Infusing moody instrumental post-rock with positivity
Explosions in the Sky: Part One
[Part 1 of 2]
As legend has it, Christopher Hrasky, Michael James, Munaf Rayani and Mark Smith decided to call their band Explosions in the Sky while watching a Fourth of July fireworks display. The Texas band's subsequent ascension seemed to come along just as organically. It was the reputation of their live performances that helped land the band its "Next Big Thing" sticker and their sought-after demo that helped the members ink a deal with Temporary Residence.
But that they're being called the successors of Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor doesn't seem to have cased too much pressure: Their six-song debut EP, 2001's Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, and 2003's five-song follow-up, Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, were universally acclaimed. We caught up with the band while they were on tour with Adem and talked about how they got started, airport security and Taco Bell.
Prefix Magazine: What are your names and which instruments you play?
Explosions in the Sky: CH: My name is Chris. I play the drums. MJ: My name is Michael. I play guitar and bass. PM: One thing that I've noticed is that most of the stories and interviews about the band include this sort of "nice guy" label. Have you guys noticed that?
Explosions in the Sky: CH: I didn't know. MJ: I don't think it's bad; we just try to be good people. Our moms raised us right, and that's about it. CH: I guess it's nice. MJ: It's a compliment. PM: What about the expression "Nice guys finish last"?
Explosions in the Sky: MJ: It's so true. CH: Really true. PM: Whenever I hear that expression, I think about how it relates to girls and relationships.
Explosions in the Sky: CH: Well, we all have girlfriends, so maybe we're not such nice guys after all. MH: We're not as nice as people think. PM: How did you guys first come together?
Explosions in the Sky: MJ: Mark (Smith) and Munaf (Rayani) and myself had known each other in the small town of Midland, Texas. We just kind of met 'cause Midland's a small town, and we all started playing music together. Then we all moved to Austin at different times. Chris had moved down to Austin for film school -- CH: -- graduate school -- MJ: -- at the University of Texas, and he just wanted to get in a band. We put up a flyer in a store for a drummer and just got together and started playing. We started becoming really good friends quickly and really enjoyed playing music together. PM: How do you think being in Austin influenced you guys, if at all?
Explosions in the Sky: CH: Well, your environment always influences you. There are definitely bands in Texas we like that we share similarities with. I think wherever you are is going to determine who you are. PM: When you guys first started out did you guys say, "We're going to be an instrumental band"? Was that set from the start?
Explosions in the Sky: CH: Yeah. MJ: Yeah. CH: I don't really remember talking about it. I don't know. But at the time we were all really into Mogwai, and we were all really taken by what they had done. PM: Have you guys ever considered adding vocals?
Explosions in the Sky: CH: Not for this. MJ: Maybe someday, when we run out of ideas. PM: I read in another publication, I believe it was Logo Magazine, where you guys basically got up one day and said, "This is it. We're going to give one hundred percent and devote our energy to our band." What gave you guys such confidence?
Explosions in the Sky: CH: I don't know if we were so confident. I guess that decision -- as much as it sounds like it was one day we decided -- it really wasn't that quick. We were putting a record out and starting to tour. And then before we knew it, this was what we were doing all the time, and if we wanted to do this, we were going to have to work really hard at this. MH: I think there was nothing else we wanted to work so hard at. Or nothing else that I personally could work hard at. So, there wasn't a really a time. But it was like, "So we've been on tour for three months, I'm homeless, I don't have any money. I've spent all my time and energy in this band."