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  • Explosions in the Sky
    Friday, February 16, 2007

    By now, Explosions in the Sky need no introduction. They've made a name for themselves in a quiet, soft-spoken way that seems quite odd when you contemplate the grandness of their music. Speaking to Christopher Hrasky was about the same. But most importantly, in the chat that follows, he discusses not only the making of the band's latest album, the excellent All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, but also about life in general for a band whose album has been highly anticipated. It's an interesting insight.


    I'm happy to talk to you today. I used to book Munaf's proto-Explosions band, Satori, in the late 1990s. Were you in the band?

    I was not part of that band, no. I know it was Munaf's, and I think...I think Mark was in it?
    I'm not too sure about that.

    Yeah, I was thinking about that this morning, and I kind of thought it was Mark, too, but that was so long ago, and I remember they went through several lineup changes. The last time I saw Munaf was right after you had recorded How Strange, Innocence. He was extremely excited about his new band, and he said, "Oh, man, Joseph, I want you to tell me what you think of my new band!" and gave me this Cd-R of the record. I know that probably seems like a million years ago to you guys now.

    (Laughs) Yeah, wow, that was seven years ago. That's cool, though!

    I know it's been a few years since your last proper full-length, not including the Friday Night Lights soundtrack. Was the delay due in part to the unexpected success of the soundtrack?

    No, not really. The last record came out in late 2003, and for pretty much all of 2004 we toured, and there was a month where we worked on Friday Night Lights. So most of 2004 we spent on the road, and we didn't really write any new material. In 2005, for the first few months, we were just burned out. We all felt like we needed to take a break for a few months. We started writing in the spring of 2005, and for most of those eight or nine months, we worked on our music, but we weren't really happy with the results of it at all. We were working, but it took us some time to finally create some music that we felt worthy of recording. It was just sort of a self-imposed creative hiatus more than any external forces keeping us from writing. We were just writing stuff that we thought was just OK, but ultimately wasn't good enough to get us back in the swing of things.

    A friend of mine's band, Zykos, toured with you guys during the Friday Night Lights era, and he said the audiences coming out to see you during those shows were amazing, selling out shows based largely on that soundtrack.

    Yeah, there definitely has been an increase in our audience because of that record. We can tell from the emails we get and the comments we get on Myspace. I think it was the way a lot of people heard of us for the first time, especially people who wouldn't necessarily seek out weird, independent rock bands, not because they wouldn't respond to it, but because it's just not something they'd know about.

    What I wanted to ask was that after the success of the soundtrack, did it change your approach on the material you were working on, in that you realized that you had a much larger audience now?

    We realized that, and it's definitely something we think about, but once we actually started writing songs, that aspect doesn't play into it so much. Obviously, we want to make music that we hope tons of people would like, but if they don't, they don't. We mainly make music that the four of us feel strongly about, and it's our hope that people will like what we do. It's strange, but I feel like this record is probably less accessible than the last one. It's a bit harsher in terms of sound. We fully expect that there will be those who get this record and will say, (mock indignation) "Well, uh, I like the old stuff better!" (Laughs) That's fine. We don't feel that way, but that's fine. We definitely think about the audience size, though. We realize when we set up tours and we're playing shows in bigger venues, and we definitely realize that a change has been going on, but in our day-to-day lives, it hasn't really had that much of an impact.

    You're still just four guys from Austin.

    Yup! We're just trying to write music we like, and I think that's the only way we want to have it. There's not anyone breathing down our necks for anything; we're on an independent label, a really strong label that is not going to be pushy about us doing certain things. We can do what we want, and, ultimately, that's the end of it. It's good.

    How was the experience of working at Pachyderm Studios?

    Oh, it was pretty awesome! It's very beautiful out there. It's 40 miles south of Minneapolis, and it's really in the middle of nowhere. It's surrounded by forests; there's a house to stay in, and you walk down a lovely path to the studio. It's really, really nice. It was a bit like being at camp! (Laughs) We'd walk around and explore if we were bored, and we could record whenever we wanted.

    What time of year were you up there?

    We were there in August, so it was really nice to get out of Austin in August! (Laughs) The weather was really nice; it was really cool, enjoyable weather, and there were some weird storms that were kind of exciting, too.

    Did you write a lot of material up there?

    No, we'd written it before going up there. That's generally how we've done all our albums. We don't like to spend much time in studios. We're pretty intimidated by recording, actually, just because it's pretty nerve-wracking. WE don't really like it that much, because it's sort of terrifying. We try to record live as much as possible, and we have long songs, so we try to have at least five minutes of a ten minute song done. There are things that come up, like someone will say, "Oh, let's add this part here, over this section,' but normally we have it all pretty much mapped out by the time we record it.

    Did you experience any paranormal activity at Pachyderm?

    (Laughs) Nope. We've heard that there are ghosts, but we didn't actually see anything. A big snake got into the house, and that was pretty terrifying, but there were no poltergeists. I think if a ghost had showed up, we would have been out of there immediately! We're cowards. We wouldn't have thought twice about running home.

    You make dark, ominous, haunting music, but you gotta draw the line somewhere! (Laughs)

    (Laughs) Yeah, exactly! Exactly! Anything ghastly appears, I'm outta there. I was scared enough by that giant snake!

    Anyway, there's a remix album of the album. How did that come about? For an all-instrumental rock band, a remix album seems a unique approach. I haven't heard it.

    Yeah, it really was. We had never really thought about it before. We are friends with Four Tet, and that's his specialty, remixing. For a long time he talked about remixing our music, but we never took that idea seriously. Then the label said, "Man, we should do a remix record." The remix record itself will be packaged in a special version of the record, which will mainly be available only at independent record stores and not the Best Buys or Borders. The idea behind it is that since we've gotten a bit bigger and our records can be found at places like Best Buy, it's sort of a way to get people to visit smaller stores to get our record. We're really happy with the results of the remix project; in fact, I find myself listening to the remix disc more than the actual album! (Laughs)

    Do you find that these reinterpretations of your music shed new light on what you do?

    Yeah, it actually has. It's really cool hearing the way people put things together. Most of it sounds totally different, and one of the remixes isn't even a remix at all. A friend of ours recorded a cover of one of our songs using acoustic guitars and bells, and it's really beautiful. I think the remixes showed us and opened up different possibilities for us. I think, "Wow, I never would have thought of approaching it that way," and I'm really curious to see how this project will influence us in terms of how we write songs from now on. It's been really, really interesting, and it totally sheds new light on our music.

    Since you've become a larger act and are playing bigger venues, will you be doing more in terms of production of your live show, like films or multimedia?

    We're not going to do any of that. It's going to stay the four of us and our amps. I like to think that we hold can hold the audience's attention and get by on our music alone. Yeah, I think for some bands, like Flaming Lips or Sigur Ros, they are all about the show, and are amazing live. For us, I think we just kind of want to be up there with our amps and just play our songs, without any extra tricks or gimmicks.

    You strike me as the sort of fellows who are very much into the purity of making music.

    Yeah, it's very important to us. That is one thing we definitely talk about when we write our music. We just want it to be the four of us writing and playing on our own record. On the new album, we didn't bring in a string section or things like that, and we could have, if we had wanted to--but it's just the four of us playing our songs live, with overdubs here and there. That's our focus, really. Our European label is like, "oh, we want to put out a DVD about the band" and things like that,, but we're not really interested in things like that. We release albums and we play shows, and beyond that, that's really it. There are certain things that suck about making music, but when I step back and look at it, I think, "man, we have nothing to complain about." We're basically living our daydreams.


    Explosions in the Sky's latest album, All Of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is released February 20th via Temporary Residence, Ltd.

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