Originally called Breaker Morant, Explosions in the Sky was formed in Austin, Texas in 1999. Drummer Chris Hrasky is from Rockford, Illinois, and the rest of the band hails from Midland, Texas. The new name of "Explosions in the Sky" came from a comment Hrasky made in reference to the noise or sight of fireworks when they left KVRX on the night they played their first set and recorded their first track, "Remember Me as a Time of Day", that would be released on a compilation. Their 2000 debut album, How Strange, Innocence, was locally distributed in the form of CD-Rs. Rehearsal footage is featured on the feature film Cicadas, which won an Austin Film Festival award.
Explosions in the Sky quickly gained a reputation for themselves among other established bands such as Lift to Experience. Temporary Residence Limited signed the band on the strength of their demo after only half a listen; the demo was submitted by fellow Austin band The American Analog Set with a brief note saying, "This totally fucking destroys."
They garnered a small amount of media attention with their second album, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, due to rumors linking it to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The band denied any connection in interviews. The album art shows an airplane with the caption "This plane will crash tomorrow." There were false reports that the last track was called "This Plane Will Crash Tomorrow" and that the album was released on September 10, 2001; the concept had actually originated in 2000, and the album was officially released on September 4, 2001. Bassist Michael James was detained in an airport as a threat to security, and had to explain why his guitar contained the words "this plane will crash tomorrow".
The band also received a considerable amount of attention playing before large audiences as the opening act of Fugazi's spring 2002 US tour in support of The Argument.
After being contacted by Brian Reitzell, Explosions in the Sky wrote the soundtrack for the 2004 film Friday Night Lights. Despite having access to rare equipment in the studio for that project, the band kept to their songwriting style in creating original material.
Their album The Rescue was written and recorded in eight days as part of the TRL Travels in Constants series. As such, the album was originally only available at the band's live shows.
Explosions in the Sky's fifth studio album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, which debuted February 20, 2007, exists as both a one-disc version and a two-disc special edition featuring remixes by multiple artists.
The band began touring on February 19 in the U.S. and Canada.
On April 26, 2011, the band released their sixth studio album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.
They were one of the support acts for Nine Inch Nails on their North American leg of the Twenty Thirteen Tour in late 2013, alternating dates with Godspeed You! Black Emperor.