Guys, I got to do something really cool last week. I got to interview someone. Even better I got to interview someone who is fucking cool. Taylor Hughes is a badass queer lady drummer. She reached out to me a little while ago and asked if we could collaborate on something, and my first thought was HELL YEAH.
Taylor is the drummer in an alternative pop band called EXNATIONS, which is based in DC. She’s got two other band mates, Josh Reich and Gaelen Smith. They just released a single called “Free” and here shortly they are announcing the release date for their debut album. Exciting stuff!
Taylor and I became besties after this interview, so if it seems super casual it’s because IT WAS. She was absolutely lovely and wonderful, just as you’d expect. And she put up with my awkward blathering for an hour. Here’s a peek inside our chat last week.
We started off the interview with the usual pleasantries. Think about talking on the phone with someone you’ve never met before, but you’ve creeped extensively on social media (I’m a creeeeeeeeep, I’m a weirdoooooooo). She told me she’d been sick for like 2 weeks, which blows. Hope you’re feeling better Taylor!
Q: When did you start playing music?
A: I got a guitar at the age of five, after asking for a drum kit actually. My parents got me an electric guitar without an amp because they didn’t want to hear what their kid was going to do with it! A while after that my mom got me piano lessons, and from there I learned violin, cello, and bass. Then I finally got a drum kit when I was fifteen and the rest was history.
*I make a joke about having no musical talent whatsoever* Safe to say I was damn impressed with all the shit she can do!
Q: When did you know that music was the path you wanted to take?
A: I think when I sat behind a drum kit for the first time, I just knew. I knew that it wasn’t something that was just going to be a hobby, I felt the need to pursue it. Whenever you get ahold of something that just electrifies you in that way, there’s really no option not to pursue it. I went to a friend’s house and begged my friend’s dad to let me play his drums. He literally took off every expensive piece of the kit and told me, “You can play these four drums and I’ll add some pieces back every time you show me you can play what’s on there.” I was there for hours. I can’t even tell you how long I was in there, but it was dark when I left and the neighbors were upset.
Q: What’s the most difficult part of being a newer band?
A: The ups and downs really, I know it sounds kind of cliche. But one minute you might be really locking in on something big and then other times you feel like you’re just going through a dry spell. One difficulty EXNATIONS has gone through is the fact that our members don’t all live in the same area. I live in Baltimore, Maryland which is two hours away from the boys who live in Virginia. I literally have to cross water, mountains, and plains to get to them! Sometimes we’ll go a month without seeing each other and that in itself can put you in an uncomfortable spot because you don’t feel like you’re progressing on a project. Luckily, right now we are not in one of those dry spells, winter was difficult because the weather was a hassle to deal with when commuting. But spring is good.
Q: How did EXNATIONS form?
A: I was in an old band called Car Party, and the guy that was recording our last song had a studio and asked if I wanted to play drums on a track. He explained that he was putting together a band and had a really great singer named Josh lined up. Josh and I hit it off and clicked really well, so we decided to form a band on our own. We found Gaelen, our guitar player, in a weird way kind of. He was actually taking photos at our first show and we heard he played guitar. We asked him how good he was and the rest was history!
Q: What sacrifices have you had to make to pursue music?
A: Wow, where do I start on this question. Any kind of free time. I never stop working, I always have my phone and I’m checking my email constantly. I do all the booking, management, graphic artwork, the website, and promotion for the band. I’m always juggling like ten different things. And of course having all of this on my plate impacts my relationships, people always say, “Just stop for the weekend!” But I can’t do it. Maintaining any kind of relationships is difficult when the clock never stops. Sometimes I go a month without seeing my mom and it hurts my soul. It feels odd when I’m not running around doing a million things. My ideal day off is answering emails in my Batman robe on the couch with a margarita next to me. Optimal weekend hangs!
*We then had a great conversation about how people who are working in creative pursuits don’t have a 9 to 5, they are always working. And sometimes they have a 9 to 5 in addition to that creative pursuit. Don’t forget about those peeps! They are a slaves to the game, but they’re killing it. Stay hungry friends!*
Q: Who are your biggest musical influences?
A: Good question! As far as drumming goes, when I was learning to play I was all about listening to The Killers, The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. All of those very New York, up and coming bands during that time. As far as my drumming style goes, I used to listen to Silversun Pickups for hours and learned to mimic the style of their drummer. It took me a long time to NOT sound like Silversun Pickups. I was in high school and I was impressionable, and I wanted to be that drummer. Until I was 21, I was a bit of a sponge. I just soaked up everything around me. Now I don’t really like to listen to anything for days at a time because I don’t want to fall into recreating someone else’s sound.
Q: How has being queer influenced your music?
A: That’s an interesting question because for the longest time I didn’t know. I didn’t come out until three years ago. When I was young, I just knew I loved music and I rarely thought about boys. I just wanted to play drums and get better and better at that. I don’t know why I didn’t know sooner because I was listening to Le Tigre and Sleater-Kinney. I was like, “Grandpa, can I wear your tie to school?” and I wasn’t doing it to look like Avril Lavigne. The signs were all there! My family was not at all surprised when I came out.
Q: So I have to ask this question, I wish I didn’t have to ask this question, but I do. What’s it like being the only female in your band?
