Chris Hrasky of Explosions in the Sky: "We still basically feel like we're amateurs who are still kind of figuring out what we're doing"
Explosions in the Sky (due tonight at the Boulder Theater) is an instrumental rock band based out of Austin, Texas. For the last thirteen years, the quartet has been creating a kind of anthemic, instrumental guitar rock that sparkles with impressionistic melodies building to a cathartic apex, not unlike a classical composition with movements and the establishment of emotional intensity and release.
The band's music has appeared on numerous television programs and films, notably Friday Night Lights, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Capitalism: A Love Story. The outfit's dynamic live shows are a sensory feast of light and sound wherein all the musicians weave together resonating leads with scintillating drones, textures and hypnotic rhythms.
In April 2011, Explosions released its latest record, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, and has since embarked on at least two separate tours in support of the album. We recently spoke with Chris Hrasky, the outfit's drummer, and discussed their first big show opening for Fugazi over ten years ago, the appeal of what some might call "sad bastard" music and the importance of being mindful of bandmates on the road.
Westword: What got you into playing drums, and what kind of music did you start out playing before moving to Texas?
Chris Hrasky: I started out just maybe eight grade or ninth grade or something. It was just friends I grew up with playing. We started off kind of like trying to be a metal band then Nirvana got big, so we started getting into weirder stuff. It was kind of the typical way most kids get into that sort of thing. Until I moved to Texas, I guess I went through a lot of phases. We started off as a weird metal band, and then we kind of played punk music and then got into psychedelic stuff. Then I ended up in Texas and met these guys.
What were the biggest cultural shocks for you moving from Chicago to Austin?
They were not necessarily shocks in the sense in that it was actually very nice. I grew up in Illinois, and I lived in Chicago for a few years. I do have a love for Chicago, but I was also not terribly happy there. It's not, maybe, the friendliest place on earth. You know, Austin is a very different-feeling city. It's just a very welcoming and friendly place. There's a lot of enthusiastic people. It was a definite change. I wouldn't call it a shock, because it was pleasant, and I kind of liked it immediately. The summers are fairly horrible, but they can be horrible in Chicago as well.
At which record store did you post the sign "Wanted: Sad, Triumphant Rock Band," and why were you looking to get into a band like that?
I posted [those signs] at pretty much every record store in town. I think the guys saw it at Waterloo, which is kind of the big, independent store here downtown. They grabbed the whole flyer, so no one else could take the number and call. They called up, I met up with them, and that was it. [I was looking to get into a band like that because] I think it was just the stuff I was kind of into at the time. I was mostly into Mogwai and Dirty Three, and so were those guys at the time, so it was a natural fit.
In terms of the sad stuff, I've always kind of had liking of sort of melancholy music. Not necessarily slow stuff but just, you know, Dinosaur Jr was always a band that I loved, but his music is always kind of sad. Or even Neil Young. I've always been drawn to music that's not depressing necessarily...I guess all the stuff that people truly love is always sad, melancholy music if you think about it.
As far as the triumphant stuff, at the time, I was really taken with Mogwai and what they were doing -- having these sort of sad melodies but played with this kind of bombast and epic feel. Those guys were excited by Mogwai at the same time, and so it's interesting that we ended up where we are, because they were definitely a huge part of that. I don't know if this band would exist if Mogwai didn't exist.