For the last decade, the instrumental rock of Explosions in the Sky has provided the epic, emotive backdrop heard on several movies and television episodes. More than that, the Austin, Texas four-piece helped foster a movement of post-rock that encouraged the listener to find their own meaning within a composition, trusting the audience to arrive at their own conclusions. The results have been rewarding to say the least.
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is the sixth proper studio LP, and it comes after a season where guitarist Michael James explains they didn’t know what to do. After touring for 2007′s All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, James says the inspiration left and the trail went dead, leading to the first real bout of writer’s block the band has ever experienced. A two month break brought the band back together, ready to pick up where they left off.
You guys have been at this for over a decade. Certainly there are more luxuries that come with that amount of time, but what else comes with that artistically? Have your reasons for even doing this changed in that span?
I don’t think so. In terms of why we do this, we still do it because for the same reason why I was doing it when I was 15. It seems fun to do and it’s still fun to do. The four of us in the band have been doing this for almost 12 years together now, and we’ve been best friends since the first week we were in a band together. So there’s no real change in terms of why we are doing this. We love playing music together.
At this point, I don’t know that any of us could play with other musicians. We’ve just gotten so used to each other that it’s almost become this strange marriage. Our friendships have definitely deepened and gotten us through tough times in the band. It’s been amazing. There hasn’t been any changes for the worse. It’s all for the better.
I’m curious about the naming process, since other artists can choose a lyric that applies to the whole. How did you arrive at Take Care, Take Care, Take Care?
With this record, it’s that uncertainty that we were feeling. ‘Take care’ is usually used as a goodbye, and this definitely is not a goodbye for the band. This won’t be our last record, but it does have this emotional pull to it of ‘goodbye.’ Even if it’s for five minutes or five years, there’s always an emotional component to a goodbye. And repeating it three times, the words begin to blend together and ‘Take Care’ becomes ‘Care Take.’ So we’re taking care of each other and saying goodbye and it just had this very sweet and sad feel for us, which really matched the tone of the songs.
As far as naming the songs on the record, for instrumental music, it’s the one chance we have to tell people what the songs and the album mean to us. The beauty of instrumental music, I think, is that you don’t tell people what the songs mean. They get to make that up for themselves. There’s no language barrier there or some decisive statement with lyrics. Titles, then, are our one chance to say what these mean to us.
We will throw titles around for years. We didn’t have the song titles for this record until just a few months after we already recorded it. So it’s fun, but it’s also one of those challenges for all of us to agree on them.
Do you ever see words with the music? Maybe not an entire lyrical set, but I’m curious about your own relationship with the music.
Most of the time, it’s a little more abstract. I definitely have images and stories that go along with the music. The four of us have our own individual ideas of what the songs mean, but I don’t know that it’s anything that would ever translate into specific lyrics that could go along with the music. It’s more about the general stories and emotions that the songs evoke for us. I don’t think any of us would be able to articulate it very well, but there are meanings for us within each song.
After several albums, what are you finding inspiring at this point with the band? Does that change over time what moves the four of you?
For this record in particular, I think smaller things were more inspiring — more subtle ideas and subtle emotions. Our sound is known for being bombastic and very overtly emotional, and that’s something that we love about the music. We don’t want to change that. But for this record in particular, I think the more subtle ideas and smaller moments in life that can really be powerful that you don’t notice at the time was very inspirational on this record. It’s those moments you look back on and realize their power.
We wanted to paint with not so broad of a stroke. Of course, those broader strokes are there, but there are more subtle details that can be powerful within the music. I think they can create an emotional pull as much anything else.
What does 2011 look like then after the album drops?
We’re beginning to piece together the rest of the year. We’ll finish out a run of shows on the East Coast and then we’ll do some shoes in Europe. Then we’ll head back to the States for some festivals and do a full US tour in the fall. Then we’ll do a full European tour to follow that. The next year of my life is already planned, so that’s an interesting feeling. But that’s what we’ll be doing – just playing shows for people.
How do you find the audiences differ between the US and UK?
To be honest, we’ve had amazing audiences on both sides of the ocean. We really have. The UK has been great for us. We have a show coming up in London at the Roundhouse and I think it sold out with 3,000 people. That just blows our minds. So we’ve had a great response to the band in both areas. There’s not one that’s better and certainly not one that’s worse.
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is out now via Bella Union.