Interview - Munaf Rayani of Explosions in the Sky
Guitarist talks about band's last few years and where they're going next
If you’re wondering what intervened and caused the long gap before Explosions in the Sky issued a follow-up to their remarkable 2007 album All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, life is the short answer.
The Texan instrumental post-rock quartet’s fifth studio set proper Take Care, Take Care, Take Care arrived this April following a three-year interim during which the band’s attentions were diverted by weddings, births and illnesses – ‘lots of family stuff,’ as guitarist Munaf Rayani puts it. ‘But we are one big family,’ he adds, with all the gently karmic fuzziness you’d expect from a man whose band at times seem to be trying to achieve the sonic equivalent of giving the universe a giant reassuring hug. ‘Something that is happening to one is happening to us all. Mark (Smith, guitar) had a couple of kids and Chris (Hrasky, drums) got married, really beautiful things like that.’
The four members – who met 11 years ago through an ad in an Austin record store reading ‘Wanted: Sad triumphant rock band’ – have hardly been out of each others’ pockets. ‘We do everything together,’ says Rayani. ‘Have dinner, go to movies, meet up and tell jokes, just hang out. But all the while we were working on music.’
Fifty initial demos were slowly whittled down and slotted together to form the six tracks of Take Care…. There’s been little major shift in the signature EITS sound – slow, chiming build-ups, skyscraping peaks, plummeting crashes and guitar lines that seem to sing like voices. But there are subtle new modes and nuances to be enjoyed, in Hrasky’s even more powerful drumming and the denser patterns of the band’s trademark three-guitar weaves. ‘We did our best to push the envelope a little bit,’ says Rayani, ‘to kind of evolve this sound and allow the years that we’ve put on in life to show in the music. If you heard it in a coffee shop or a restaurant or wherever, you might think, “Wait a minute, is that Explosions?” It sounds so much like us, but you’re not certain that it is us.’
EITS recently performed their biggest headline show to date at New York’s 6000-capacity Radio City Music Hall. The band’s popularity has been steadily swelled by their music’s obvious cinematic quality, which has seen it used in multiple adverts, trailers, TV shows and movies; most prominently in the 2004 high school football drama Friday Night Lights, for which they composed an original soundtrack.
‘There’s a handful of amazing filmmakers we daydream about working with all the time – Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, David Gordon Green,’ says Rayani. ‘What we’re looking to be a part of is movies from the heart,’ he adds, ‘not some stupid romantic comedy or some dumb cellphone commercial.’
When it comes to fielding licensing requests, Rayani admits that they can’t ignore the right soundtrack placement’s value in helping them ‘infiltrate the collective consciousness,’ as he puts it. But there are no easy sells in the band’s staunchly democratic set-up. ‘All four of us have to be into something,’ he states, earnestly. ‘Even if we were offered a million dollars and one of us said, “Guys, I don’t feel comfortable about this,” well – then that million dollars is out the window.’
Explosions in the Sky play the HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, Sun 15 May, supported by Lichens.