Teen band mates find their groove

MEMBERS OF THE local band Exoerro, formerly known as Squig Heart, take a breather outside their Starksboro rehearsal and recording space. The quartet has evolved in part from regular participation in the Rock It Science music camps hosted by Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. Pictured rom left are Starksboro guitarist and singer Evan Jennison, Middlebury bassist Kai Pasciak, Monkton guitarist Chris Wolak and Lincoln drummer Preston Connell. Independent photo/Christopher Ross

KAI PASCIAK (LEFT), Chris Wolak, Evan Jennison and drummer Preston Connell (not pictured) perform one of Exoerro’s newest songs, “Close My Eyes,” in the band’s Starksboro rehearsal and recording space. The quartet, formerly known as Squig Heart, has begun to incorporate more pop and rock elements into their funk-inspired music. Independent photo/Christopher Ross

EXOERRO DRUMMER PRESTON Connell drives the beat during a recent rehearsal in Starksboro. During a visit by a reporter, Connell did most of his talking with his drumsticks. Independent photo/Christopher Ross

STARKSBORO — In 2017, after participating in Town Hall Theater’s Rock-It Science music camp, Starksboro guitarist Evan Jennison (then 13) and Lincoln drummer Preston Connell (then 12) decided to form a band together. They began jamming in a small corner of Jennison’s unfinished basement and were soon joined by Middlebury bass player Kai Pasciak (now 17) and Orwell guitarist Declan Anderson (now 15).

They called themselves Squig Heart.

Since then they’ve continued to attend Rock-It Science sessions, honed their chops, written loads of songs, played a series of increasingly high-profile gigs and recorded three singles. Now, they’re more focused than ever. They’ve got a new name — Exoerro — and after Anderson’s amicable departure have welcomed a new member, 16-year-old Monkton guitarist Chris Wolak.

The Independent recently sat down with these homegrown rockers to find out what they’ve been up to.

AI: Your sound has evolved over the last three years. How would you describe the music you play?

Jennison: We have a lot of influences and we’ve changed a lot. Our sound used to be pretty heavily funk-influenced, but we’ve incorporated a lot more elements since then. Sometimes we play reggae, and we have a lot more modern rock, even progressive stuff. Then sometimes we jam.

AI: Your music seems to lend itself to jamming. Is that part of the evolution of the band?

Jennison: As we play with each other more and more, we get more in sync and we can sort of read each other better, so like improvising just comes easier. And our music, especially since we’ve had some of the same songs for so long — “so long” is like three years, but it feels like forever — we get to know them better and we know spots where we can start just sort of improvising. And when we write, we now sort of keep that in mind.

AI: Speaking of writing, tell me about the new song.

Jennison: I’d say “Close My Eyes” is a mash-up of a lot of different stuff we listen to. It was originally two different riffs I’d written, and then we were like, “Let’s put them together.” Kai brought the whole bridge progression — those cool jazzy chords. And then everybody brought their own sort of flavor to it. When we wrote “Close My Eyes,” it was completely different from anything we had done before, but we didn’t really realize it (at first). It was a really rounded, nice sound that seemed to vibe with all of us. At our most recent Rock-It Science back in February, we wrote two more songs (with a similar sound).

AI: When you play covers, how much of your own spin do you put on them?

Jennison: It depends on the song. We’ll add our own flavors here and there but we try to do the covers justice. If the artist tends to jam on it live, then we’ll do it too, or if we just feel like it will lend itself to that.

Wolak: And the covers we do, we try to not have it be like super-oldies, like classic rock stuff that everyone’s already heard. Some of (our covers are) from the ’90s but more are early 2000s, stuff like that.

AI: How did you come up with the first name of your band, and why did you change it?

Jennison: We needed a band name for our first Rock-It Science performance (in the summer of 2017), but we didn’t have one. Clint (Bierman, the instructor and member of The Grift) was talking to Preston about something and he said the words “Madison Square Garden.” And Preston said, “Did you just say ‘Squig Heart’?” And we were like, OK, that can be our name. Three years later we still had the same name and we realized it might be time for a change. Because we kind of didn’t like it.

Pasciak: “Exo” and “err” are Greek and Latin root words (meaning “outside/outer” and “wander or make a mistake,” respectively).

Jennison: We really wanted it to have meaning — that was the main thing — (and) we liked the idea of incorporating different languages or like two things together.

Pasciak: We had a ton of other ideas, but then we looked them up and they were already taken by other bands.

Jennison: It’s so hard to find a band name that isn’t taken.

AI: Tell me what it’s like when you’re in the zone.

Jennison: It depends on what we’re playing, but we can always find a groove. And we’re getting better at reading each other and evolving the jam into different sections and it feels really locked in. I don’t know. It’s really hard to describe, but it’s a great feeling.

Wolak: There’s a lot of nuance to it. If you nod your head you know you’re going to another section in the song or something like that.

Pasciak: It’s more spontaneous and in the moment, and I have to rely a lot more on them, because they’re improvising too.

AI: Preston.

Connell: Yeah.

AI: Say something, man.

Connell: It’s fun.


“It makes me so proud that these guys are going for it,” Bierman told the Independent in an email. “I’ve done Rock-It Science for so many years now that I can definitely recognize the ‘lifers’ when I see them. And these guys are lifers. They will always have music in their lives for the rest of their lives. Not only do they write catchy, interesting songs, but they are respectful and open to learning. They want to get better and as a result, they do. They honestly started out pretty great, but they get better every time I see them. Can’t wait to follow them and ride their coattails. ;) ”

Exoerro currently has three recordings online at soundcloud.com/user-536296372. Conditions permitting, the band’s next appearance will be Aug. 5, on Big Heavy World’s Rocket Ship Podcast.

Follow Exoerro Facebook and Instagram for news about upcoming recordings and shows.

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