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Explosions In The Sky - Interview

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 12 / 10 / 2003

Explosions In The Sky - Interview


Instrumental Austin based band Explosions in the Sky have just released their third album . 'The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place' through Bella Union. Drummer Chris Hrasky chats about it,their British debut, and the group's plans to tour Europe

There is something about instrumental music that once you manage to get inside it opens up a whole new world. While vocal bands put most of the meaning of their songs into their lyrics instrumental bands, by simply focusing on the instruments themselves, have a much bigger field in which to deliver their message . It would be wrong to believe that the whole meaning of a song is only captured in lyrics, but it's much harder to fully take in the instruments when you have a singer's voice taking up most of the attention. The Austin based band Explosions In The Sky decided to put all they have as a band into their instruments. The band consists of Mark Smith (guitar), Michael James (bass), Munaf Rayani (guitar), and Christopher Hrasky (drums). All four members of the band were previously in other bands.Explosions In The Sky, however, this is their first instrumental band. Mark, Michael and Munaf all grew up in Texas and have known each other for a long time. Chris grew up in Chicago ,and moved to Austin in 1999. He met the other 3 members of the band shorly after he moved and the group was formed later on that year. "We met and became friends. We had a lot of similar tastes in music, movies and we got on really well " recalls Chris talking to me on the phone about the band from his Austin home. "Then we just decided to form a band and started practicing." After moving to Austin Chris started playing his drums again, Mark and Munaf took hold of their guitars and Michael enrichened the music with bass. "Non of us really wanted to sing." Chris continues. "Michael actually does have a really good voice but he didn’t want to sing so it just worked out that way that we became an instrumental band. It seems to work the best for us." One of things that drew my attention to the band when I first heard of them was their name. Explosions In The Sky conjures up all sorts of visions of deep blue skys and fireworks of all colours exploding in the night . "We had another name for the band and it was quite dumb " Chris admits. "Then 4 years ago on the 4th July, the US Independence Day, we were sitting in my house and could hear fireworks outside and I said something like “I think we should go and watch the explosions in the sky.” A coupleof days after that I decided it would be a good name for the band.” The band's musical ambitions were fairly small at the very beginning of their career. In fact, as they have written on their web site www.explosionsinthesky.com they self-released a first album 'How Strange, Innocence' as a means "to prevent depression" . "I guess when we started the band we wrote songs pretty quickly because we didn’t know what we were doing that much." Chris reflects. "I think we weren’t as critical of ourselves as we are now. We recorded 'How Strange, Innocence' in a studio in Austin and released 300 copies and then we never really played the songs for a while and kind of distanced ourselves from them. We are planning on re-releasing them early next year on a local Austin based record label because it seems there are enough people who would like to hear them." Since 'How Strange, Innocence' the band have been through a lot of changes and it seems have found their own voice. "I think the songs are pretty good now and people seem to like them." Chris ponders. "When I listen to the first album it kind of reminds me the time when we were first getting to know each other. Also we were still just searching around how to play. I’m not sure if we know what we want to do now but I think we have a better idea. Although it’s strange because we find writing new songs much harder then we used to." The Portland, Oregon-based Temporary Residence label was the first label who "discovered" Explosions In The Sky's great potential and released a second album 'Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever' in 2002. "We got to know Temporary Residence through one of our friends from a band called the American Analog Set. They are also from Austin and are an amazing band. They sent a CD of one of our shows to Temporary Residence and we just got a call from them. That was it!" "Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever" came out on the label 7 months after that. This year the band followed that with their third album 'The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place." It has been released again on Temporary Residence in America, but also in Europe on the London based label Bella Union, which is co-run by the former Cocteau Twins Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie. Putting out 2 albums in 2 years is pretty fast going. It seems that Explosions are quite quick at writing their music, or are they ? "It’s actually very hard for us to write songs." Chris says, surprising me. "It takes us a really long time. It sometimes takes us months to come up with something. Another thing is that since none of us is really a leader of the band then if three of us like something and one of us doesn’t we just end up throwing it away because we all want to be happy with what we are doing. " "Lots of stuff get thrown away" Chris laughs, before continuing. "But we all want to be happy with what we are doing. It’s kind of frustrating but I think it always works out in the end." The Bella Union release is the first time that the Explosions are being distributed in Europe. "Our friends from Lift To Experience (Another Texas-based band on Bella Union-Ed) told Simon Raymonde about us and he really liked us. Bella Union actually wanted to license the previous record but it didn’t work out. Then they came down here to the South By South West festival in Texas in March and asked us if we would want to put out the album through Bella Union in Europe. We talked to the guys in Lift To Experience and they talked so highly to us about Bella Union that we decided to follow it." "One thing we really like about the label was that they were really upfront and honest. They weren’t making any promises like that we would be huge and all that. They were very honest with us which we liked a lot. Also the fact that the people at the label have been involved in music for so long means a lot. We never thought we would get this far but once you get going it gets really complicated and it’s great to have someone who has been around for long and who is able to give us advice and who is smart about things." 