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Explosions In The Sky

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Mark Smith, am: 16.05.2011 ]

Das Spiel zwischen laut und leise wurde schon genauso oft totgesagt wie das Genre, das man meist mit diesen dynamischen Kontrasten in Verbindung bringt: Post-Rock. Da erscheint es nur konsequent, dass sich die Texaner von Explosions in the Sky von dieser Strategie auf ihrem neuen Album losgesagt haben. „Take Care“ besticht durch ein dichteres und abwechslungsreicheres Songwriting als auf den schon hervorragenden Vorgängern. Herausgekommen ist dabei eines der besten instrumentalen Rockalben in einer erschreckend langen Zeit. Wir sprachen mit Mark Smith über Gesang, Familie und Arvo Pärt.


Musicscan: Was the band always planned as a purely instrumental outfit or did you experiment with vocals in the beginning as well?

Explosions In The Sky: The experiment with vocals was so brief it is hardly even worth mentioning, but yes, for a day or two there was talk of vocals and mapping out vocal melodies and writing out obscure lyrics. All was quickly abandoned. By the time we started playing together, bands like Mogwai, Godspeed and Dirty Three had already kind of normalized noisy instrumental music, so it didn't seem so weird to not have a singer. It felt natural, and since none of us could sing or wanted to sing, that's what we did and I'm glad we did.

Musicscan: The songwriting process for this album seems to have taken over three years and has produced numerous demos. What makes you decide that a song is right for the album?

Explosions In The Sky: It's never really been that hard to choose. I remember for our first album, "How Strange Innocence," we had extra songs in the studio--we wrote and recorded 9 songs, and chose from those to make a 7-song album. For every album after that, though, we have just written exactly what goes on the album and then recorded it. Usually if a song is not going to make it, it gets shot down before it gets totally finished. We don't really go through any list of criteria -either a song totally works for us or it doesn't. But if I had to describe it, a song would have to be emotional and imagistic and offer something that our other songs don't, whether a new sound or structure or killer melody or something special. Personally, I very much trust instincts and first impressions. If a song or even just a part hits us in the gut, then it's certainly worth exploring. And if it can do that repeatedly, then it's probably going on an album.

Musicscan: The songs on “Take Care” seem a little bit more subdued than your previous efforts in that the loud/quiet dynamic is not so central anymore. Would you agree with that?

Explosions In The Sky: Subdued….hmmm. I thought about this one for a long time. I suppose technically this album "rocks" maybe less than some of the earlier albums, in that there are fewer full-on loud assaults. But I don't really find it subdued, to be honest. I feel like there's sort of a maelstrom of swirling tones. I think there's more of a sense of life and heart-on-the-sleeve ebullience than other albums, even if it's not all loud. So I don't think I would call it subdued. The loud/quiet dynamic is just not sustainable, so you try to make an impact in other ways.

Musicscan: What are you looking for in a song? Is there something like perfect song?

Explosions In The Sky: I was going to say no I don't think there's a perfect song, but I guess I do actually think there are perfect songs. "Fratres" by Arvo Pärt, the "Twin Peaks" theme, Radiohead's "Everything in Its Right Place". Well, Radiohead probably has multiple perfect songs. I'm sure I could think of more. I guess it's when the artists is able to purely convey something true about the human condition, and do it in a way that is absolutely personal and could only come from that particular artist - no one else could make that song. So that's what we're looking for, and is the reason why we keep writing music.

Musicscan: Instrumental music has repeatedly been described as cinematic and evoking certain images or landscapes. Why do you think that is? Do you think the music itself suggests a correspondence between music and certain topographies or is this only constituted through narratives about music?


Explosions In The Sky: I don't think it comes from journalism. I think people would see this connection between instrumental music and images without it being described in writing. And while I find it interesting what you say about the arc of some songs mimicking certain topographies, I think that might just be a cool coincidence. I think it just comes from the genius who first put music over cinematic images. It just works, in a way that's sort of like magic. I remember I made a video of my daughter's first year, just compiling random bits of video we had taken. And it was all right, but once I started putting music over the images, it just came alive. Music and perhaps especially instrumental music has the quality of alchemy, of being able to turn life's experiences into a grander, more meaningful experience. 

Musicscan: What is your most favorite and least favorite aspect about touring?

Explosions In The Sky: My least favorite part of it has only recently started. I have two kids: one is two years old and one is 5 months old, and when we went on this most recent tour - the first tour for this new album - it just killed me to be away from them. Especially because I had previously been with them for pretty much every single day of their lives. You just don't want to miss any part of their growing up. The best part is just being with your best friends, playing music you love to people who seem to be really affected by it. I don't ever want to take it for granted. And it's also incredible to be able to see so many places around the world and eat lots of good food. And drink lots of coffee and read books and just float on.

Musicscan: Is it necessary to create a certain distance between you and the music in order to get a better understanding of its inherent quality?

Explosions In The Sky: I'm not sure if you mean for me to be able to evaluate the music, or for others to be able to evaluate the music. For me, I'm not sure how to achieve the distance between me and the music. By not listening to it? I think I have a pretty clear sense of how I view our music, and that's even after months of obsessive listening to the record. It's kind of funny, after we recorded the album, I wasn't sure if I would want to listen to it much. That kind of happened after the previous two records. After we recorded them, I just wanted to move on. But with this album, I listened to it the day after we recorded it. Then the next day. The the next. And so on. All up until the day the record leaked on the internet. Now I haven't listened to it since then. I guess it was just fun imagining what people would think when they listened to it.

Musicscan: What do you hope people to take away from an Explosions in the Sky show?

Explosions In The Sky: I hope this doesn't come across as arrogant, but I love it best when people seem to be on top of the world after our show, but also kind of dazed. Like they come up to us eyes wide and beaming and sort of not knowing what to say, so they just say "Thank you" and then we say "Thank you" and then they go on into the night. That works for me. 

Musicscan: What impact did John Congleton have on the record and what is it like working with him?

Explosions In The Sky: John is awesome, and I just have a hard time seeing us work with anybody else. He has a bizarre sense of humor. And he is a great storyteller. So he's fun just to be around. But not only that, he is a seriously hard worker and has great ideas and is always focused on helping us make the best album we can make. For this record, I think his mindset was to help us accentuate what we were doing differently this time, using different instruments, hand percussion, samples, that sort of thing.

Musicscan: What are some of your current favorite records, books, and movies?

Explosions In The Sky: Books I have recently read and loved: "Stoner" by John Williams, "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen, "Moonwalking with Einstein" by Joshua Foer, "The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac" by Free Darko, "Manhood for Amateurs" by Michael Chabon.
Some current favorite records: "Gemini" by Wild Nothing, "Street Halo" by Burial, "Fading Parade" by Papercuts, "Clinging to a Scheme" by Radio Dept., "Halcyon Digest" by Deerhunter.
Some movies I saw recently and loved: "A Prophet", "Never Let Me Go", "Enter the Void", "I Am Love", "The Social Network".

Musicscan: What can we expect from you in the near future?

Explosions In The Sky: In the near future, a whole lot of touring. Over the next two years, we plan to basically go to as many places as will have us, including, we hope, some places we've never been, like South America, India, maybe South Africa. Also I think we're going to have a few music videos for a few of the songs on the record, which we've never done before.

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