Monday, February 23, 2009

Chris Hrasky (Explosions in the Sky) Interview

This is probably my biggest interview yet. Chris Hrasky, drummer for Explosions in the Sky, was kind enough to allow me to interview him.

I’ll start with a simple question: why did you decide to use the band name Explosions in the Sky?

Chris: We played a local college radio show on July 4, 1999 and as we were unloading our gear we heard the fireworks exploding. So one of us said “can you hear the explosions in the sky?” and that was that.

Your work on the Friday Night Lights soundtrack certainly helped to boost your popularity. How was making a soundtrack for a movie different from any of your other albums?

Chris: It was actually a lot less stressful. When we work our own records we feel a lot more pressure. With a soundtrack you’re really just writing background music, or little sketches of songs.

What is your typical writing process when in the studio?

Chris: In the past we’ve always gone into the studio with everything completely written.

How has your songwriting process changed over the years, if at all?

Chris: It hasn’t changed in the sense that its always been a process of trial and error for us. We don’t really have a set method. I sort of wish we did. It would make things a lot easier.

Who are some of your major influences?

Chris: There are so many, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. All four of us agree on the greatness of The Beatles, though. We’re really inspired by their ability to write songs that were both innovative and completely catchy.

What made the group decide to be instrumental?

Chris: It just sort of turned out that way. Honestly, I can’t remember even talking about it. But we all like the idea of there not being a leader or principal songwriter in the band. This can often make things difficult and is the reason it takes us so long to write songs. But, in the end, it’s the most rewarding way for us to do things.

On that note, does this keep you from getting any radio airplay?

Chris: We get a fair amount of college radio airplay, but certainly no commercial airplay. But I’m not sure radio has that great of an influence anymore. We’ve been able to sell a pretty good amount of records without much airplay.

Which do you prefer: playing live or in the studio?

Chris: Playing live. You feel much more energized and not nearly as worried about screwing up. And its nice to have feedback from an immediate audience.

What was your favorite on-stage moment?

Chris: There have been a lot of great ones. Having one of our amps start on fire was kind of funny and ridiculous.

What can you say about the odd coincidence on your Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die… album cover?

Chris: That story has been overblown. Someone claimed that that record came out the day before 9/11. That’s actually not true. It came out two weeks before. And its really more than that…a coincidence.

Many consider your latest album’s name All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone to be a direct reference to The Catcher in the Rye. Is this true?

Chris: Its not a direct reference, but we all love that book.

Esteban Rey has done a few of your album covers now. What can you say about his work?

Chris: Well, he’s one of our closest friends and its nice to work with someone that you love. We really work him hard and make him do things over and over again. But he always follows through.

I’ll admit I was first introduced to you while watching Late Night with Conan O’Brien. What was it like to play on his show?

Chris: We were really nervous but it ended up being pretty fun. The crew were all really laid back and easy going, which was a surprise. It was a nice night.

There seems to be a big story behind the idea of The Rescue involving your van breaking down for eight days, causing you to be flat-broke and live in a stranger’s attic. What can you tell me about all that?

Chris: We recorded our second record in DC and on the way home we played a show in Syracuse. But then our van broke down and the part for the van was on order and we had to live in an attic for a week. There were blizzards every day. It was kind of nuts. The attic was owned by the guy who put our show on. So we owe him a lot. These were the early days when nobody knew who we were and we were completely broke. This was December 2000.

It seems American Analog Set, another excellent band, helped get you started in submitting one of your original demos. Are they good friends of yours? Both being from Austin, did you ever meet up and/or play together?

Chris: I actually live next door to the singer/guitarist of AmAnSet. We played a few local shows with them and they were always a band we loved and still love. These days I go next door and play dominos or watch Lost or basketball games. Also, our dogs are friends, too.

One of you had mentioned you prefer being called a rock band over a post-rock band. Why is this?

Chris: We just think of ourselves as a rock band. It seems post-rock is just a term made up by music critics.

You’re now included in all sorts of commercials and television shows. Have you ever unexpectedly heard one of your songs on tv before? What was that like?

Chris: I don’t watch much TV, but anytime I hear one of songs in a movie or something I feel very strange. It’s a surreal feeling.

What are your plans for the future? Are you working on any new albums/tours?

Chris: Trying to write new songs. But we’re also taking it easy. It seems like our lives have been dedicated to this band for the last 10 years so its nice to be able to sort of live a normal life for awhile.