Explosions in the Sky burst with sad, triumphant post-rock sound
:: Explosions In The Sky ::
By Brian F. Johnson
More than 11 years ago, drummer Chris Hrasky did something that he still can’t believe. He sat in his apartment one morning and cranked out a flyer adorned with pictures of mountains and tornadoes that simply said, “Wanted: Sad, triumphant rock band.” Though he was questioning himself even as he did it, saying to himself, “I’m not the kind of guy that hangs things in record stores with the purpose of meeting complete strangers,” Hrasky followed through on his mission.
“It’s just weird to me, how one little decision one morning has dictated the last decade of my life. There was a good chance that I wouldn’t complete the flyer, like if something had come on TV I would have probably been like, ‘Oh well, fuck this,’” Hrasky said in a recent interview with The Marquee.
Ironically, three other guys who have likewise admitted that they aren’t the types to call random strangers from a flyer, did just that and the Austin, Texas-based instrumental post-rock group Explosions In The Sky was born.
The band — which, by the way, hates the term post-punk and prefers the “sad, triumphant rock” label that Hrasky created — just this spring, released their sixth studio album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care to rave reviews and saw the disc debut at number 16 on the Billboard Top 200 charts. “I don’t think we thought it was going to do that well in its first week,” Hrasky said. “I think it was a pretty big shock to us.”
But when one considers the effort put into the album, a debut week on the charts like that is almost the least to be expected. In between Take Care, Take Care, Take Care and 2007’s All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone, the band covered some serious ground. There was obviously the world tour that took them countless miles, but according to a press release the band issued with Take Care, it took them this long to get here because they’ve had a lot on their plate: “One of us got married. One of us had two kids. One of us had panic attacks. One of us took classical guitar lessons. One of us restored a piano from 1888. One of us had a serious illness in the family (and a recovery). And one of us attempted but did not complete the P90X [workout]program. One of us was obsessed with this new album having 17 shorter songs. One was obsessed with the album sounding like a dream. Two of us can’t get to sleep most nights. Two of us wake up early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep. No joke. It’s a challenge schedule-wise.”
Through all of that, though, the band somehow managed to crank out more than 50 demos in the studio over the course of two years. Hrasky was quick to point out it definitely wasn’t 50 finished songs. “They weren’t 50 typical 10-minute Explosions songs. Some of them were like a minute-and-a-half and some were four minutes. They were mostly kind of snippets and ideas and most of them got thrown in the garbage. We throw away far more music than we ever actually end up recording,” he said.
But enough material was spared from the trash that when the band did reach Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas they were ready to roll. “We’ve never been a band that goes into the studio with half-written songs. When we go in everything is already written. We allow for accidents and things like that, but we generally try to be as well prepared as we can,” Hrasky said.
While past albums have been recorded “live,” Hrasky said that Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, was definitely much more of studio record. “It was piece by piece and we really wanted it to have a very different feel than what we’ve had before,” Hrasky said.
The newest album is, in fact, different than previous efforts by the band, but Hrasky said that no matter how different their sound is, the band still sometimes gets criticism for sounding the same. “I don’t think this record is a hugely radical departure, but I do think it’s pretty different from the other ones,” said Hrasky. “But sometimes, as an instrumental band, no matter how much we change things up there are still going to be people who are like, ‘Oh yeah, there are guitars in it and drums, and it’s just like everything else they’ve done.’ To me, that’s not fair, because the history of music has mostly not been vocal-based. It’d be like saying, ‘Oh that new Shins song? He’s singing in it again. It sounds just like The Shins.’”
The sound that Explosions In The Sky manages to make with four musicians is truly un-real. It sounds orchestral, like the product of a dozen, if not dozens of instruments, not the product of three guitars and a drum kit. Hrasky said that on this album they did add some pianos and some samples but, all in all, they stuck to their core make-up, and that instrumentation, he said, is liberating, as is having a band that isn’t focused on its lyrics.
“Our songs change all the time based on our feelings and our moods,” he said. “Whether it comes across to the audience or not is beyond me, but you know there are nights when I feel like certain songs are triumphant and other nights when the same song sounds like I’m grabbing some guy and punching him in the face — and I can feel it in my playing — like, I’m banging the hell out of my kit. But that’s what we hope for; that people can interpret these songs however they want and they can become whatever they want them to be,” Hrasky said.
The flipside to that, however, is people imposing feelings on a song, or thought, or even an album title and reading messages that may not even be there in the first place. The last Explosions In The Sky album, All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone, ended with the song “So Long, Lonesome,” which spurred some to believe (and, of course, share on the internet) that it was a secret message that was subtly announcing a parting of ways for the band. With this album being titled Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, some have further assumed that the band is preparing to wrap things up. Hrasky said that’s not that case, however he was very realistic — probably more so than most musicians — to add, “All of the records could potentially be the last record. It just comes down to when we get back together to write. If we don’t come up with something that we think is worthy, then at some point we’ll be like, ‘Well, we tried our best and we had a good run. Let’s go watch basketball or something.’”
And that, Hrasky said, could be the great motivator. “God, I don’t know what else I’d do. I haven’t had a real job in like eight years. That whole creative part of my life would come to a screeching halt and I’d have to find some way to re-enter the workforce… No. We’ll make another record work. We’ll motivate ourselves by fear,” he said.
:: Explosions In The Sky ::
:: Fillmore Auditorium :: September 13 ::
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