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A Chat with Guitarist Munaf Rayani of Explosions in the Sky

Dreamlike, grandiose, cinematic, disarming. Each term could describe the emotionally arresting instrumental music of Explosions in the Sky, the post-rock poster boys from Austin, Texas. Each could also describe Explosions’ ongoing success story since the release of their 2007 album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone.

They’ve headlined at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, toured with The Flaming Lips, performed on Austin City Limits and curated an All Tomorrow's Parties music festival, all while quietly collecting thousands of fans and millions of YouTube views.

So with the spring release of Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (Temporary Residence Limited), the band’s sixth album and first in four years, the sky is the limit.

“The new album is a true jump forward in the evolution of our sound,” says guitarist Munaf Rayani. “We really took it to a new place, a new planet.”

Rayani and fellow guitarists Mark T. Smith and Michael James (who also plays bass) answered an ad posted by drummer Christopher Hrasky in Austin in 1999: “Wanted: Sad, triumphant rock band.” The new album – with its layers of texturally diverse sounds and creative leaps and bounds – evokes those extremes and everything in between.

As always, melody is at its core. “Melody is everything,” Rayani says. “If we don’t leave practice humming at least one of the guitar lines, it’s not going to survive. Melody becomes its own lyric, its own voice.”

A key component of the band’s stirring live sound is the loose but effective interplay between the three guitars. “When we chase melodies and intertwine with each other, it’s like we’re carrying on a conversation,” Rayani says. “There’s no role for each guitarist; we just have our distinct voices. But when placed in harmony, it makes a sound called Explosions in the Sky.”

The band’s current summer tour brings them to Chicago and Europe in August, followed by a lengthy US tour through November. For more touring info, visit explosionsinthesky.com.

Last Known Surroundings from Explosions in the Sky on Vimeo.

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Damian Fanelli
Damian Fanelli

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor, and his non-Pulitzer-Prize-winning stories have appeared in Guitar Aficionado, Vintage Guitar, Total Guitar and countless other publications, including 13.7 metric tons of daily newspapers. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton and Ty Tabor chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (one of which appears in the 2015 Disney film 'Tomorrowland' starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson). He's in two NYC-area bands and plays Teles with four-way switches, B-benders and semi-snazzy aftermarket pickups. He quotes Terry-Thomas twice daily.