As recently as three years ago, Explosions in the Sky lacked so much as a manager. Thanks to instrumental rock compositions that run nearly double-digits in length, the band seemed destined for underground status. But one football movie later, and things began to change.
If scoring the 2004 Peter Berg film "Friday Night Lights" didn't turn Explosions in the Sky into an overnight success, it did give the band a national presence. And, ahead of the Feb. 20 release of a new album, "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone," this once tiny band on an even smaller label can be heard on any given Wednesday, as the NBC series named after Berg's movie regularly uses Explosions in the Sky's music.
"It wasn't like we suddenly sold 30,000 copies," drummer Chris Hrasky says. "It was still a gradual incline. But we are getting more younger kids at shows. If you look on our MySpace page, we now have 14-year-old kids who listen to emo music listening to us. Three years ago, we were more exclusive to underground, experimental music fans."
The music of Explosions in the Sky is all about the tension of the slow build. The band's sweeping arrangements unfold like deconstructed rock anthems, where a flash of a melancholic guitar note can suddenly give way to a churning rhythmic march.
When pitching the band, "Friday Night Lights" music supervisor Brian Reitzell played up the fact that three of the four band members hail from Midland, Texas, a city about 23 miles from Odessa, the football-obsessed, working-class setting of the film.
"I was skeptical since I didn't know there was a music scene in Midland," Berg says. "But Brian played me several of [the band's] songs, and I was hooked. We had been trying to find a much more emotional and ethereal sound for the film, something that went against stereotypical football music. They were perfect for that."
It also brought the band a more mainstream following. Explosions' last disc, "The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place," has sold 55,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, with 34,000 copies sold after the October 2004 theatrical release of "Friday Night Lights." The band is by far the biggest act on New York-based indie Temporary Residence Limited.
But no one is worried that the sales numbers for "The Earth" were bloated because of the film's success. "The band built its following in a slow way, and I think that makes for a genuine following," manager Ben Dickey says. "There's a buzz with them, but no one is in this to hear a hit."
That said, Explosions in the Sky helped build Temporary Residence into a fully functioning label. Founder Jeremy Devine says the band's 2001 effort, "Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever," had sold 8,000 copies when "The Earth" was released. When "Friday Night Lights" hit, Devine and his distributor, Secretly Canadian, faced the challenge of educating retailers.
That won't be necessary this time, as Secretly Canadian expects to ship about 30,000 units on street date. A two-disc version with a bonus remix CD will be sent to indie retailers and limited to 20,000 copies.
"Our campaign still pales in comparison to the new Shins record," Devine says. "But we now have a cash flow and employees. Up until a year ago it was just me sitting on a floor."
Devine's dedication inspired extreme loyalty within the band. Dickey notes that this is the last album Explosions owes to Temporary Residence, but Hrasky doesn't expect a move. "I just don't know if we'd be good and doing whatever it is you have to do when you're on a bigger label," he says. "And you can get our records anywhere, so it's hard for me to see an advantage of a bigger label."