A: Hmmm. That’s a really good question. With this project, it’s not as bad as it has been in the past. These guys are very mild and they make it very easy. The only thing is that I sometimes feel like I have to prove myself to other bands every time I step on stage. You have to prove yourself when they ask you about your gear. It feels like it is always a test, but at this point I enjoy it because I get to show off. The guys at Guitar Center always doubt me and judge me until they hear me play or hear me talk about some gear that they haven’t even heard of. You don’t see them doing that to dudes though. There’s definitely a double standard.
Q: What albums are you currently listening to?
A: The new The xx album. Who else am I listening to right now? I’ve been buying a lot of vinyl. I’m going over to my shelf right now, right now on my record player I have Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures (it’s a classic), always a lot of Tegan and Sara, I’ve been listening to If It Was You currently (GAY AF). And The Cure, I always listen to The Cure. I saw them last year at The Hollywood Bowl and wanted to cry the entire time. They were just as good as they were in their prime and they looked like young boys.
Q: What is the creative process like for creating new music?
A: A lot of it starts with Josh, we write all of our own music starting with just melodies and acoustic guitars. We like to keep it pretty simple and then add in synth and other instruments later on. So most of it starts with him messing around on the guitar and he comes up with a chord progression or vocals. He’ll then record it and put it in a computer program we use called Logic (fancy Garage Band) and then he’ll put it in Dropbox. Then we can all collaborate on it and add our own parts to it. Once or twice a month we’ll meet and work face to face on it and usually if it makes it past that point we try to set up some studio time.
Q: What is next for the band?
A: Floyd’s Barbershop is filming a documentary with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation about childhood cancer and they are using one of our songs, “More Than Four” on it. The song itself is about childhood cancer, so we were stoked that they wanted to use it. In a couple weeks, we are making our television debut on Fox 29. We’ll be taping in Philadelphia for a talkshow called The Q. We’ll be playing our new single “Free” on air and announcing our debut album release date. Exciting stuff coming up!
Q: Where can we find your music and see you live?
A: We are on Spotify and Apple Music, we are pretty much anywhere you can find music. As far as live shows go, we are frequenting Philadelphia, DC, and New York. We’re trying to build our fan base here before we expand too far out.
Q: You mentioned before that you do a lot for the band, but what do you like to do outside of music?
A: This question stumps me because everything I do is for music in some way. Um basketball was actually my first love and playing that is really relaxing for me. I actually just joined a queer basketball league, our team is called Just The Tip Off. It’s for the young queer women of Baltimore. Lately I’ve just been trying to stay active and have another outlet outside of music because sometimes I need an outlet for my outlet.
Q: I’m not going to lie, I creeped you a little bit on Instagram (At least I am woman enough to admit it!), where does your style inspiration come from? You’ve got a pretty cool, eclectic style from what I can see.
A: Thanks! Hmm. My style. I’m trying to think of where I draw inspiration from. It varies from day to day, some days I want to wear a button down and be really masculine. And some days I’ll wear lipstick, so there’s a few different sides of me. That’s another good thing about being a girl is I know I’ve picked up style from girls I’ve dated.
*We had a chat about how I would answer this questions and it stumped me. I guess my style is like part lumberjack part hipster…..I’M WINGING IT OKAY?!*
Q: What is your favorite thing about being queer?
A: Can I even narrow it down to one thing?! I think my favorite thing would be actually having feelings. Like I didn’t think I had feelings until I came out. I can actually love somebody, more than I love myself. Like I didn’t know that was possible, I wasn’t with the right person. I’m a human! There’s something going on in there! Also girls in general. I mean, come on.
Q: If you could give any piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?
A: *Laughs* COME OUT TAYLOR, COME OUT! IT’S OKAY! *Laughs more* I would just tell myself to be patient. I was so eager for everything. I didn’t really appreciate the ride as much as I would have liked to. Like with my first band, I was always like pushing, pushing, pushing and not appreciating what was going on. And now I look back and wish I would have appreciated it more. As a result of that though, I now pay a lot more attention to what is going on around me and I’m using the feelings I have attached to that, to help me appreciate every second now.
Q: Another thing I like to write a lot about on my blog is self care and self love because it took me a long time to get to the point where I even liked myself at all. So now that I’m here, I want to help other people get here too. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
A: Oh. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question. I guess I would say is I’m always able to put a positive spin on something. I feel like I’m a pretty positive person. I can make situations lighter when they can be kind of grim, I can always crack some kind of joke. It is definitely helpful.
AND THE FINAL, MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION!
Q: What are your top three most used emojis?
A: YESSSSSS. The side eye one, the pissed off looking one with the straight mouth. The one that says TOP with an arrow, and the smirk. I’ll text them to you. I think I just changed my mind actually. The upside down smiley face for sure.
*Then I gave her mine, NOT THAT SHE EVEN ASKED. Excuse me while I go crawl under rock*
As I said before, Taylor was extremely candid and chill in the interview. It felt like talking to an old friend. Big thanks to Taylor Hughes for listening to me talk for an hour, you’re an angel!
GUYS! Go check out EXNATIONS and if they are touring in your city, buy tickets! That is an order. I’m not kidding. Go see them. All of their social media links are below: