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An Infinite Interlude

By Sarah McCartan

Austin-based instrumentalists, Explosions in the Sky, are perhaps best known for an expansive sound that slowly builds and ignites into something that most closely mimics, well, an explosion. This electrifying post-rock arrangement of drums and guitars not only demands attention, but also consistently ignites emotion. Over a decade into their musical career and after a multi-year timeout, the group is once again actively adding new pieces to a delicately crafted, infinite interlude.

Explosions in the Sky has been touring nearly nonstop since the 2011 release of their most recent album “Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.” With this album comes not only new energy, but for the first time, accompanying visuals. Although widely recognized for writing the soundtrack to the film “Friday Night Lights,” Explosions held off creating their own audiovisuals—until now. Three videos have been produced and released so far, most recently for track “Postcard from 1952.” While these videos capture the band’s delicate components onscreen, each track remains its own distinct narrative, allowing listeners to retain the freedom to derive their own meaning and imagery.
Just before setting out on the latest leg of their current tour, the IN caught up with band member Michael James (guitarist, bassist). While many of the tour stops are renowned venues and sizeable festivals, some intimate shows still sneak their way into the mix. And lucky for us in the Panhandle, one of these just happens to be in neighboring Mobile, Ala.

IN: Prior to “Take, Care, Take Care, Take Care,” you had not released an album in four years. How is this one different from albums past?
JAMES: We don’t think about it in those terms as we are writing. The music has changed in the same ways that we have changed as people. The value of subtlety is a little more overstated with this album, which is weird to say, but we appreciate it. We’re not wearing our emotions quite as much on our sleeves. It’s also maybe a bit more mysterious.

IN: Since the release of “Take Care” you guys have been touring pretty non-stop. Are you planning on keeping this momentum going?
JAMES: We’ll be keeping it going for a while—for the next few months. At the end of the year we will wind down. A year and a half is a good cycle.

IN: Obviously you’ve played around the world at some extravagant venues. As far as your live show goes, how does the huge festival setting compare to smaller, more intimate venues?
JAMES: These are totally different animals. First of all, at a club show, it’s your crowd. They paid money to come see you. For a festival you could be playing for half of a crowd that has no idea who you are, that you have to win over. It makes you step up your game and makes you have to work at it. My favorite shows are still indoor smaller club shows. The intensity there is hard to match.

IN: How do you balance continuing to grow together as a band and in your own individual lives at this stage in the game?
JAMES: Being a band is often compared to being in a marriage. It is the same as any relationship. We want to grow together as a band, but we all have lives outside of that too. I think the first part of that is the answer to this, as well. We are all great friends. We love each other and we like each other and the growth takes care of itself.

IN: Your music is often referred to as a narrative. Is there a story you are seeking to tell or is that exclusively up to each listener?
JAMES: The answer is both. We have our own story, but without lyrics the song can be and can mean just about anything—if you ask 100 different people you may get 100 different answers. That’s the beauty of instrumental music.

IN: Your band virtually got its start thanks to a flyer posted in a record store. Despite how much you’ve grown and how established you’ve become, are you continuing to evolve in the same organic manner?
JAMES: Yes. We’ve been really lucky in that way. We’ve seen great success as a band. We’ve put out records consistently over 10 years, but this success has come slowly and seemed very natural. It was never a shot to the top. So yeah, if things continue on going up that will be great; if it plateaus, that is fine too. We go without expectations, just doing something that we love doing.

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY
WHAT: Explosions in the Sky with Zammuto
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Monday, June 18 (Doors at 7:30 p.m.)
WHERE: Soul Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St., Mobile, Ala.
COST: $15 advance, $18 day of show
DETAILS: Advance tickets call 866.468.7630 or visit soulkitchenmobile.com