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Word is Out: Explosions In The Sky

American rock band Explosions In The Sky guitarist Munaf Rayani on their debut India gig, spending four years on their upcoming album and writing songs without words

Anurag Tagat Dec 11, 2015
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Explosions In The Sky. Photo: Nick Simonite

They might refrain from writing lyrics for their songs, but American instrumental rock band Explosions In The Sky [EITS] have a way with words. Guitarist Munaf Rayani says over the phone from Austin, Texas about their songwriting, “It is not an easy thing to write a song, but once we catch a rhythm”¦ Once a few raindrops fall, it just starts pouring and it’s quite nice to be standing in the rain, like a rain of melody.”

Explosions In The Sky, who have been around since 1999 [they played as Breaker Morant for a while before that], have been one of the forerunners of ambient, instrumental rock alongside the likes of Scottish band Mogwai and Iceland’s Sigur Ros. EITS have been working on a follow-up to their 2011 album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care for four years now. In between, the band has worked with film composers to score music for movies such as the 2013 action film The Lone Ranger to last year ’s Al Pacino-starrer drama film Manglehorn. Rayani says about film work, “It allows for somebody who doesn’t even listen to this style of music to learn our names and maybe go and search for us.” You’ve probably heard songs like “Your Hand in Mine” and “First Breath After Coma,” both off their 2003 album The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, used extensively in everything from movie trailers and advertisements to video games and TV shows. He adds, “We never expected that the music that we write could apply to so many people’s visions.” Rayani also informs that although their new album is mixed and currently being rehearsed, they will wait until early next year to release it.

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How do they pull off songs that in spite of featuring no words, still manage to evoke instense emotions? Rayani says their reference points come from books to films to simple conversations. “The way the weather is, or the state of the world, the personal things we’re going through in our lives, individually and with each other. Me, Mark [Smith, guitarist], Mike [James, guitarist] and Chris [Hrasky, drummer] ”“ we’re really close friends who’ve known each other almost our entire lives. So we have a way of speaking with each other, communicating with each other ”“ we try our best to relay these emotions and ideas through melody.”

EITS make their India debut at the third edition of music, film and art festival Johnnie Walker-The Journey in Mumbai on December 12th, alongside American electro-ambient act Tycho and legendary Italian music producer Giorgio Moroder. Just a week prior, India got a taste of instrumental rock veterans Mogwai, who performed at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender festivals in Delhi NCR, Pune and Bengaluru. Rayani is elated to hear his friends in Mogwai are playing in India just before them. He says, “They’ll excite the crowd with that type of music and help us. Mogwai have become very close to us. We all kinda look out for each other. We all speak favorably of each other. It’s really exciting to see each other on the road, or at a festival. When we come to Scotland, Mogwai are at the show for sure. When they come to the US, we are at the show.”

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For their shows, EITS plan their setlists only the same morning, but Rayani promises that there will be a career-spanning selection of songs in Mumbai as part of their hourlong set. He adds, “We’re 15 years old and have five albums, so we’re going to try to play the best bits of all of those albums that make for a good show.”

Rayani, who has Pakistani roots, says his mother originally stayed in Mumbai before moving to Pakistan and then starting a family in Austin. “My mother is very, very, very happy that we are going [to India] and she wishes she could come along. I’m sure that she’s already sent the word to everybody there that Munaf and all the guys are coming to town, so everybody go see it.”


Explosions in the Sky will perform at Johnnie Walker-The Journey alongside merican electro-ambient act Tycho and legendary Italian music producer Giorgio Moroder. Click here for more details.

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