The Silver Tongue Interview: Munaf Rayani of Explosions in the Sky

Explosions in the Sky guitarist Munaf Rayani graciously took time out of his Saturday afternoon from his home in Austin to talk to me about the future legacy of his humble rock band from Austin that captures extraordinarily powerful emotions that are nearly impossible to put into words, especially when you’re a passionate fan with equal loves for the same city and influences that have inspired Rayani.

TST: First I just quickly want to say incredibly grateful I and The Silver Tongue are for you taking a few minutes to talk to me.

MR: Well, thank you so much.

TST: Are you in Austin now?

MR: Yeah, yes I am.

TST: Three of you are from Midland, TX one from Chicago, but you are proudly an Austin and a Texan band. What inspiration do you draw from having Austin as your home?

MR: That’s just it. It is an artist community of all types of art whether musically or visually, it is a community that extends its influence and shares with one another. Austin is our home. As a band, we have grown up in here,  and ever since our first show in 1999, the whole community championed, supported and stood behind us and even when he have reached notoriety and have fans all over the world, the outpouring has never wavered here. That first show in ’99, we played to maybe 7 people, and in our last show which was last year at The Moody Theater, we played to maybe 2,000. We are so lucky and so very fortunate to be doing this for a living. We count our lucky stars daily to be in this position and get to create music and play for people. How lucky for us that this is all we do. Really, this is all we have to do, and we are taken care of. We say that with total humility and humbly. We don’t make a fortune or live large, but we are we are supported and live comfortably. We are fortunate in that we get to create music. What a spectacular thing it is to wake up and talk about melody and create songs, and that we hope will have some effect on people who listen to our songs and take some inspiration as we have taken inspiration from so many things.

TST: Your response there touched on a few different things I wanted to ask you, so I’ll try and start with how you finished there concerning the extent of your influence. For a band that is not on the radio, one that music lovers like myself passionately love and count as an absolute favorite, not that I’m unique in any way because I don’t believe there are too many casual Explosions in the Sky fans running around; I think people either wholeheartedly love your music or don’t know you that well. With that in mind and knowing you have been able to make a career out of it having been doing it for 13 years, and I hope for many more to come, what do you hope will be the legacy of this band? Personally, I don’t think there is any doubt your music will stand the test of time, considering how fervently people feel for the emotional impact of your music, which of course you guys know with how involved you are with your fan email, and how unalike it is to anything else in the music world right now. What would you hope is the legacy of this band beyond the year 2012?

MR: Wow, that’s so truly amazing with the things you said. When you are just starting out, the idea of a legacy is so make believe. You play music and you try to create something that will be meaningful to others. Hearing what you just said, that’s it. We won. If we didn’t write another melody, if we didn’t play another single note, given what you just said, it wouldn’t matter, because somebody will have heard and understood what we were trying to accomplish in our playing. If we didn’t play another note, the notes we have created will just linger in the air. With that said, I hope we can write and write and write for as long as we feel inspired. Five albums in, I know we have at least one more truly great album in us, if not ten great ones. Right now, all four of us are going as strongly as we’ve ever been and have a total passion for this. Not one of us is uninspired in anyway. It’s talking to people like you that makes it worthwhile and keeps us inspired. I don’t think we will ever stop writing music. There could be a time when we stop touring, but I think there will always be a time we are still creating, whether it’s an album, compositions or soundtrack work. I just don’t think we will ever slow down. That’s the thing about getting to do this: we’re not too good at many things, but there is this one thing that we happen to be good at and it means something to people. And that is what this whole thing is all about.

TST: I know exactly what you mean. I feel so very blessed just getting to talk to you. I’ve had the belief I wanted to be a writer for years, but I didn’t have a background in it, but I love music and had faith and just keep working at it. You get breaks and good fortune and it makes all the difference. I’ve had this current writing job with The Silver Tongue for about 10 days, and I’ve been hoping to talk to you for probably 10 years. I understand what is contained in that blessed feeling when you are lucky enough to have people read your words or listen to your music and every once in awhile somebody says it means something to them.

MR: That is so cool. How lucky is it that we – you and I- get to do this and have it as our living! There are so many other people who not only don’t get to do this, but who are forced to do something they don’t like or live an existence they don’t truly love because of circumstances or lack of a break. We realize how blessed we are to be doing this. We don’t take a single moment of that for granted.

TST: Every interview I’ve read with you guys brings up the possibility of soundtrack work, so I wanted to touch on that but in a different manner.

MR: Sure.

TST: I’ve read that your favorite filmmakers are Malick, P.T. Anderson and Scorsese, and someday you’d love to do soundtrack work for them.

MR: Oh absolutely.

TST: I personally loved seeing that because those are the exact influences I included on my bio that I wrote up for The Silver Tongue. Terrence Malick is probably my favorite filmmaker, and I love Tree of Life, Badlands, Days of Heaven and all the rest. I wanted to mention that in order to touch on the video for “Postcard from 1952.” Until Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, you guys had never created a music video. You started with an exceptional one for “Last Known Surroundings” and another for “Be Comfortable, Creature.” I wanted to talk about the “Postcard from 1952″ video and give you my thoughts and then get your take on it if that’s cool with you.

MR: Sure.

TST: I think that video is the absolutely perfect visual representation of Explosions in the Sky’s sound and its ability to create a hugely emotional artistic impact. The decision of focusing on generations-old photographs and brief fleeting images and then slowing the frames down to fractions of real speed in order to show the thousands of emotions, hopes and thoughts that occur in an inspired second is the exact feeling that I get every time that I listen to your music. I remember watching that last week when you released it, and by the time it was over I just sat there and couldn’t think anything more than simply, “Wow.”

MR: There is no wasted moment in anything we do or any second of our music. No note that we’ve ever written is inconsequential. Every single note has to have meaning. I think that what Annie and Pete did with the video. They gave every single frame of that video meaning and power.

TST: Exactly. For example, when the bulbs flash and the editing cuts to all of the images of the children and the sparks and the momentous snapshots in time as the music amplifies and climaxes, I can’t think of a more apt parallel to what consistently goes through my head when I your music, whether it “Postcard from 1952,” “Last Known Surroundings,” anything off Take care, Take Care, Take Care or All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone.

MR: Yeah, Annie (Gunn) and Pete (Simonite) did an amazing job capturing that creating a piece of art to visually represent it. You hope that is what music and all art accomplishes. Art is made for moments that can bring those real emotions to the surface.

TST: I promised your management I wouldn’t keep you longer than 15 minutes. There are so many things I wanted to ask you about everything from Austin to basketball.

MR: Yeah, sure!

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