play.

Photo by Adele Sakey.

Well, alt-pop band, EXNATIONS, have written those songs that somehow could replace those hits in the 80s but also have a modern twist that could parallel to moments in your life in 2018.

Guitar player Dan Ciarrochi contacted drummer Taylor Hughes, who lived in Baltimore at the time to take a drive up to Brooklyn and meet his friend/vocalist Sal Mastrocola to see if there was a musical connection-- there was.

“Our guitarist was a mutual friend,” recalled Hughes. “They went to school together, and he was like I know this is weird, but maybe we should try to move things forward with Sal; he’d totally be worth it. So, I drove up there to meet Sal and met at Rough Trades, which is a record store, and we immediately hit it off. I picked up a Bleachers’ album, and we immediately were attached by that. I was like I’ve never tried to do anything like this, let’s try to write a song and see how it goes. Two weeks later ‘Never About the Money’ was done and thought hey, this validates us as a band.”

If Bleachers had that pessimistic millennial cousin, it would be EXNATIONS. “Never About the Money" reflects back to a time of murkiness and getting rid of toxicity. With lyrics like “Dead air and the making of a conversation/ Full time full of lies and a metronome/ Spent prayers a contender for a confrontation/Squeeze blood from a stone,” a visual fills your head to an upbeat arrangement full of synths and guitar riffs.

“It was the first one we ever wrote. We didn’t have anything else so it was like let’s see how people respond to it. I actually had the name EXNATIONS for the last couple of years and tried it with a different group of guys, but it just didn’t vibe right. It was very different music so we had a little fan base already so it was interesting to see the fans that liked it and the ones that were like nope.”

Their EP, “Tiny Sound in the Dark,” is out everywhere today. Hughes talked about how the songs are an honest representation of the atmosphere we currently live in while maintaining a therapeutic edge.

“The overall theme is it’s a dark time in the United States, and we all have anxiety over it. We’re just trying to make music to alleviate some of it. A lot of the album is talking about it. Another part is we just love the 80s. Some of that feel good, dance while you cry kind of vibe back.”

EXNATIONS’ music video for “Can’t Get Hurt” is the most accurate representation of what Hughes stated. The aesthetic of the video has super bright colors with members of the band singing along, and slowly but surely, puppets get added into the mix. All of this is going on while talking about a person too afraid to put themselves out there in fear of getting hurt.

The band is just about to wrap up a mini tour, “Tiny Tour in the Dark,” in the mid-Atlantic to promote the new EP, but hope to tour more soon, ideally with the likes of Bleachers and The Wombats. Hughes explained right now, everything is “very in-house” in the band—doing their own graphics, promoting, etc.

“Everybody has been super supportive since we’ve started releasing music again. It was a little slow when we released, ‘Never About the Money.’ People were unsure of what we were trying to do, but I think ‘Can’t Get Hurt’ kind of cemented our sound and showed fans where were heading.”