Ex-Hyena emerge into 2022 with ‘Capture the Stills’
Boston dark-pop duo embrace the cold New Year with the January 21 release of ‘Capture the Stills’ via Hush Club Ltd.
‘Capture the Stills’ arrives with an exclusive remix from Control I’m Here
BOSTON, MA [January 21, 2022] -- Chances are, you woke up on January 1 and realized none of this was a dream. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we’re all trapped here together, and our dystopian society of paranoia and angst, cradled by a pandemic that is uneager to subside, is properly soundtracked by the shadow sounds of Ex-Hyena.
The dark electronic duo of Reuben Bettsak and Bo Barringer return with a low-end hum on January 21 with new single “Capture the Stills,” the follow up to October’s “Nightmare Pills” and the latest to be featured off their forthcoming sophomore album, this year’s Moon Reflections. It arrives complete with a b-side remix courtesy of Kentucky producer Control I’m Here that delves deeper into the track’s soulful, yet sinister, vibes.
“‘Capture the Stills is dark and menacing,” says Bettsak. “Bo wrote the lyrics to this one… It certainly fits the vibe, and themes that Ex-Hyena often covers. To me, it's like falling into a David Lynch movie void, and witnessing two characters in a volatile relationship, or something like that. This was the last song written for the second LP, and I'm glad it made it on the album.”
This latest single, following in the footsteps of Ex-Hyena’s 2021 debut album Artificial Pulse and mixed by Dave Westner, is another brazen move forward for the creative songwriting pair, taking Ex-Hyena’s trademark sound of dual vocals, trembling percussion, and dark synths, and adding a more richer, lush sound that incorporates hip-hop-inspired beats and a wider creative canvas that snapshots our daily decay. It’s a grander sense of claustrophobic minimization, a panoramic view of the world around us, and a stark spin around the shadows that lurk just out of view of the mind’s eye.
“I wrote the words to this one at a time when I was going through a bit of a dark period,” adds Barringer. “I wasn’t really trying to reflect that necessarily but it’s kind of hard to deny a line like ‘A soul created to be crushed’. But the song is also about how difficult it is to slow down time and take in the smaller moments because life threatens to speed by you at a million miles an hour. You can’t stop the video as it’s rolling, but maybe you can screenshot it as it passes you by.”
Screenshots of all kaleidoscopic colors and moods are at play on “Capture the Stills,” which evokes the forthcoming LP’s twists and turns with a sound stretched out into prog-rock territory,
boasting songs that delve into memories and the intricacies of our minds, playing out thematically like noir movie scenes. Ex-Hyena is a band constantly evolving, and here they display a collaborative songwriting acumen shared by two musical minds that have been communicating ideas for decades. And the world at play in Artificial Pulse is no longer relegated to some far off timeline horizon; the world of Ex-Hyena is entrenched in the here and now.
“I kind of lost interest in dystopian TV and movies around the time we realized that 50 percent of this country wanted a fascist dictator,” admits Barringer. “No Black Mirror, No Handmaid’s Tale, No Squid Game. The world was already becoming too close to that. Turn on the fucking news. Somehow a similar vibe comes through in the music though. You can try to outrun the devil but sooner or later he’s gonna catch you.”
And when he does, he’ll have “Capture the Stills” on his demonic playlist.
“Ex-Hyena does reflect a dystopian fantasy of sorts, and tapping into those themes can seem dark in an increasingly chaotic world where our reality feels dystopian,” says Bettsak. “I do tackle those themes because they are important, and relevant to me. But the funny thing is that I also tap into that dystopian fantasy world as a form of escapism. We've written these songs in a world where we are more isolated than ever in a lot of ways. I love being in my house, but I'm in it a lot. [laughs.] So, I'm using my imagination to take me to different places, create different characters, future cities with twisted technology, etc. In these times music really is extremely therapeutic. Writing and creating art is so important right now for our sanity. And I hope things in this world become less chaotic.”
Maybe by then, we’ll wake up to better news.
‘Capture the Stills’ single artwork, illustrated by Ian Adams:
Ex-Hyena artist bio:
Does music in 2022 need to reflect the mood of society, or can it exist beyond its influence? For Ex-Hyena, the new musical collaboration between longtime Boston music conspirators Reuben Bettsak and Bo Barringer, the answer is something a little more complicated than just yes or no. And that’s a reflection of this era all on its own.
Ex-Hyena taps into the doom and gloom of our current climate while also existing on its own sonic plane. Debut album Artificial Pulse arrived in the frigid spell of New England’s 2021 winter, capturing the sound of a mutant disco alien dance party where cold electronics and warm emotion sprawl across a nocturnal dystopia of underground electro. It earned praise from the likes of Brutal Resonance, White Light // White Heat, Blood Makes Noise, Darkness Calling, ReGen, and other mindful purveyors of the dark editorial arts, while remix exchanges and collaborations with Denial Waits, Blood Handsome, and Control I’m Here crafted a network of like-minded creatives aching to break free from pandemic age restrictions. The attention across the underground led Ex-Hyena to Hush Club Ltd., the blossoming alternative label that issued their October ‘21 single “Nightmare Pills.”
“For me, everything happening [today] definitely shapes things lyrically, but at the same time, I also need to escape into the music world we are creating,” says Bettsak. “With this Ex-Hyena album, it's kind of like, ‘take a ride with us into this noir, futuristic adventure world, where technology is at its peak, but the robots might get ya’. I think the combination of COVID-19, and watching the third season of Westworld, got us channeling vibes of sci-fi, dark, technically advanced, but ruined cities.”
