A couple of weeks back, we went on and on - and rightfully so – about Austin-based instrumental rock heroes, Explosions in the Sky. Now, please allow us to go on and on about another Texas-based act that thrives in the realm of instrumental and post-rock. This Will Destroy You is back with Tunnel Blanket (Suicide Squeeze Records), a ferocious, brooding and moody album that really hammers you over the head in the best way possible – if you just let it.
The four-piece band that originated in San Marcos and has a couple of Dallas-based members has actually become quite the stars in the post-rock-or-whatever-you-want-to-call-it world. Drawing crowds not only around the US, but sizable throngs overseas, it’s fair to say that the new album was indeed eagerly anticipated by more than a few. Tunnel Blanket does represent a dynamic shift for the band’s overall sonic vibe. Opting to move away from the soaring, catchy and melodic climaxes that recall that one group from Austin, and into a bleaker, tension-filled terrain have created a textured variety that rewards those who allow the waves to roll towards them, then over them entirely. There aren’t any easy, quick escapes to be found on this dense, and richly manipulated album.
TWDY is kicking off their tour to support the release of Tunnel Blanket, and we were recently able to catch up with Chris King, one of the group’s founders and guitarists. Below, we discuss a few of the variables that makes the band, their sound and their new album so remarkable (my words, not King’s).
After listening to the new record a couple of times, it’s pretty impossible to miss the difference in overall tone, compared to your previous work. There seems to be an added emphasis on building tension and creating drama.
On the last record, we had a different approach to building each song. Now, it’s more of a slow burn than an immediate send-off. We wanted to create tension in more subtle ways and not be so obvious about it.
You must get tired of being asked this, but I can’t help myself, because I’m just really curious. Do you consider yourself “Post-Rock,” or do you have a different definition for what it is that your band does?
With this new record, we did intentionally want to avoid easy genre-labeling, but we made the record that came naturally to us. That’s why I don’t get into trying to name different types of music. People are always going to try to categorize music in specific terms. I mean, people could say that we make polka music for all I really care. Those titles and categories have no standing with me at all.
John Congleton produced this record, and has produced many other instrumental bands, such as Explosions in the Sky and Dallas’ Shapes Stars Make (not to mention St. Vincent, The Walkmen and Sarah Jaffe). Why is he such a talent when it comes to this brand of music?
I have a lot of respect for john. He has a real unique sensibility for sound manipulation and engineering. There are techniques he uses that I would never think of and he finds really creative ways to utilize them. His records have a dark, angry grit to them and that’s always stood out to me.
Your band has had some really large crowds in Europe and you’re about to head back that way for some shows soon. Do you think European music fans “get” what is you do, more than American fans?
I do see that sensibility in Europe. In America, many people are really into things that are so immediate. In Europe, I feel like there’s more patience, and less concern for what’s trendy. It seems to be a more consistent market over there, and there’s a very high respect for art.
Another thing I can’t escape when listening to Tunnel Blanket is the feeling of being rewarded for my patience and letting each song unfold in its own time. Do you think that keeps people from grasping your sound?
You know, people have different approaches when listening to music, so, to each their own. For us, this record wasn’t about hooks and melodies as much as it was about moods and creating environment.
I know that we still might technically be still in the midst of Spring, but the temps are beginning to suggest otherwise. Each year, as our energy bills rise, so to does the list of concerts we all circle on our repsective calendars. Below are a few of the top tours and festivals hitting the state. Some you may know all about by now, and others on this list may be hitting your radar for the first time, perhaps. Regardless, we’re pretty sure you’ll find something for almost any taste in the list below…
Austin Psych Fest (April 29 – May 1) - As much of an oddball grouping as your likely to find all year. This intense, all-weekend bill will be filling the Seaholm Power Plant with all sorts of industrial noise and racous bad/good times. Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez Lopez group, along with A Place to Bury Strangers, No Joy and even Texan-goup This Will Destroy You, lead a sonic assult that will likely leave any attendees few questions as to why their ears are bleeding.
Wilco (Houston May 6, Denton May 7) – Not much to add to the simple fact that Wilco will be hitting a couple of places in our state. Word has it that some sort of release is nearing completion, but even if Jeff Tweedy and crew dont play new tunes, their classics are just that – classic.
Editor’s Pick! Homegrown Festival (Dallas May 14): What began last year as a relatively humble gathering of local bands, some of which had outgrown the city limits a tad, has become a full-fledged destination festival, this year. the name of the all-day shindig rings true, still though. Headliners such as Slobberbone, Neon Indian, Astronautalis, and School of Seven Bells are widely known around the country, but all started here in North Texas. The still-new and beautiful Main St Garden is an ideal location that soon might be too small for this budding festival.
Editor’s Pick! Mogwai (Dallas May 15, Austin May 16, Houston May 17) – Perhaps the band that gave real wings to what so many term as “post-rock”. The Scottish outfit has now been together for over a decade and a half, and after three years, they’ve just released an insanely anthemic studio album album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, which is their best effort since their debut record, 1997′s Young Team. Similar to a band like Austin’s Explosions in the Sky, who clearly adore Stewart Braithwaite and his crew, Mogwai has always looked to create moving soundscapes that escape simple categorization. The former Matador stars, now working with Sub Pop have had this American tour planned for a while, actually. The Granada Theater in Dallas announced this show back in November, giving fans plenty of time to brush up on their air-guitar and shoegazing skills. A Pitchfork review of the new record, while not glowing, summed up a feeling that has seemed to evident in the band’s recent performances by suggesting, “ On Hardcore, Mogwai sound like they’re enjoying being Mogwai again.” I can only imagine that us Texans will enjoy them just fine.
