It’s a balmy Friday afternoon at the Hotel Me in Barcelona. I’m scrambling around the hotel lobby trying to find the band I’m about to interview, but as dumb as it sounds, I’ve no idea what any of them look like. Across from me, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are ordering lunch, and Bradford Cox has just popped out of the lift. Outside, I see four guys that look a little scruffier than the rest of the rock stars strutting around. Finally, Chris Hrasky (the drummer), greets me and we pop downstairs, where there is considerable less mayhem.
Explosions in the Sky have been churning out their melodic, cinematic, post rock anthems for over a decade now, but it was really in 2003, with the release of The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, and particularly the epic tune ‘First Breath After a Coma’, that they cemented their names on the international stage.
The band has released six albums to date, and the latest album they are touring is Take Care, Take Care, Take Care which was released in April.
Are you happy with the new record Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, and do you feel like it’s a progression from your other work?
The last record, in hindsight now, we still like it, but we didn’t really push ourselves in any sort of way, when we listen to it now, it sort of sounds like a side step, like a lateral move. The way we wrote and recorded it was totally different. Our first four records was just basically us playing live in a room, with a few overdubs. With this new record, everything was pretty much built piece by piece. There is a lot more sounds going on, so I guess we just wanted to push ourselves in that way. Once the record was complete we started thinking okay, how are we going to do this live.
You’ve sampled vocals for the first time on this record. Why did you decide to bring in the voice to your music for the first time?
Well we used some really distorted vocals on the last record, but they are so tiny that you can’t even discern them as vocals, so this is the first time we’ve used vocals properly I guess. It definitely wasn’t this thing, like, let’s put vocals on this record or anything, it just made sense to put another instrument or sound in. Maybe on the next record there will be tons of vocals, and maybe there will be none at all, I don’t know. They just worked for these particular songs.
When you started off, did you make a conscious decision not to use any vocals?
There were a number of reasons we chose not to use vocals from the start. We didn’t want to have a band where there was one guy running the show, and then a back up band behind him, it was pretty much about a collaboration. Michael, is actually a pretty amazing vocalist, none of the rest of us are at all. When we formed the band we were super into Mogwai and Dirty Three, and that showed us that we could make this evocative music without singing, it kind of accomplishes the same stuff that pop music can do, without having to have a singer.
In the absence of lyrics where does the influence come from then to write the songs?
We pull influences from everywhere: our daily lives, the books we read, the films we watch etc, but ultimately when we are writing it really comes down to, what do you want to feel in this song? In this part do we want to be frightened? Does that seem like it makes sense after what just came before? So it’s really just this process of trying to figure out – as goofy as it sounds – what the emotional core of the song is.