A Happy Accident
Explosions in the Sky: four humble guys who will light up the night
By Andrea Warner
It took Explosions in the Sky nine years to make it to Charleston. They're astonished they've made it this far. This week's show is only one of several exciting "firsts" on a long list of springtime events that will sweep the Austin-based band up — including a trip across the Atlantic for a lengthy European tour and an opportunity to curate U.K. music festival All Tomorrow's Parties.
Checking in from a pit stop on the band's current American tour, drummer Chris Hrasky still can't quite believe the casual jam band he helped start almost a decade ago has morphed into an international indie phenomenon — and all without lyrics or a singer.
In a time filled with American Idol-style crooners ruling the charts, Explosions in the Sky opts for an instrumental approach. They specialize in intense live shows, creating waves of sound that crash in and then quietly recede.
Throughout the 15-minute conversation, Hrasky uses the words "strange" and "weird" every 30 seconds. His humble befuddlement at Explosions' success is endearing and refreshing. When asked if he had any idea that the band would go as far as they have, his reply is quick and resolute.
"No, God no," he laughs. "We just sort of started it as something to do after work, just the four of us playing music. We had no real ambition to go on tour or put out records or anything. It's still a surprise nine years later that this is basically our career, I guess. It's a strange way to make a living."
Success and all of its trappings have sidelined plenty of promising bands, but Explosions seem almost devoid of the types of ego that have toppled other greats. A deep camaraderie keeps the guys grounded, preventing any Metallica-sized clashes.
"One of the reasons we've been able to play so long together is we're best friends basically," Hrasky says."It's weird with a lot of bands, they record and then tour together, and then, when they're not doing that stuff, they never even see each other. It's just a crazy way to think of a band. I don't think any of us would even want to be in a band like that."
With four studio albums to their credit, Explosions has continued to perfect their songcrafting skills, while focusing primarily on guitars and drums when playing live. Their new six-song collection titled All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (Temporary Residence) was recorded by John Congleton (The Roots, The Mountain Goats). Mark Smith, Munaf Rayani, and Michael James (who also plays bass) comprise the rest of the lineup. While Hrasky denies developing a "sound" narrative, he admits hours are spent attempting to create the perfect mood for a song or a part.
"Being instrumental music, people just kind of adopt the songs themselves, you know?" he says. "Personalize it to their own lives, their own ideas, their own stories or whatever they can put along to the music. That's kind of our goal. To make music that engages people or moves people in some way."
As Explosions continued to build their reputation for being a killer live band, they noticed their fan base broaden from "dudes in their 20s" to include "13-year-old emo kids to 50-year-old Pink Floyd fans." The band is thrilled by the diversity and happy that the music they like to write is connecting with a gamut of people.
"It's just very strange," Hrasky says. "It's something I don't think any of us will ever get used to. Playing a show and there's 1,000 people there, in some town where you don't know anybody. It's very surreal. I kind of hope we don't ever get used to it."