MusicMusic Features

Explosions in the Sky

Here’s the career path of a successful DIY rock band, in theory. You put a “musicians wanted†flyer at your local record store; three like-minded folks respond; you play some local gigs; you submit a demo to a record label; you get signed; you open for Fugazi; and, four records later, you’re playing sold-out shows across the globe.

As unlikely a scenario as this may be for most bands, Austin-based post-rock outfit Explosions in the Sky is living the dream. “It’s incredible,†laughs guitarist Michael James. “Looking back at the times when we played for 50 people and made $200, [each night was] the greatest night of our lives. And now—thinking that we’ve played Radio City Music Hall—the disparity there seems so huge, but it happened at such a slow and organic pace that I honestly almost didn’t notice it happening.â€

Even with a four-year gap between studio releases—a gap that ended in 2011 with Take Care, Take Care, Take Care—the group’s cultural presence remained.

“I think there was some worry that maybe people wouldn’t be quite as excited about a new record and that we might just have to live with that,†James says of heading into the studio post-hiatus. “It’s the sort of thing where we could definitely [have over-thought] it, wondering if it was similar enough to our other music, or different enough from our other music, or worrying about whether people would like it. You can’t worry about all that stuff, or else you end up making music that’s not genuine.â€

Take Care was a long time in the making. The 14 days of recording, while only a blip on the radar for some bands, comprised the most time the group had ever spent in the studio.

“When we go into the studio, the songs are basically 100 percent written, so at that point, it’s just about how it’s going to sound,†says James. “We spent days working just on things like guitar sounds, seeing if an amp sounds better in a corner than it does in the bathroom… When you have that kind of time, you can spend [it] making the songs sound as good as they do in your head.â€

Of course, those songs must also sound good in the environment where EITS has truly made its name throughout its 10-year run: the stage. In the past, the band has been careful to construct its albums only as it plays live, foregoing any recorded elements bandmembers could not reproduce in person. But for Take Care, James says, “there was a little more constructing of the songs with pre-production and other stuff. We still want to be able to play most of it verbatim, but some of this new stuff we literally couldn’t…

“There are bands,†he continues, “that when they play a live show, I think, ‘I’d rather be at home listening to the CD.’ And then there are bands that give you an experience that can never be matched in any other way… A live performance by impassioned musicians—there’s nothing quite like it.â€


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