While fellow instrumentalist contemporaries Mogwai have begun to dabble within the realm of conventional vocal-led tracks, Munaf states that his band hasn’t really entertained the thought of heading in a similar direction. “Not too much, only jokingly to each other during practice of soundchecks, just sometimes sing funny verses. But the music is the music, and that’s been our bread and butter for the last twelve years. It’s not necessarily of the notion of ‘if it’s not broken don’t fix it’, it’s just a case of that’s where we’re strongest. Why alter that? If we were to introduce vocals, for us, it would just take away from the composition, the structure and the melodies that we’re using to lead the way,” he muses.
While the band don’t look likely to step out from under the label of pure instrumentalists anytime soon, the release of Take Care, Take Care, Take Care has seen the band begin to expand their onstage roster with a supplementary bassist. “Carlos Torres is his name, and he’s been a close friend of ours – like a brother, if not something more. We’ve know each other for half of our lives. We all grew up in the same small West Texas town together. He’s been on tour with us the last few years just kind of sitting side of stage helping, in case we break strings, or we need something done. It was just kind of nice to take a friend with us and show him the world. But with this new album, we had some additional melodies, some samples that were running, things that we couldn’t accomplish in the live setting with just the four of us,” Munaf reveals. “So we invited him onstage, and he gladly accepted. He’s been really helping out filling out the live show, he triggers samples, he plays percussion, and when Michael is playing guitar on certain tracks, Carlos fills out on the bass.”
Melbourne was fortunate to have just witnessed the splendour of Japanese post-rock group Mono performing replete with the massive Holy Ground Orchestra. With Explosions In The Sky’s output bearing distinctly orchestral characteristics, one can’t help but wonder if the band has thought of performing in a similar manner. “We’re very content with the setup we have now. I’ve seen Mono play with an orchestra, and that was just spectacular. They’re a band we’re very close with, we’ve been good friends for many years and we look out for each other. The way they do that is really incredible, I just don’t think that we can do it in that way. But, I think it would be interesting, and this is something we’ve discussed before, if we were to have an orchestra just play the album – without us, without any rock instruments, like a true classical version of the album. Translating guitar lines and bass lines and samples to bassoons and cellos and triangles – have a true symphony play it. It’s just a daydream, we haven’t taken any major strides into making it happen. But who knows what tomorrow holds?” he ponders. “Until we’ve heard it in that orchestral, symphonic setting then we’ll never know. But I would be most curious to see if our melodies would cut through like they cut through with rock instruments. Could it be placed in a whole line of classical pieces and not jump out, and just blend in beautifully with that world. It’s all speculation at the moment, but I would be curious to see. I don’t think it would be for us to prove ‘oh yes, these are very orchestral pieces’ because we try very hard to consider composition and structure and all that good stuff,” he divulges.
With such an incredibly impassioned fanbase reaching all across the globe, one can forgive Munaf for feeling a little bit surprised or confused in regards to his band’s connective capabilities. “Both of those things, surprised and confused. But at the same time, overwhelmed and excited – and most grateful – that in this day and age we can play music without singing, without a vocal hook and draw the crowds that we are drawing, or sell the amount of records that we are selling, building this fanbase. All credit to the listener, that they’re offering their time. Some might argues that this is an acquired taste to listen to music like this. But from what I’m seeing, so many people are really paying attention, and offering their attention. Our songs vary from eight to twelve minutes, that’s a commitment for you to sit down and listen, and furthermore appreciate. We are most grateful for those who are listening to us, because without them we would not be as far along as we are now.”