The DNA of Ex-Hyena runs deep, down a jagged line of Boston bands tracing back nearly 20 years. Bettsak and Barringer have collaborated in the past in bands and projects like Future Carnivores, Emerald Comets, Guillermo Sexo, and probably others lost to memory, false starts, and muted ambitions. So while their chemistry was set on course long ago, adding new sonic chemicals to the mix -- electro, techno, darkwave, synth-pop, and post-rock -- developed a more kinetic element.
“Bo and I are both prolific musicians who really share a musical kinship,” says Bettsak. “The musical vision really came together fast. We figured out our roles in creating the music. I think the first two songs, ‘Shades’, and ‘Fortress Supreme’, really hit on a vibe we wanted to explore more. Bo basically created 10 more music tracks, dumped them in a folder, and over the next 10 weeks (around April and May), I wrote lyrics, and recorded my vocals, and guitar to a few tracks. And then Bo added his vocals, and mixed the album. Lyrically, I took things in different directions as well.”
Adds Barringer: “Our previous collaborations had always been fruitful. It was just a matter of time before we started making music in some incarnation again. We dipped our toes into the water just before quarantine and we were digging where it was going. So it was kind of a no-brainer for us to dive head-in. It came from a pretty free, open exchange of ideas. I was just writing instrumentals with a beat, texture and mood that I was really vibin’ on and Reuben put them through his own internal filter and gave it depth and dimension. It was challenging, but at the same time, it was one of the easiest things I’ve ever been involved in.”
Easy music for difficult times. That’s the mood of Ex-Hyena, and maybe it reflects what’s going on in the world after all -- and maybe we just don’t want to admit it. At least on the surface of things.
“I feel the despair,” admits Barringer. “Who the fuck knows what’s gonna happen next month? Next year? Is COVID-19 the worst of it? Or is 2030 gonna make 2021 look like a walk in the park? Music isn’t going to answer that for us, but I don’t think it’s possible for music made these days to not be affected by the trash fire of it all.”
Proper praise for Ex-Hyena:
"Ex-Hyena’s 'Artificial Pulse' gave me a bit of a shock when I listened to it... An electronic album inspired by both science-fiction and cyberpunk lore alike. But when I clicked that play button I didn’t get huge bass drops and four-on-the-floor dance rhythms. I was rather greeted with minimal electro, darkpop, and sometimes disco-inspired beats... [it's] an album that could easily play in a futuristic, smokey bar." _Brutal Resonance’s Top 10 albums of 2021 (Number 5)
“Bursting with an obsessive humming throbbing bassline, crispy mechanical electro rhythms, and off-tempo tight percussive patterns rambling bouncily through the neon-lit dark night, stabbed by vexed flashing glaring swathes of analog synths, while distressed stealthy dual vocals blend shady secret whispers, with high quivering mania, to unleash intense dramatic characters from the seedy underworld of ‘Motorfreaks’.” _White Light/White Heat
“If, like us, you’re into dystopian vibes, ‘Blade Runner’-esque color palettes, and hypnotic dance tracks, look no further than ‘Shades,’ the debut single by Ex-Hyena.” _Darkness Calling
“‘Motorfreaks’ presents the band’s dark disco style, with themes revolving around the perilous and lawless dystopian world of a future that is perhaps nearer than expected” _ReGen Magazine
It sounds as if this Boston tandem warns us for Big Brother’s ambition to brainwash humankind with mind-altering chemicals with this darksome, yet instantly striking electro jam. Haunting, feverish, and gloomy are the keywords here. Best played at night while being dazed and confused by the surreal times we experienced the past 18 months. _Turn Up The Volume
“'Instant Fires' delves deep into the chaos that has become modern life. Dark, poetic, hegemonic-narcipop has arrived on the scene to score the apocalyptic vibes of today. Hypnotic, mysterious techno thriller music for people who laugh at the absurdity of our new, luddite life this agorophorock-with-synths-throwback-to-industrial-pop timelines that learned what it needed from the past, packed it up, and was violently expelled back and out of the mouth of the universe… Cool. Seductive. Dangerous.” _Blood Makes Noise
“It's a hypnotic and minimal album without a dry moment in between songs. Rather than focusing on a million different layers to generate a unique sound, Ex-Hyena utilizes a select set of electronic notes without coming out as overbearing. The beats are meticulous and well-crafted, which forced me to really focus on what was going on; it's this type of analyzing that I find most amusing in a song. Something different, something breathing, and something so out there that it encapsulates my attention.” _Brutal Resonance
The unmistakable sound of Ex-Hyena has been seen and heard on:
Synthentral, Artefaktor Radio (Mexico City), Darkness Calling, Flyfew Radio, White Light//White Heat, Backpacks And Magazines (WMBR), Radio Black Room (Italy), BICT Radio, Virtual Detention (WZBC), Radio Coolio (Canada), Radio Oscura (Downtown Radio), Christian’s Cosmic Corner (Mark Skin Radio), Boston Emissions, Bay State Rock, Wave Press, The Music Bugle, BumbleBee Radio, Stuck In Thee Garage, On The Town with Mikey D (WMFO), Synth-Pop Fantatic, Brian Carpenter’s Free Association (WZBC), This Is Not A Show, Odilon’s Grip Edgy Electronic Beats, Jay Breitling’s Parcheesi Redux, Oh Hello Boston, Everything You Know Is Wrong on Salem State Radio, Blood Makes Noise, Tinnitist, Mark Skin Radio, and other fine independent outlets that are not run by rampant corporate fuckery.