Out with their new LP, entitled Trust a Robot, at the end of this month, Exray’s have not only racked up an impressive list of musical associates in their brief years as a band, but, have also managed to cement themselves into a wider cultural lexicon by being included on 2010′s soundtrack to David Fincher’s The Social Network, a cultural lexicon all its own, some would argue. Via their chat with URB, the band was able to open up about what it’s really like to receive mainstream exposure (surprisingly it’s had little effect on their self-image or DIY ethos), about their musical community (they’re played live with everyone from tUnE-yArDs to Matthew Dear), and gave us a much sought-after peek into the minds of why punky audio innovators like themselves are turning more and more toward the dance genre and to all of its automated glories.
Ancient Thing by Exray’s
URB: So just to get the awkwardness out of the way, what in the world was is like getting “part of The Social Network soundtrack” onto your list of achievements? Did being part of a compilation attached to an Oscar nominated film score throw a spotlight on what you do in any way? Did it alter the direction you were going in as far as your future plans for the band? Maybe doors were opened for more festival shows, other soundtrack placements, things like that?
Exray’s: It was a thrill to be part of the Social Network soundtrack. It definitely opened doors for us, but nothing that felt otherworldly. Google has done a great job of keeping track of these things, but we’re really the same band as before. We love making our own records in our own studio based on what inspires us and challenges us. We send our albums out to the world in handmade situations that match the music. We usually perform, record and work with people that we’ve developed personal connections to over time. That’s where most of our growth has occurred.
URB: You’re part of a pretty eclectic group of people, not only in that you have this association with super mainstream musicians like Trent and Atticus, but also in that you’ve also toured with tUnE-yArDs, Nite Jewel, Tim Cohen, and The Sandwiches, had some of those people collaborate on the current record, and been remixed by Shigeto and Devonwho. Is your list of cohorts so eclectic because that’s the nature of being an act from the Bay Area, as in that part of the world is very colorful and free spirited? Is there an alternative source of inspiration you tap to get such a wide array of influence on your sound? How did all these people come to be a part of the world of Exray’s?
Exray’s: The main job requirement for Exray’s is diverse musical taste or a burning desire to be the biggest audio nerd in the room. A band can become its own world, something that feels really complete, with all its own schemes, dramas and triumphs. We have that for sure, but we always try to look outward too. We’re curious persons. Meeting other artists is important to us. We learn from them, find new inspiration, play a few shows, maybe even become friends.
URB: You seem to be very enthusiastic about literature when it comes to citing references. How does that medium translate into your music you think? Does it impact primarily on the lyrics? Are the keyboard or guitar parts typically more rhythmic because, say, dystopian literature tends to try and steer a reader towards “structure” and what the various interpretations of that word can be? Are there any other links between your music and your literary heroes that I’m not picking up on?
Exray’s: If we’re not careful, music can focus too much on music. It’s just a language. Our favorite music has something to say about the world outside the world of music. Exray’s has become really focused on the future and our music is a way for us to explore what that may hold. We don’t have a glorified view of the future, or a negative view, probably more of a Zen view. (Things will be gained? Things will be lost?) In general, we’re attracted to the Dystopian writers because they seem to have a more sober view toward the promises of evolution. They remind us to be aware and alive as the world changes.
URB: Electronic music was so uncool for such a long time, either because of the stigma that came with using ProTools as a be-all, end-all means of recording or just because not much musical skill is required in order to write in Ableton or Reason. Why do you think there’s been this change of heart on your and other Lo-Fi or DIY acts’ parts towards dance and the electronic production method?
Exray’s: Uncool is the land of opportunity. I don’t think we’ve had a change of heart, we’ve always been uncool. Exray’s can’t speak for other bands. In our opinion, any tool that makes music is a good one. Rhythmic parts tend to work better than rhythmless ones. It’s great to embrace old and new machines; let’s teach them all how to be human.
Exray’s “Trust a Robot” is out on June 26th via Howells Transmitter
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