BY JULIA CIRIGNANO
Exit 18 is the love child of Paramore and The Pretty Reckless. The band consists of Julia Perry, lead vocals and occasional pianist, and her brother Dylan Perry on drums. Perry also twitches off lead vocals with Sean Leahy who also plays guitar. In addition, Doug Mears plays guitar and Darren Muise plays bass.
Julia Perry encompasses the sexy rage of Taylor Momsen creating a perfect contrast between Leahy’s vocals while the band carries roaring instrumentals. Whether Perry is rocking pigtails or black lace, her songs carry the same emotion driven sensibility contrasting with attitude and pure rock n’ roll.
Exit 18’s music deals with relatable topics such as relationships, pain, femininity, masculinity, and everything in between. For example, one of the band’s most popular songs titled “Seventeen” is a trippy coming of age rock tune. Check out this video of Exit 18 performing the song at The Hard Rock Cafe in Boston by clicking HERE.
All originating from Beverly, Mass., (right off exit 18 on Route 128) these five musicians are far more talented than their age may suggest. Julia Perry and Leahy are 18, Mears and Muise are 19, and Dylan Perry is 21. Age occasionally restricts the band from playing at specific venues or playing later shows. Besides that, the band has chosen to use their age to their advantage.
“I wouldn’t know if my age affects how I perform,” Julia Perry said. “I can’t possibly get an objective perspective on that. If anything my age is a force of passion for me, everyone loves to patronize the baby. I feed on that. It riles me up.”
All five members of Exit 18 have known each over for several years. Julia Perry, Muise, and Mears first formed a band called One Track Mind with other musicians that eventually morphed into Exit 18, replacing the members they lost with Leahy and Dylan Perry. Muise shifted from playing drums to playing bass and Dylan Perry picked up drums.
“We all were members of ‘rock school,’ which was a music program that brought local kids together to play rock and roll run by our now manager Randy Leventhal,” Julia Perry said. “We played covers back then [of songs by] Velvet Revolver, Foo Fighters, Talking Heads, Audioslave, My Chemical Romance, etc. It was liberating.”
Loving what they do and hoping to expand, the band reached a turning point in the spring of 2016 which Julia Perry considers the first day of their musical career.
“In the spring of 2016 we met Bryan LaMontagne or BL the Hook Slaya, as we call him,” Julia Perry said. “He was a prominent hip hop producer, who by some incredible twist of fate moved his studio next to The Music Connection, which had always been our lifelong practice space. He heard us through the walls and felt something. That was the first day of our career.”
Since Exit 18 plays many gigs in Beverly, Mass and surround towns, they have the support of many friends and locals music fans.
“It’s so surreal to feel this kind of support so close to home,” Julia Perry said. “Playing your own music in front of people comes with such a sense of vulnerability, to be validated in that kind of expression is just the best feeling. The fact that people seem to give a shit about the words we have to say? Since when! Y’know?”
Julia Perry and the entire band have grown and learned to love the thrill of performing. One of the biggest shows for this band was when they played at The Hard Rock Cafe in Boston in 2014. They had a great time at the show and have played at this venue three times since then. Another one of Julia Perry’s favorite shows took place in May 2016.
“The first show we played with Dylan at Pickled Onion last May was hype,” Julia Perry said. “He brought this shot of energy that just permeated through the whole band. We also played a movie gala last summer for a book called No Backing Down, we walked the red carpet, met a few NFL players; it felt like the beginning of something real to be honest.”
The entire band is full of youthful energy, especially Julia Perry who, when she gets on stage, transforms to an angry rocker with both grace and sass. Through her music and especially her performances, Julia Perry is able to transform into the woman she wants to be and the superhero that her fans look up to.
“I pour everything I have to offer into the music that I write and performing it is just beyond cathartic,” she explained. “In school, kids are always taught to sit down, shut up and listen. It’s brainwashing! But on stage, I am allowed to share my thoughts and ideas unapologetically. It’s the freedom of expression that feels so good. It’s like performing brings me back to my body when I’m so swept away in meaningless bullshit. I can become this version of myself who is just free and wild and present, I feel limitless, it’s electrifying.”
Exit 18 is managed by Randy Leventhal, both a fellow musician and mentor whom the whole band has known for many years.
“We’ve been with our boy since ‘nam,” Leahy said about Leventhal. “He practically raised us. I can’t think of anyone I have more respect for. He set the precedent of what it means to be a rock band real early for us. Truly our best friend.”
Exit 18 has recently been recording a full length album at Hook Slaya Recording Studios in Danvers, Mass., with Leventhal and LaMontagne.
“We have a plethora of songs ready to go!” Dylan Perry said. “We’re fortunate to have two unbelievable singer/songwriters in the band. Julia’s dynamics are demonstrated by her powerful and sensual vocals and lyrics that still exemplify her innate vulnerability. She draws inspiration from The Deftones and Portishead, which provide our band with some darker undertones. On the other hand, Sean has gift for writing infectious rock songs with pop sensibilities. His riffs reflect Green Day, supplemented with Beatles like complex harmonies. The dichotomy of Sean and Julia’s respective style form a surprisingly cohesive sound. They balance each other out. The world’s not ready to hear it.”
The band is currently putting all of their energy into both the music and logistics of this new album. The band is both working hard and dreaming big.
“Goal number 1 is to make our record sound unbelievable,” Mears said. “Chris Gehringer of New York City’s Sterling Sound (who already mastered a seven song demo for us) is the industry’s best master engineer and has agreed to master our full album. We gotta make sure our mixes are ripping for him. With Grammy nominated producer BL The Hook Slaya [Bryan LaMontagne] that shouldn’t be a problem. Goal number 2 is to release our first full-length debut album with label support. New York City entertainment layer Wallace Collins currently represents us. He has represented some of the industry’s top artists. We are fortunate to have him shopping our project and generating interest from multiple major labels. With that being said, we believe it is within our realm to tour the world and single-handedly save rock and roll.”
Look out for a Exit 18 remix coming soon!
“The number one Latin producers in the world Alcover & Xtassy are remixing our forthcoming single,” said Muise. “Danza Kuduro anyone?”
Exit 18 will be playing The Hard Rock Cafe in Boston this Saturday, February 11. They will be joined by Flight of Fire (who are filming a live music video), A Simple Complex, Soundstreet and Sons Lunaris. The band will also be playing at The Spotlight in Beverly in May, as well as a few shows in Amherst where Dylan Perry goes to school.
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