Editor’s Pick! Twilight Singers (May 30 Dallas, May 31 Austin, June 1 Houston) – Another Sub Pop act that has been around for a while will be making their long-awaited way through Texas. This project is a bit differnt, however. Greg Dulli, formerly the leader of Afghan Wigs, made this his secondary group, therefore output from this act was scarce until his main act disbanded in 2001. After that, releases havent exactly been prolific, but they have at least bore the mark of a real band and not merely a one-off side project. Case in point: Twilight Singers latest album, Dynamite Steps. An all-out alt-rock album that features agressive rock, with agresive melodies and a real sense for drama. Afghan who?
Houston Free Press Summerfest (June 4-5) - Talk about a line-up that doesn’t need much further explanation? The annual festival, held in Eleanor Tinsley Park, has really topped their already impressive acts from previous years. Weezer, Big Boi, Cut Copy, Yeasayer, Jason Isbell, and Beirut headline a line-up that has really strong support from Lower Dens, Hayes Carll, The Black Angels and Those Darlins, among many others.
Adele w/ Wanda Jackson (Austin June 12, Dallas June 15) – Hello, Girl Power! The current darling of the UK and the US album charts pairs herself with the Queen of Rock and Roll? Yes please! That’s a serious amount of soul to put onto one stage in one night.
Man, recently, we are doing some serious Post-Rocking in the free world. Well, at least here in Texas, we are. Well-known veterans (Mogwai) and slightly lesser-known, slightly younger (This Will Destroy You) acts of that ilk are releasing new works, and hitting various cities in our region in the next few weeks. In many cases, the new music departs from sounds of the past, in order to differentiate themselves from a sound they claim to not be a part of.
The primary reason we’re getting all spacey and anthemic? Austin’s own instrumental rock heroes, Explosions in the Sky have a new album out, and it’s worthy of celebration.
Many other bands that specialize in a similar form of lyric-less, guitar-driven, arena-worthy anthems seem to bristle at the notion of being viewed as “post-rock,” but judging by Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, the outfit’s seventh album (if you’re including the band’s highly-praised contributions to the Friday Night Lights movie soundtrack), they’re not too worried about folks judging them for not switching things up and making a massive stylistic leap into another realm of instrumental music.
Over the course of 6 songs, spanning 46 minutes, EITS serves up anthems that do possess a few musical additions that astute observers will surely tell anyone listening represents a departure from the group’s typical sound. One thing that is pleasingly similar to their other works is how dramatic the music is. A review of the album on the site, Baebel Music.com describes the album’s layout as a “cinematic storyboard,” and I think they nailed it, when choosing such a description.
Whether it’s post-rock, instrumental rock, or just plain ol’ rock, EITS have created an identifiable sound that is all theirs, even if some detractors suggest that they aren’t terribly original and basically copying Scottish post-rockers Mogwai. We happen to think there’s room for everyone on the pool and that this work does deserve a closer listen. Once you listen closely, you will see that this is an album that doesn’t need words, or pointless comparisons either.
OK, not much to say here, so let’s get to it: Two bands. One’s from Texas (This Will Destroy You) and one’s from Virginia (Sons of Bill), but is very popular in Texas. Both have new albums coming out soon and both videos are from this year’s SXSW and both are fantastically done…Enjoy!
Now, for the one below, settle in and grab a drink. Vanquish all distractions and let this video roll all over you…
There are times when you hear music from a band and you suddenly feel yourself turn into your parents and say “what is this noise!?” And a lot of times you could be right. As highly regarded as Sonic Youth is, a lot of their music is mostly noise. When “post-rock” and experimental rock music started gaining prominence with bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor! the genre of noise-rock was taken to a whole new level. They were a band that created sonic landscapes that took the listener to places they had to imagine for themselves without relying on a vocalist to lead them somewhere by the hand.
At first blush, you could easily brush of the music of San Marcos’ This Will Destroy You as simple noise. However, once you’ve accepted that their music isn’t just noise, you have to accept that instrumental music is just as great as songs that have lyrics. This isn’t an easy task for the casual music fan.
While the “post-rockers” do have a definite lack of appeal for commercial radio, their instrumental music is beautiful and sprawling. While most bands depend on a vocalist to express the emotion of a song, This Will Destroy You lets the music do the talking for them. They express a beauty without words that is hard to match–by manipulating their instruments they create a very discernable emotion that and provides its own aural storytelling.
Their songs like “Quiet” easily set a scene that takes you anywhere you want to go: the first time you fell in love or it could take you to a beautiful Texas sunrise. In an industry of where you are considered to have talent because of the way you look and your ability to lipsync to a tape of your voice This Will Destroy You show what real musicianship is all about: creating something that a listener can identify with. It’s not easy for to just create a world within music alone. If that were the case then anyone would be able to pick up an instrument and whip out a song. But, this little San Marcos band excels a creating beautiful music with pluck of a string and strike on a drum.
Lance Lester is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Lance is listening to, visit him on his personal music blog, Bona Fide Darling.