Explosions in the Sky craft concise, cathartic ‘mini-symphonies’ on latest, The Wilderness
Mishawaka Amphitheatre September 29
By Michael Chary
Photo by Elliot Siff
Whether deep in existential contemplation on a road trip or dancing wildly at a concert in unrestrained bliss, it is instinctual to associate experiences with a score that perfectly fits that moment. Explosions in the Sky has mastered the art of creating this type of music, which they refer to as “cathartic mini-symphonies” and “sad, triumphant rock.” And the Texas-based post rocker’s latest album provides an ethereal soundscape composition tailor-made to fit listener’s ever-changing and unfolding stories.
True to their name, Explosions in the Sky’s music is synesthetic, evoking a visual journey for the listener, so it’s no surprise that the band is often contracted to score films and TV shows. But for their fans, a visual reference isn’t necessary. Their musical aesthetic is all that’s needed to flip on that internal projector. And the band’s latest album, The Wilderness, should appease fans who have waited for the last five years for an album that wasn’t scored specifically for a film.
For, The Wilderness, Explosions decided to stray slightly from their usual m.o. of an album replete with eight to ten-minute long tracks. But the band contends that it’s more of a pruning down to a condensed and coherent brand of their productions.
“I think we’ve just played together for so long that we’ve gotten better at being a little more concise with things,” drummer, Chris Hrasky, told The Marquee in a recent interview. “We’re trying to write shorter songs that can feel epic and have those movements but is done in four-and-a-half minutes as opposed to 11. You know that’s something that we were excited about and wanted to try, and I feel like we sort of succeeded. And it also might just be that, like everyone else in the world these days, our attention spans are plummeting. You can’t listen to a song for ten minutes!”
The band also decided to incorporate some subtle electronic elements into their process, though they were admittedly hesitant. “Yeah, it’s still essentially guitars and drums on that record and there’s some synth stuff too, but it was more that we took sort of normal, old guitars and drums, and we always use a lot of effects, but we really made an effort to use effects in a way that makes a guitar not sound like a guitar at all,” Hrasky said. “But, this was the first record where we went in and it was like, ‘Oh no, we can’t play any of these songs live, there are 50 different things happening.’”
Hrasky says that since they’ve been touring with the latest album over the past year, the band has worked out the kinks and cultivated a new live experience. They’ve incorporated a new light rig for their tour, providing a novel visual accompaniment to their sound. Also attached to the latest album is an online collection of images, enhanced with progressively introduced abstract elements.
After scoring so many films the band obviously has some of their own collective visual concepts for their non-soundtrack album, but Hrasky explained that it’s quite vague and it adapts and flows as they all musically find the same page.
“It’s never anything specific. It’s kind of very broad and general,” Hrasky said. “For the last record, we just kept imagining weird interplanetary space images. I think in our old days we would maybe get a little more specific as a way for us to organize things in our head and focus. Because it gets hard for us to focus, to get four guys to agree on the same thing, it takes time, and so, whatever we can do to make it easier we try to do.”
However, Hrasky said that films have undoubtedly played a role in the band’s artistic process. Early in their career, nearly two decades ago now, Hrasky said the band was obsessed with Terrence Malick movies, specifically, The Thin Red Line. Their album at the time, Those Who Tell the Truth was thought to have a warlike theme to it, even drawing the attention of some conspiracy theorists. The album’s cover, featuring a plane shining its light on an angelic figure above the heads of soldiers, contained the caption, This Plane Will Crash Tomorrow. Conspiracies manifested that the album was released the day before 9/11, though in reality it was released a week before on Sept. 4, 2001 — the concept, however, had been hashed out a year earlier. The band has laughed-off the conspiracy of a connection and taken it with a grain of salt, explaining that the cover represents the legend of the Angel of Mons.
“It was our second record which came out actually before the U.S. embarked upon this endless war, so it wasn’t for that. But I know there were some weird marshaled drum patterns,” Hrasky said. “We sampled The Thin Red Line on that record. Now that I think about it maybe that’s why that record is so war themed.”
But for the latest album, as Hrasky mentioned, cosmic themes prevailed, and that’s attributed in part to the band’s love for Stanley Kubrick. “For this record, a lot of the visual things in our mind were directly cribbed from 2001: (A Space Odyssey),” Hrasky said. “We were trying to get a certain feeling at the end of this song that’s like the dissonant chaos that’s overwhelming, where it almost feels like you’re losing your mind. And we tried to capture the scene near the end when all of the crazy lights are flying past his eyes.”
Mishawaka Amphitheatre September 29
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