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Outer Limits: How Prog are Explosions In The Sky?

These Texan post-rockers have sold-out the Royal Albert Hall with their far-out sounds, their music has graced numerous soundtracks and they’ve been compared by many to Pink Floyd. But are th

Imagine if you witnessed actual explosions in the sky? The response from any sentient being would be amazement and wonder, right? And so it is with the music. You hear Explosions In The Sky - the Austin, Texas band - and their expansive guitar-scapes, their rising tumults of bass and drums, their ebbing and flowing tidal waves of sound, and you experience shock as well as awe.

Talking of phrases deployed to connote spectacular displays of force (by the US military circa the Iraq War), Explosions In The Sky once got into hot bother when their second album, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever, was linked to the September 11 2001 attacks. The album art showed an airplane with the caption: “This plane will crash tomorrow.”

Rumour has it the album was released on 9/11; it was actually the Tuesday before: September 4, 2001. Still, EITS’ guitarist (and bassist in the studio) Michael James was detained at an airport “as a threat to security”, due to the fact that his - actually one of the band’s other guitarists, Munaf Rayani’s - instrument bore that self-same idiom of imminent suicidal destruction.

“My God, yeah,” recalls Rayani, one of EITS’ three guitarists on the phone from Salt Lake City midway through
a world tour that saw them recently sell out London’s Royal Albert Hall.

“That was sheer coincidence,” he explains. “It wasn’t even that dark. It was more about being realistic with one another. Stuff was starting to go well for us and we were playing shows overseas. It was just a way to keep the guys in check. I’d say: ‘Let’s really enjoy this ride cos this plane’s gonna crash tomorrow.’ Just so we didn’t get our heads too inflated. Like, ‘Let’s enjoy this now cos there’s a good chance it could all end.’”

But did they really send an airport into meltdown?

“Well, it’s true that my guitar had this little mantra written on it and Michael had checked it in under his name so they pulled him to one side and questioned him,” he laughs. “The authorities weren’t particularly pleased, but they were relieved when they found out [that it was a harmless phrase]. Then they encouraged us not to have ‘this plane will crash tomorrow’ written on a guitar that we’re checking into an airport.”

Explosions In The Sky have been causing a furore - a positive one - for a decade and a half, since emerging as one of the bright lights of the global post-rock scene that included Canada’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Scotland’s Mogwai, Iceland’s Sigur Rós and Japan’s Mono. They made instrumental music that was intense and forbidding, on albums bearing titles that telegraphed the seriousness of their intent. Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die…, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place (2003), All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone (2007) and Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (2011) all offer a sense of grave young men with the weight of the world on their shoulders. And yet they’ve found a sizeable audience for their enigmatic elegies, filling out prestigious venues, even entering the album charts - their most recent album, The Wilderness, released in April, reached No 24 on the US Billboard 200 and No 39 in the UK.

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