Interview School Of Seven Bells: ‘We’ve Been Through A Lot’

Alejandra Deheza talks to DIY about writing, ghosts and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.

School of Seven Bells have been through the mill since the release of their hit debut album Alpinisms back in 2008. The pressure of releasing a highly anticipated second album ‘Disconnect From Desire’ (again widely critically acclaimed), along with the subsequent loss of a band member in October 2010, might have prompted a break from writing and touring for the two remaining members. Not so. Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Deheza have continued to play shows almost non-stop, admirably squeezing their writing into incredibly hectic schedules. In the run-up to the release of their new record ‘Ghostory’, the band’s singer and lyricist Alejandra Deheza talks to DIY about writing, ghosts and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.

Your new album ‘Ghostory’ is released soon, which you recorded in between live shows. Did it feel like a rushed process at any point because of the lack of continued time and space to write and record?
Not at all. Writing in between the tours gave us a lot of energy and momentum to work with and the perfect window of time to channel it into a record. I wish we could write all of our records like that from now on.

The album has a structured story behind it, featuring Lafaye and the various ghosts in her life. Was it useful to have a definite idea behind what you were writing about, so that you knew you were both working along the same lines and on the same theme?
It was very useful. I feel like this was the first time we went into writing with a very clear picture of what we wanted to do conceptually, production-wise and with the lyrics. The record makes a very deliberate statement. There was a lot of passion and a lot of focus involved with this particular project. It perfectly mirrored what was going on in our lives, so we had that energy to work with too.

You have said that everybody has ghosts in their lives, and that is why people will be able to connect with this record. Was writing this album a cathartic process for you, a way of ridding yourself from your own ghosts?
Definitely, but it wasn’t easy. The process of writing the lyrics was really uncomfortable and painful a lot of the time. I hadn’t realised how much these subconscious conversations were steering my life, my thoughts, my perspective on things. I really do imagine it like I was walking around with a bunch of people behind me for years interacting with every relationship, steering every decision, interfering emotionally. It’s really hard to hear or see the person right in front of you when all of these other conversations are competing for your attention. They’re there whether you like it or not until you address them.

You have said that the process of writing this album was unusual in that you properly wrote together for the first time. Was this a conscious decision or did it feel like time to try a different approach?
It was a decision that came very naturally to us, almost like we evolved into it. I remember that when it came down to it, I’m not sure we discussed it, but we just set the schedule and that was that. We met almost every day that month with the sole purpose of writing Ghostory.

How much do you think the band has grown creatively and how would you say this has affected the music you have produced?
We’ve been through a lot in the last few years without much time to stop and process it. We’ve pretty much kept going even in the most difficult situations personally and musically, without giving ourselves a break. This I think is what forced us as individuals to process life through music more than any other kind of exploration. It was a kind of purification by fire. We got better at surviving through the work, and that had a huge impact on how much we developed creatively.

The songs feel very lyrically direct this time. Do you feel more confident in your writing than when you first started out as a band?
I definitely feel that the more I write, the more my own thoughts make sense to me. I think I’m more confident, because my head isn’t as much of a jumble as it was a few years ago. I’ve gotten better at facing things and getting to know the parts of my brain that I spent a big part of my life avoiding.

How do you continually find inspiration, especially when you’re on the road touring so often? Do you find it particularly in new music, or other art forms such as film, art, literature?
Inspiration is always there. Any time I see someone really going for it, it inspires me. It can be anything from watching an actor really truly shape-shift in a film and transform themselves beyond recognition, or it could be night driving through crazy martian looking landscapes on tour. Anything that rattles me a bit, and takes me out of rigidity or numbing loops. I like the fact that for my perspective there is an infinite amount of others I can slip into.

Who would you most like to tour with, in an ideal world?
Corrine Burns and The Stains.

School Of Seven Bells’s new album ‘Ghostory’ will be released on 27th February via Full Time Hobby.

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