This year sees Texan quartet Explosions In The Sky release their long-awaited fifth album and though it has been ten years since their fortuitous meeting (one band member put up a flyer in a record shop that read “Wanted: Sad, triumphant rock band”) the strange magic of their instrumental high drama assuredly remains. 'Take Care Take Care Take Care' (Bella Union) marks the bands first foray into the world of samples, overdubs, vocals et alia – and, some argue, their transition from boys into men – but the format change seems to have provided them with renewed vigour in producing more sentiment in their music than ever before. Dazed caught up with band member Mark Smith to talk about the mechanics of their music and their new release.
Dazed Digital: You're music is instrumental. I find there to be some kind of sincerity in that you've managed to be sad and triumphant.
Mark Smith: Absolutely, that is one of my favorite things to hear about our music, that it can mean different things to different people, or indeed the tone can even be felt differently (some people will say a song makes them wistful, others say the same song makes them feel exuberant, etc). But then I actually think about our songwriting process and I can't say with any truth that that is something that we're purposefully striving for. We just write music and it seems that that quality is just there.
DD: The music you write is aurally meaningful yet it also possesses a kind of ambiguity that allows any listener to put part of their own narrative on it.
Mark Smith: I don't really have an explanation for it. I just think we've always enjoyed going for the contradictions in music--I love when I can describe a song as "darkly bright," or when a heavy part also has a placid quality to it. Things have more depth that way. It seems like in music the things that are the most impossibly beautiful also have the most sadness to them. So if the elements in a song are of different tones (e.g., one guitar part is melancholic, one is anthemic), then people respond to them differently, based on their mood or personalities. It's fascinating. I'll read someone say if you want to feel like slitting your wrists, listen to "Let Me Back In"; then I'll read someone else say that if you want your soul to be inspired, listen to "Let Me Back In."
DD: You seem to specialise in the dénouement track - the music played at the moment where one figures out what's wrong and decides to do something about it. It's a strangely complex thing to have mastered kind of accidentally.
Mark Smith: I've read in a few reviews that one complaint about our music is that it is too dramatic. Maybe it would be interesting to write an album about the more quotidian times of life, the times in between the parts of life where things actually happen. For better or for worse we have always been drawn to including the high drama - where everything seems heightened, where your focus is clear. Although we tend to think of each song as having a dramatic arc - before the climax, there is the prologue and the introduction and the rising action.
DD: So what am I to take care of?
Mark Smith: The world, yourself, your relationships, the good things in the world. The theme of the artwork and thus the album is one of loss. But as far as mindset goes when writing the songs, it is one of nurturing, of taking care of what you have and what is around you, before you lose it. When we were younger, we were drawn to the darkness, to themes of war and death (witness our second album). But we're older, and more and more I feel drawn to the solace and consolation and love of music.