In the first installment of a new feature where we get into people’s personal spaces to find out what they’re really about, we visit Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church of Exitmusic, who think of their Brooklyn apartment as a creative incubator. By Madeline Giles. Photographed by Samantha Casolari
On a misty December morning, Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church sit sipping tap water and snuggling three rescued cats on a white pillow-covered couch in their cozy pre-war apartment near Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The two bohemians, both dressed in black skinny jeans and loose T-shirts, could easily pass as just your average—albeit very stylish—married couple spending a lazy Saturday together. But how many of your average married couples have an original Kurt Cobain-designed Fender guitar and a recording studio in their home? Palladino and Church, who perform dark and dreamy oceans of sound together as Exitmusic, moved to this apartment a few months ago after downsizing from a huge three-bedroom nearby. “We met on a train in Canada when we were 18,” reminisces Church with a shy smile. “We hung out for three days, and then she went back home to New York and I went back to my hometown in Canada. Then I wrote her a letter saying that I was in love with her. When she wrote back, I was living in Taiwan, and that was three years later. But when she did, I started planning my move to New York, and we’ve been together ever since.”
Though happily married for eight years now, it’s clear that fate brought Palladino and Church together for more than just a romantic union. In summer 2011, Secretly Canadian (home to Bon Iver, Dinosaur Jr.) signed Exitmusic, launching Palladino and Church’s longtime dream to become full-time musicians. “It took us two years to write [our debut album] Passage,” says Palladino, who’s also an actress, most recently appearing as artist Angela Darmody on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. “Before we were signed, it was more of a hobby than a job.” The ethereal 10-track album, released this past May, garnered critical acclaim and tours with Phantogram, School of Seven Bells, A Place To Bury Strangers, as well as a two-month headlining tour in the U.S. and abroad.
Glimpsing around their home, it’s clear that Palladino and Church are mindful to create a space that allows the music-making magic to ensue without too much visual commotion. There are repurposed wood floors, high whitewashed tin ceilings (ideal for acoustics, says Church), and lavender-painted walls with pristine French molding, which are sparingly adorned with family heirlooms like a large framed Metropolitan Opera poster advertising La Traviata that was painted by Palladino’s artist grandfather in the 1970s. “I wanted the apartment to be like a really personalized hotel room,” says Palladino. “Walking into a nice hotel room is one of the best feelings; it’s just like being in an incubator or cocoon. So I wanted that feeling of nothingness, no visual noise—but still pretty things to look at.”
Complementary to Palladino’s vision, the kitchen is sleek and modern, with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops; personalized touches include a ceramic vase made by Palladino’s grandmother and a bronze lantern that hangs from the windowsill. “This is a little lantern we had at our wedding day,” explains Palladino. “When we [decided to] get married, we talked about it on Wednesday and then on Friday we were married.” Moved by the memory, Palladino runs into the bedroom to grab a black and white Polaroid documenting the day: Church (with longer hair) and Palladino (adorned in flowers) embrace under a tree on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles.
“People always ask us if it’s hard working together, but it’s not a problem for us,” says Church with a shrug as we walk back toward their bedroom, which is completed with a lighted Christmas tree. “We don’t have fights anymore, they’re more like temper tantrums because everybody’s got their own idea,” adds Palladino, plopping down on their queen-sized white-and-grey paisley quilted bed. “I think there’s something that happens once you’ve had records released and you’ve toured, it’s like there’s some kind of trust. We know what we’re doing.” She grins and gazes over at Church. “At least to a certain extent.”