'The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place' was released on the 3rd November, "The oldest song, the 2nd track, 'Memorial', was written about 2 years ago, and the newest song, ‘Your Hand In Mine’, the 5th track, we finished writing about a week before we recorded it." Says Chris. In listening to each of the 5 tracks on the album everyone can bring their own meaning to tit. I wondered what was the meaning for the band. "I guess it comes from the title and the artwork of the album" says Chris. The front artwork shows the title of the album 'The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place' written over and over again . "That way we could kind of imagine that that it was written by someone who sees all the horror and terror of the world, but who is also trying to look at all the wonderful and beautiful things." Chris reflects. "I know the 4 of us tend to get overwhelmed with negativity. It’s just the way we are. It is too easy to look only at the bad but it takes something to be able to look at the beauty as well. And realize that there are also good things." The artwork was designed by Esteban Rey. "All 4 of us have always been very picky about the artwork. It’s part of the whole thing. Esteban is a really good friend of ours as well. He is almost like the 5th member of the band even though he doesn’t play in it. Interestingly enough this concept of beauty and dark is brought out clearly in the music on the album as well. Sometimes you get caught up in the dark and almost lonely sound of music but then all of the sudden everything picks up and lightens up again. I personally found the most dark and sad song to be the 3rd track '6 Days On The Bottom Of The Ocean'. If you listen to it it does really gives an impression you are deep down at the bottom of the sea where there is no light and everything is deep blue and cold. "The actual inspiration for the song came from a real story of Russian sailors who were trapped on a submarine Kursk 2 years ago" reveals Chris . "We watched it on the news and all 4 of us become obsessed with that and what was going on on the bottom of the ocean. We decided to put it into music. I look at that song and think it’s the darkest dark song on the album. It’s kind of frightening and scary and lonely." If you listen closely and carefully to the first track '1st Breath After Coma' you might be able to hear very quiet drum beat that reminds youi of a heart beat. "Yeah," confirms Chris, "we just kind of imagined the scenario of a guy waking up after being in a coma. It doesn’t have to be coma, just someone waking up from the kind of state when they haven’t been taking attention and starting to see things again. The drums were supposed be like a heart beat. You can hear them a couple of times on the album and even at the end when it comes back and then it fades again." The title of the 2nd track 'Memorial' might make you think that it was based on the events of the 11th September but as Chris revealed earlier it was actually written before then. "Yeah, when ever we have been asked about 'Memorial' people think it has something to do with the 11th September but it doesn’t have anything to do with it. I came up with the title but it just somehow seemed to make sense with no real reason. It just sounded like that. But I understand why people think that." Although 'The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place' is only just out, the band are already working on new songs. "We are trying to write new songs but are not coming up with anything that we all like and it’s frustrating "admits Chris. "But I think, at the end, it’s better to have something that we all agree on and are happy with it." To promote the new album's release Explosions In The Sky are planning onto coming over the Britain for a tour. They have actually been over in the UK and Europe before in September in 2002. "We had an amazing time" Chris reflects. "It was strange that people knew about us over there. We played small places but they were all really busy." Explosions pan to come over early next year. "We are going to try to get to Britain as soon as possible because we are touring in Japan in November. Then when we come home we are are going to tour US and Canada and then in February, hopefully, we are going to go to Europe or sometimes soon after that." It seems Explosions In The Sky have already earned a lot of fans across US but also in Europe. They have already proved very successful, playing lots of festivals and touring abroad and collaborating with 2 record labels. Is there anything that they would like to add to that? "I guess not." Chris says modestly. "We are just all really amazed that anything at all is happening in our lives. And we are excited about it all and thankful for it. And hopefully we will be around for a while before we get sick of each other" he says and laughs. Perhaps they are right and the earth is not a cold dead place. And it's not only dark and lonely. It always takes a bit of effort t be able to see that but it's also always worth it.

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Explosions In The Sky - Interview

Explosions In The Sky - Interview

Explosions In The Sky - Interview

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