No lyrics necessary
Published: Monday, June 18, 2012
Updated: Monday, June 18, 2012 08:06
Following the release of their latest album “Take Care, Take Care,” instrumental post-rock group, Explosions in the Sky set out on a tour that will land them in The Ritz Ybor on June 19.
EITS, as they are commonly known, has gained popularity in the past decade for creating sweeping symphonies out of electric guitars and drums. Perhaps best known for scoring the film “Friday Night Lights” and providing music for a 2006 Cadillac commercial, EITS have become a force all their own.
Guitarist Mike James spoke with The Oracle about his creative process, the band’s latest album and what it means to remain true to music while still earning a living.
The Oracle: What led you and the rest of EITS to create a purely instrumental rock band?
Mike James: Well, we never really set out to be an instrumental rock band. Three of us, Mark, Munaf and myself, had been in a band together before…and when we got together with Chris, we didn’t really talk that much about what we wanted to sound like. We were just like, ‘Well, let’s go play music.’
None of us sing particularly well or wanted to be a singer in a band, so we just sat down, played for a while and decided that everything we were doing sounded really interesting to us, this strictly instrumental music. Twelve years later we just really haven’t gotten around to getting a singer.
O: What is your creative process like?
MJ: We have more of a kind of slap-shot creative process. When we’re on tour we never really sit down to write music. When we’ve put out an album we’re generally on tour for a year and a half, off and on, soon our off time we don’t sit down to compose music together, but we’re all sort of generating ideas. When the tour cycle is finished we can sit down, everyone comes to the table with some ideas and we just sit in a room and play music together; that’s the way that it’s always worked for us.
We don’t have a set creative process, although I wish that we did because then we could remember how we did it before and just do it over and over again. Unfortunately, we forget how we wrote these albums.
O: Even without words, do your songs have narratives?
MJ: Sometimes a song will start simply from a guitar riff, or sometimes it will start with us talking about an idea or a story as far as narrative, because they can build around each other. Sometimes a song comes first, and the story comes after, and sometimes it’s vice versa.
O: On EITS’ new album, “Take Care, Take Care,” “Trembling Hands” is the first track where there are actual vocalizations. Was it a big deal to include those or was it just something that came naturally?
MJ: We were working on that song and kept saying, ‘You know it needs something more driving, something like a chant to keep it going,’ and so we tried it and we thought it really worked. It was just what the song needed.
When we’re writing these songs, experimentation is a huge part of it. Some experiments work, and some fail miserably, and this was one that worked.
O: Do you see yourself doing more vocalization in the future?
MJ: We’ll definitely be trying it, but it all depends on what works. Again, there’s the weakness of our singing prowess.
O: You recorded this last album at a place called Sonic Ranch. What was that experience like?
MJ: Well, we had booked two weeks to record this new album at Sonic Ranch, which by far is the longest we’ve ever had in the studio. We really wanted to be able to take our time with this album—to experiment and find some cool sounds. So we walked into this studio that’s just absolutely gorgeous.
The equipment they have there is just second to none, it’s an incredibly put-together studio. We recorded about twelve hours a day, and we wanted to be in there more, but we had so much time we just said we’d limit ourselves to eight to twelve hours a day.
O: Your songs are used a lot in movies and television shows, but especially commercials. This seems to incite anger among your fans. How do you respond to that?
MJ: We don’t really have too much of a response. The truth is, I totally understand. Any kind of anger or ire people feel about hearing our music in a commercial, I’ve probably felt that exact same way in my life. But I guess for us it always came down to ‘How do we feel about this?’ You can’t worry so much about other people, and the fact of the matter is as a musician,if you want to make it your career, you’ve got to be able to earn money and pay bills — make house payments and that sort of thing. Any commercial we’ve ever done made sense for us to do at the time. We’re not making millions of dollars and hanging out in the Caribbean Islands or anything.
O: You guys are based in Austin and have been forever. What keeps you there when there are so many other music meccas all over the country?
MJ: I think the big thing is that all of our stuff is here. Austin is a beautiful city, and we’ve been here for so long. All of our relatives and friends are here, and this is just our home. I think that’s what’s keeping us here; this is just home.
Explosions in the Sky performs Tuesday, June 19, at 7:30, Ritz Ybor.