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Explosion blows up with 'Lights'


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photo courtesy of tag team media
"Besides loving sprawling, lush instrumentals that range from the wallowing and somber to the ebullient and cathartic, Explosions in the Sky also loves flowers.
By Nate Buchik
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 21, 2004
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Instrumental bands have to be pretty goddamn exciting to get a following from the younger crowd.

When you turn 50, you won't care if there's some Kenny G playing in the background. You're too tired to listen to lyrics anyway.

But while you can still move, you need words, melodies and catchy hooks.

And yet, post-rock band Explosions in the Sky tours the country to packed clubs and pumped up fans.

How the hell did that happen?

"Being an instrumental band, we never really expected much of an audience. It's just been amazing," said Michael James, bassist and guitarist for Explosions. "We're really fortunate that people are willing to suffer through our music."

Suffering through their music isn't hard, and it's partly because of the sonic range in every song. The band begins most of their songs with single notes on electric guitars, before building with drums, bass and more and more guitar.

"We just like there to be a lot of dynamic in the music," James said. "We like the soft parts to be really soft and the loud parts to be really loud."

The soft and loud parts take the listener on a journey, which sometimes takes almost 10 minutes but are well worth the trip.

"A lot of times, we don't mean to write really long songs. We're not trying to make all of them these epic songs," James said. "We'll think a song is going to be five minutes and it'll turn out to be 10. It might be something about our personalities."

The reason for the length might also have to do with the narratives they try to tell with their instruments.

"When we're composing the songs and putting all the parts together, we try to tell a story," James said. "But people can take away from our music whatever they want. We don't steer listeners in a specific direction."

While it might be easier to tell a story with words, James said the band, which formed in 1999, never even considered it.

"We just wanted to play with the four of us, and the four of us can't sing very well," James said.

And without a lead singer, the egos in the band are kept in check during songwriting, where no one member controls a song.

"We don't really have a specific way that we write songs. It's all trial and error," said James. "Someone will come in and play something, and we just mess around until we find something everybody likes."

The songwriting got even more challenging when they were approached to score the Billy Bob Thornton football flick, "Friday Night Lights." Using some old songs from 2003's Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place and new material, the band is able to help the film change tones on a whim.

While it's too early to tell how many new fans "Lights" will bring in, James said the band is extremely happy with how things are going. Explosions in the Sky plays on Tuesday at the Clubhouse, 1320 E. Broadway Road, in Tempe.



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