In light of Explosions in the Sky‘s upcoming performance at Osheaga, I bring you their collaborative effort with David Wingo: Prince Avalanche: An Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, plus an exclusive interview (albeit conducted via e-mail) with Explosions’ Mark Smith, who is an ultra-rad dude.
From start to finish, the Prince Avalanche soundtrack is pure gold. Explosions in the Sky are no strangers to creating emotional and moving music, making them the perfect contenders for scoring a movie about two very different dudes (Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch) who find themselves becoming unlikely friends while repainting traffic lines in rural Texas. Check out the trailer, which just so happens to feature my favourite song on the soundtrack:
In the interest of full disclosure: I have not seen this movie. It is not out yet, so neither have you. I don’t like this soundtrack because of the movie, nor do I think I’ll like the movie just because of the soundtrack. The beauty is that they’re not mutually exclusive. Even if you have no interest in seeing Prince Avalanche, the record is spin-worthy. Not only does it capture the essence of the film (discovering friendship in the least likely of places while wearing silly overalls and arguing about boomboxes), but the combined forces of Wingo and Explosions brings you to a strangely familiar place. The album goes by in waves, moving from a quirky sort of sadness (“Dear Madison”) to deep melancholy (“Wading”) to a joyousness one only finds in a happy ending (“Send Off”). At the end of the album, it feels as though you’ve seen the film: each song represents a filmic (omg how did I get so pretentious) moment that one can feel more than imagine. If you’re interested in actually understanding what I’m talking about, go stream the album for free at Entertainment Weekly.
And now, let Mark Smith charm the shit out of you:
Veronica: How was it working on the soundtrack for this movie?
Mark: The experience was basically wholly positive, no exaggeration. We haven’t worked on many soundtracks, but I’m afraid this experience will probably spoil future experiences because of how stress-free (not completely but mostly) and natural and fun this whole thing was. The whole filmmaking process was geared towards making a really independent passion project of a film, and we really felt like we were part of the making of that film.
V: Did you see it before you started working on it, or did you already have some ideas laid out before seeing the movie?
M: In my recollection, the first thing that happened was a series of conversations and emails with the director, David Gordon Green, about what the movie was about and what tone the music should have. It got pretty detailed, to the point where I remember discussing having clarinets on the album, which we did actually end up using. Then we started sketching out a few demos before we saw any of the movie, including the main theme. Then as they filmed and began editing and sending us scenes, it was a really cool thing to see that the tone of our demos was really striking a good chord with the actual scenes. And once we had that tone and palette, the rest of it followed relatively quickly.
V: Have you worked this collaboratively with other artists previously, and was it difficult to do so?
M: This was actually the first time we have ever collaborated with anybody, which is pretty remarkable because we’ve been a band for over 14 years. It was shockingly un-difficult, and I chalk that up to us being good friends with Wingo. We definitely meshed in a very natural way.
V: How was the work split up; did you guys have a stronger hand in any songs than David Wingo or vice versa?
M: For various reasons, Wingo was busy during the first part of the songwriting/scoring process, so we had first crack at watching the scenes and trying to come up with the musical palette. So we had some things in place and some ideas for a lot of it, but once he was able to join up with us, he definitely brought his sound and vision to each and every track. It was really a pretty great match, and I think there’s an equal part of all five of us in the soundtrack.
V: What do you think of the movie? Did you get to meet any of the actors or other people involved during the scoring process?
M: We all love the movie and have of course seen it a number of times now and it has gotten better each time, which is a special quality. Green brings so much nuance and creativity as a director that you notice little details with each viewing. We did actually all get to meet the actors–the filming was all done in Bastrop, Texas, which is only about half an hour’s drive from Austin, so we all went and visited the set and met a lot of the people who helped make the movie.
V: In general, what are your musical inspirations and who are your influences?
M: Our main musical influences in no particular order has to include Bedhead, Pavement, Fugazi, The Cure, Jawbreaker, Sonic Youth, Arvo Part, Nirvana, and Dinosaur Jr. And when we first started we definitely were influenced by some of the bands who had already started doing this type of music, namely Mogwai and Godspeed and Dirty Three. Our main inspirations were and are other music, movies that we love, and trying to make music for our own lives and the feelings we get from our friends and families and heartbreaks and happiness.
V: Are you excited to be going on tour with NIN?
M: We all are. They are just one of those bands that we all loved so much in high school and college, a band that really meant something to us, and to think that we are going on tour with them is amazing.
V: What’s your favourite candy bar? Pizza toppings? What’s one food you can’t stand?
M: There are so many quality candy bars. But I feel (and at least two of my bandmates will agree) that Snickers is pretty much hands-down the top of the pagoda. And if you really want to get technical, the Snickers bars that are sold in Europe are the absolute best–the roasting of the peanuts has a little extra taste that actually improves on the near-perfect American version. I also love Butterfingers and Reese’s Cups. But again, really there are so many great ones. The majority of the time these days I find myself going for the Payday bar. For pizza toppings, I am a vegetarian and most times I prefer the simple classics of just cheese or a nice Margherita. But I also love mushrooms and green peppers. And feta cheese and basil and tomatoes and garlic is a nice combo. I was a vegan for a couple years and I really wanted to like vegan cheese pizzas but I didn’t, but I hear they’ve improved more recently. I really can’t stand butter, ranch dressing, and sour cream, which certainly helped when I went vegan.
V: Most embarrassing childhood memory?
M: We were Catholic, and as a 12-year-old altar boy at Christmas Eve Mass I was bringing the Eucharist (the wafers that are designated to embody the body of Christ) across the altar and I tripped on my untied shoelaces and spilled the Eucharist all over the altar.