Mark from Explosions in the Sky

Mark from Explosions in the Sky

by Jason

Hello all in Explosions in the Sky.  Introduce yourselves to our readers please.  Who plays what?  How and when did you form?

michael–bass and guitar

Michael, Munaf, and I (Mark) have been friends for going on ten years–we played music together in the town where we grew up (Midland, Texas). then we all moved to Austin (where we all live now) and met Chris in early 1999, and pretty much immediately started playing music together.

The soundtrack for Friday Night Lights was your last piece of released work, as far as I know.  How did you come upon that project?  What inspired you to say yes and how did you approach writing and recording the material?

It was all a pretty strange experience but definitely a positive one… we were approached by the music supervisor of that movie, Brian Reitzell (who has also worked on the soundtracks for Lost in Translation and Virgin Suicides). He really liked our music and was somehow able to convince the studio (universal) to use us for the score and soundtrack. The film is based on a book of the same name and it’s a nonfiction story that takes place in Midland, Texas, which is where Munaf, Michael, and I grew up. And we all read the book or had already read the book and it’s actually a really good book, very insightful and touching and of course it meant a lot to us that it took place in our hometown. So we said yes and just tried to do the best we could.

Since you haven’t recorded an Explosions disc since 2003, are there plans to record new material any time soon?  What are the current plans for writing?

We are currently in the midst of writing new music. To be honest, we have gone through some rough patches this year with writing. We took the year off just to write (I.e, not tour), and we started off well–we did an e.p. for Temporary Residence’s Travels in Constants series (it should come out in August or September). It was the most fun we’ve ever had with a project—we decided to make up and record a song every day for eight days (generally a song can take us several months to write, so this was pretty unusual for us).  But since then, we have been struggling to find a new way. We definitely don’t want to just repeat ourselves, and we’re pretty hard on ourselves, so it’s been slow. It’s picking up lately, though. Our only goal right now is a new album, and it’s hard to imagine finishing a new one before the end of the year, so it wouldn’t come out until next year.

How do you as a band and as individuals approach writing?  What led you to write instrumental tunes?

As I said, it’s a long often rough process. We used to work faster and probably more naturally, but now we know more of what we want a song to sound like, so we often continually go for the ideal way we want the song to go, rather than just letting whatever comes out come out. Basically, one of us just starts playing a riff and someone else starts playing on top of that and then it grows. None of us really remember choosing to be an instrumental band, it just seemed natural when we started playing with Chris, it felt like we were able to express what we wanted to “say” without vocals.

What makes a good song in your minds?  When do you accept a tune as being “done” or “good enough” for recording?

I know how inane this sounds, but we seem to know whenever all four of us play the song and go “holy shit, that’s what we were trying to write.” I don’t really know how to explain it other than that. It’s almost like once we come up with the starting riff, the song is already written in some untapped piece of our brains and we just have to keep chipping away until we figure it out.

As you have progressed as a band, how do you see your art progressing? When you hear your first and second albums, what strikes you as different between them?  Do you have any favorite tracks on either disc?

I’ve always thought of Those Who Tell the Truth as sort of an act of desperation. None of us were really happy with our lives and it seemed like all we had was this music. It was just us bursting with all these feelings (mostly dark, dismal feelings) that we had to do something with. so that was sort of a catharsis.  After that album, we felt like we had “found ourselves” and were able to think more about the kind of thing we really wanted to write. So we set out to make a more romantic, longing album (The Earth is not a Cold, Dead Place). We wanted to lift ourselves out of those bad feelings and reach a more triumphant, uplifting place. But I still hear the tragedy and sadness in that one too. My personal favorites on the albums are “The Moon is Down” and “The Only Moment We Were Alone,” but that’s just me.

For the gear heads out there, what sort of equipment do you use?

Michael plays an Ibanez guitar, Munaf plays a Stratocaster, and I play a Fender Toronado, and we all use Fender amps (Michael plays the Bassman, Munaf the Dual Showman reverb, and I play the quad reverb). And a lot of pedals between us–line 6 delay, big muff, distortion, sans amp distortion…. I don’t know what kind of bass Michael plays or his bass amp. Chris uses Fibes Drums, I think.

The scene in Austin seems to be exploding with experimental/instrumental bands.  What do you attribute that to?  How have you seen the scene grow?  What it like playing in Austin and surrounding areas?

We always feel oddly unprepared to answer this question. We certainly like bands here (American Analog Set, Trail of Dead), but we don’t seem to be part of any scene or know too much about many bands here. In real life, we kind of keep to ourselves, and we seem to as a band too.

You have been touring a lot in the last year or so.  Any good tour stories? What are your favorite places to play?

Some of our favorite places to play are Chicago (anywhere), New York (anywhere), Philadelphia (First Unitarian), this place called the Vera in Groningen, Holland……..

Are there any artists that inspire you or have influenced your work?  Are there any writers that influence your music?

There are many, many artists and writers and filmmakers that influence us and inspire us and break our hearts…… to name just a few: Terrence Malick, David Foster Wallace, John Steinbeck, Eluvium, Fugazi, Cormac McCarthy, Four Tet, Jose Saramago, David Gordon Green……….

If you could give a young artist any advice, what would that be?

There is really nothing I can think of that wouldn’t sound unbearably cheesy, so I would merely say to work hard. The only way we ever get anything done is when our work ethic is healthy.

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