American post-rockers Explosions In The Sky are known for their intricate guitar work, epic live performances and their symphonic, atmospheric songs that are almost entirely instrumental. We chatted to Munaf Rayani (guitar / keyboards) ahead of the Adelaide leg of the upcoming tour.
Hello! Thank you for talking to This is Radelaide, Munaf.
Hi, how are you?
I’m good, how are you?
Yeah very good.
It’s great to talk to you. So Explosions In The Sky were last in Australia in 2011 if I’m correct?
What can fans expect from your tour this time around?
Oh, I don’t know, hopefully a good performance, a good show, some nice music.
Yeah, I’m sure your fans will get just that! What are the best and worst parts about being on tour, do you think?
There are so many involved. The best parts are that we’re so lucky that because we put a handful of notes together we get to see the world, that is something that not everyone gets to do. I would say probably the worst parts of it are how exhausting those travels can be. Both physically and emotionally. We have a lot of loved ones back home and as we grow older, it’s always difficult to leave them behind for a little bit. But such is the balance. We get to do great things and play music with our lives, it’s a small cost but a heavy one nonetheless.
Your live shows have been described as an aural and visual spectacle, and your music is quite atmospheric and cinematic. How do you go about translating music of that sort to a live show?
I’m not absolutely sure of the specifics of it. The five of us get up there and we play these songs that come from a very honest place and we can catch a frequency with one another and hopefully what we’re trying to convey to the listener gets through. We all kind of share this experience together. Music is a very powerful part of life, and the fact that we get to participate in it the way we do is very lucky, both as players and listeners.
Yeah I completely agree. I think music can communicate things we can’t necessarily say otherwise. I also wanted to ask you about your most recent album, which was The Wilderness. What does that album name mean to you, and what kind of path did that album take you on as opposed to music you’d created previously?
Every album is more difficult than the one before it. This one sent us out on this expedition, this journey if you will, of trying to discover new parts of our musical selves. It was, in moments, very difficult to achieve the ideas that we were thinking about. In other parts, supremely fulfilling that we were able to put these sounds together and present something that felt fresh to us. So the title, The Wilderness, allows for the mind and ear to experience this thing that isn’t so direct or so clear. The Wilderness can be interpreted in so many different ways. From the forest, to space, to the desert, to the inner workings of the mind, to the thought process of one’s self. These are the things we thought about as we were writing it, the title seems very apt, very simple, but very apt to what we were trying to present.
Your songs are almost entirely instrumental. Yet as you’ve talked about already, they do convey these powerful feelings. How does the creative process go for creating such expressive music without the use of lyrics?
The creative process is an interesting one and an exciting one for us. There’s not a specific formula for what it is that we do when we start writing, trying to come up with these melodies. It all just kind of finds its way onto our guitars, or to the keys of the piano, or to the beats of the drum. We’ve been with each other for so long that we just start blindly playing these sounds together and what swells up and blooms are the songs that we come up with. The creative process is almost like a magic trick in that we are just watching this thing happen in front of us and are completely surprised that it works.
Your music definitely does have a magical quality to it! You’ve also worked on film soundtracks, is it different trying to capture the theme of a film as opposed to what you guys usually do?
Absolutely. It all shares the collective thread in that it’s us making the music, but they’re two different entities unto themselves. Scoring for a film is very exciting and allows us to perhaps try some things we wouldn’t normally try, because it is someone else’s vision. In a way that’s a little bit easier to complete or to create, because we are being directed in which direction to go. Our own albums, on the other hand, I would say are far more fulfilling because we are the directors, we are the ones leading the path and it is only us that we have to impress and answer to. But overall that’s a more difficult thing to achieve than it is when you’re just writing for someone else. Writing for one’s self is very difficult because you are critical of yourself in a way that perhaps somebody else isn’t. They both have their differences but what they share is the fulfilment of creating a melody.
Once the Australian tour is all over, what’s next?
We’ll still play, we have some more shows for the remainder of the year. After Australia we’ll have a few weeks off then we’ll do a U.S. tour, and then we’ll have some shows throughout Europe in the summer and perhaps a little more in fall. But then this album cycle will come to a close and then after that we’ll just try again and just see where we find ourselves. I think we will play music for the rest of our lives. Whether we will make albums to present to the world, all depends on how good they come out of the practice room you know? I think we’ll try our hand at it for as long as our minds and fingers are in sync.
Since you’ll be catching the last of summer here in Australia, is there anything that you’d like to do while you’re here?
Once we find our way to any coast, we’ll go down to the beach for a little bit and take in the ocean. I’ll be mindful of the sharks that float around those shores but other than that, yeah just enjoy the sun and the sand and the culture. It’s a beautiful place, where you’re from, and we enjoy coming there when we find the opportunity.
Catch Explosions In The Sky at The Gov on the 19th of February.
Header image via Explosion In The Sky's Facebook.