Explosions In The Sky: Welcome, Ghosts
By: Dennis Cook
“We think of things more emotionally than spiritually, even though there’s a lot of overlap between the two,” says drummer Christopher Hrasky. “It has to move us in some way. It has to be something that strikes a chord with all four of us. Most of the stuff we write gets thrown away, which is why it takes us four years to make an album [laughs]. It has to hit us on a gut level.”
Through four brilliant studio albums, soundtrack work and constant touring, Explosions have carved out a career that makes zero artistic compromises. Their sound is the same revelation Tortoise was a decade earlier. EITS is the evolutionary step between that Chicago institution and celebrated wordless contemporaries like Fridge and fellow Temporary Residence label mates Maserati. Built on Hrasky’s massively powerful yet deeply nuanced drums and the frictionless, compelling elasticity of bassist Michael James – two masters of smartly restrained playing – it is the ridiculously lyrical guitars of Mark Smith and Munaf Rayani that first draw you in. The pair reminds one of Bill Frisell, Tortoise’s Jeff Parker and Norway’s indefinable Terje Rypdal all rolled into one thick package. Together, the four men collectively compose miniature tone-movies with titles like “Six Days At The Bottom of the Ocean” and “What Do You Go Home To?”
Their latest album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (released 2.20.07 on Temporary Residence), has a slightly different vibe than earlier releases, something less elusive with increased power chord oomph.
“There’s definitely some Pete Townsend windmill action happening,” Hrasky says. “We wanted this record to be a bit more ragged sounding as opposed, particularly, to the last record [2003’s jaw-droppingly beautiful The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place]. My mom listens to the last record a lot but I don’t know if she’ll listen to this new one as much! Also, recording-wise, it sounds much more like we do live. Nothing is too planned out when we write music. We wanted to make something a little more rock, a little less ornate. At the same time, I don’t think the record sounds like AC/DC [laughs]!”
EITS have their own aesthetic, and one can’t escape the feeling they’re entering someone else’s world when the notes wrap around you.
The evocative song titles expand on the meaning and mood of each piece, creating a set of ideas that play off each other. “The same goes for the artwork on our records,” Hrasky adds. “We get as nervous about finishing the artwork and song titles properly as we do about the music. It’s as important to us as the songs a lot of the time, which is strange in this day and age where less and less people are holding physical copies of albums.”
Friday Night Lights is about the small, rural, football-obsessed fictional town of Dillon, Texas. A lot of the storytelling is greatly underscored by EITS’ naturally cinematic work.
“It is a strange thing to have these pieces of music suddenly making us money. We’re really happy about it but it’s still strange,” he says. “There is this weird guilt we feel for some reason. In the last three years, this has become what we do for a living, which is a pretty unlikely thing to happen. We feel really lucky but it’s something we’ve had to come to terms with.”
“It’s funny because we haven’t really been getting more soundtrack offers. It just hasn’t happened. I worry that it’s such a specific sound that maybe people only associate us with the football movie,” Hrasky continues. “I’ve found the TV show to be stronger than the movie. It’s more fleshed out. There’s a lot of stuff the book gets into like the economics of the town that the film couldn’t get into. Surprisingly, it’s a pretty interesting show where there’s actually not a lot of football. It’s good so it’ll probably get cancelled after one season [laughs]. NBC loves it and is pushing but it just can’t beat those Dancing With The Stars ratings.”
The network has signed the series to a second season but its fate remains far from certain. I suggest they perform at a high school dance on the show while they’ve still got the chance. “We could be the guys the jocks are beating up,” chimes Hrasky.
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