Interview School Of Seven Bells

School Of Seven Bells are the new band from ex-Secret Machines man Benjamin Curtis and identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. Their fresh take on shoegaze electronica mixed with ethereal balladry has enchanted listeners and seen their album ‘Alpinisms’ met with blanket critical praise.

School Of Seven Bells

are the new band from ex-Secret Machines man Benjamin Curtis and identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. Their fresh take on shoegaze electronica mixed with ethereal balladry has enchanted listeners and seen their album ‘Alpinisms’ met with blanket critical praise.

Hi Alejandra! How did School Of Seven Bells meet and decide to make music together?
We were in two bands before, me and my sister (Claudia) were in a band called On! Air! Library! And Benjamin was in Secret Machines and we met in November 2004 when we were both on tour with Interpol. We didn’t actually start playing together until 2007 though. We had a shared sensibility, I really liked what he (Curtis) did and when you’re on tour together you have a lot of time to hang out. We made good friends pretty quickly and the idea for SVIIB’s kept coming up in conversation, as the tour ended Benjamin just said to us “Hey, next time you’re back in New York give me a call and we’ll go record something.” And we did and things went from there.

What was it that convinced Benjamin to leave Secret Machines?
They came to the end of a touring cycle for ‘Ten Silver Drops’ (Secret Machines 2006 LP) and I think he started wanting to make the kind of music we had recorded that time in New York. It was never the case of choosing one or the other he just came to that decision himself and decided to follow this band.

What was the first School Of Seven Bells gig like?
It was in New York at a place called Tonic which has shut down now. It was this amazing venue where you could to hear really experimental music, a lot of musicians you normally wouldn’t hear. It closed about a month after we played; we were one of the last shows. Back then we had a bass player and a drummer. It was such a fun show, I mean we hadn’t fully developed our sound back then but it was a lot of fun.

When did you record ‘Alpinisms’?
It was weird because when we first got together we were going on tour a lot with friends of ours so we played with Blonde Redhead and Prefuse 73. So we were basically writing the songs for how we wanted to record them as we played them live. W weren’t looking for a label or anything but it came to a point where we had a studio for three weeks to record. The way we were working though if we had started that record by the time the three weeks were up we’d have had a totally different album to what we wanted to we scrapped that idea altogether. It took more time but when we eventually finished the record we were happy because it was the album we wanted.

Do you feel your music is optimistic?
It wasn’t intentional because I think there’s a lot of bad memories tied up in the record for me. I wrote a song on the record called ‘For Kala Mari’ which is about a very good friend of mine who passed away, she took her own life and she was a very talented artist. I had lost contact with her because she had gotten to a really bad place in her life. That song is basically a letter to her telling her all the things I wish I could have said. That really helped me come to terms with things so even if it doesn’t sound like the most upbeat song it was a worthwhile process for me to write and record that track.

You have spoken about how dreams inform your music…
Yeah, basically I’m really interested in the way that situations and storylines present themselves to you in dreams. It’s all the same language that we speak in dreams, its all images. Things happen in such a lucid way that when you come to tell people or write it down things have to change to make sense. I wanted to try to avoid that whole thing of putting it down in the simple form we learn in school; I think people are smarter than that. I try to write songs that are not in a very grid like format so that people can understand on a more natural level.

Finally, School of Seven Bells is named after an ancient school for pick pockets?
Yeah there used to be a huge shoplifting ring on the East coast of America near Washington and North Carolina and they were just ransacking places. They were so organised and thorough, intelligent people and it got to the point where people were going into shops with nothing but a coat and a plastic bag and leaving with $10,000 worth of stuff. These people were trained at these academies and the final test was to steal seven items from seven pockets without ringing any of the seven bells attached to them.

And what’s the worst thing you stole when you were a child?
Oh yeah, everyone does that when they are young don’t they? It’s so funny. When I was really little me and my sister went into this store and decided that we would take whatever was on the floor. So we went in and all these earring were on the floor so we took them. We knew it was wrong but we didn’t know it was that wrong y’know? We were like three years old, when we got home though our Mum found out what we had done and we got in a lot of trouble! Those earrings went back to where they came from pretty quickly.

School Of Seven Bells will be playing SXSW this month. The dates are: 18th March, Buffalo Billiards (KCRW Night Showcase) - midnight; 19th March, Mohawk (Rhapsody Daytime Party) - 1:30pm; 20th March, Emo’s (Pitchfork/Windish Agency Party) - 3pm; 20th March, Radio Room (Mojo presents Ghostly International/Full Time Hobby Showcase) - 10pm; 21st March, Austin, TX @ Urban Outfitters - 5pm.

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