Explosions in the Sky aims at sonic catharsis
Talk about much ado about nothing. The Texas-based instrumental-rock band Explosions in the Sky was booked into the Egyptian Theater in Boise, Idaho, on September 11. Big deal, right? Well, a writer for the NBC New York website seemed to think that a photo of the Egyptian’s marquee, touting Explosions in the Sky on 9/11, was worth posting, along with an article about the “poorly timed concert”, which happens to fall on the 10th anniversary of the worst-ever terrorist attack on American soil. The NBC story then got picked up by a number of other blogs, creating a minor shit storm.
“It’s silly,” guitarist Munaf Rayani says when the Straight reaches him at home in Austin. “It’s such a nonissue, and people are so eager to make something out of nothing because we as a society are exhilarated by quote-unquote controversy. I mean, we want to see the bad. We want to see the trouble—even if there’s no trouble to be seen.”
Manufactured controversies aside, Rayani and his band (whose name, incidentally, refers to fireworks and not munitions) couldn’t be more delighted with where they find themselves at the moment. The quartet’s latest album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, came out in May to glowing reviews, and hit a career-high number 16 on the Billboard 200—not to mention number four on that same publication’s rock-albums list, and number three on its independent- and alternative-album charts.
That alone would be worth celebrating, but a few weeks back Explosions in the Sky had the honour of performing its song “Postcard From 1952” on the Late Show With David Letterman. Rayani says it was a thrilling experience, even if the time constraints of network television meant the band had to condense the seven-minutes-plus song. “We just did a three-and-a-half-minute excerpt from it,” the guitarist says. “And I think we did right by it. It was an interesting edit. I think we got in all the parts that we were hoping to get in, in kind of a synopsis, versus the full story. I hope we got the point across, and that that three-and-a-half-minute performance hopefully piqued the interest of a whole new group of people that were unfamiliar with us.”
Explosions in the Sky already has plenty of music fans onboard. Movie and TV fans too, for that matter: the band composed the score for the 2004 film Friday Night Lights, and has had its songs featured in movies by directors such as Michael Moore and Gregg Araki. The cinematic appeal of the band’s sound is easy to hear. With its intertwining guitar melodies creating a wordless narrative through arrangements that often build to epic, almost Wagnerian climaxes, Explosions in the Sky makes music that lifts the listener from existential despair to unfettered bliss, often within the space of a few bars. With material this transcendent, words seem unnecessary.
Rayani agrees: “Those are our intentions: catharsis, to invoke something really emotional in one in that time that they listen to a track, or listen to a whole album, or come to watch us at a show. It’s ‘Let’s get lost. Let’s all forget about what’s outside of these doors, and let’s forget about what’s outside of this sound, and kind of exist in this, if only for a fleeting moment.’ And, yeah, just feel.”
Explosions in the Sky plays the Vogue Theatre on Friday (September 9).