Interview The School Of Seven Bells: ‘Introspection Can Take You To Some Dark Places’

Coral Williamson speaks to Alejandra Deheza, one half of School Of Seven Bells.

Ahead of their UK shows later this month, DIY corners Alejandra Deheza, one half of School Of Seven Bells, for a chat about things that go bump in the night, and their newest album, ‘Ghostory’.

First things first - how are you? How’s the tour in Australia going so far?
Things are great. Australia was amazing. I really wish we had more time there. We almost got to hang out with koalas and baby alligators, but the time crunch didn’t allow for that. So bummed! Next time maybe. I wasn’t ready this time. I may have run away with one on my shoulders.

Have you gotten used to playing as a duo now?
We’ve actually never had to. Recording has always been mainly Ben and I, but we’ve never played shows with less than three people. Right now we’re touring with Chris Colley on drums and Allie Alvarado from Painted Face on keys. I think four is our magic number. They’re both incredible musicians. It’s never been better live.

How different was the recording process for ‘Ghostory’ without Claudia?
Ben and I pretty much sat in a room together day after day until we had the songs finished. We’d never tried that. For the other records Ben and I would come up with ideas separately and then bring them together, but ‘Ghostory’ was 100% pure in the moment collaboration. I really loved writing that way. It definitely worked.

Can you talk us through some of the themes of ‘Ghostory’?
‘Ghostory’ was about opening my eyes to the way I was carrying all of these people and emotions and stories from the past with me and how much they were clouding up the present. It’s like the present stopped existing. What was there was just a constant rerun of old stories and old emotions. These things were haunting me to the point of insanity I think. They just disconnected me from the reality in front of me. I definitely think that’s a form of insanity. Writing these songs was a way to sit down and immerse myself in these things. I couldn’t demonise them, I had to live with them so I could understand them.

What intrigued you about ghosts to begin with?
I think it was church - The idea of angels and demons, the holy spirit, all of that. I was terrified of the devil when I was a kid, and that made me terrified of the dark. I slept with a night-light until I was way too old. One day, I got a hamster and it seemed to solve everything. I have no idea why, but I just felt better knowing she was in the room. Who knows. It’s a mystery to me. I still can’t sleep in a completely dark apartment. I brought the night-light back, but now I put it in the kitchen.

Who’s your favourite ghost ever?
Probably Beetlejuice, but from the cartoon. When he shape shifts into puns it’s pure comedy. I love it. He’s a pun mystic.

Who is Lafaye, and what’s haunting her?
Lafaye is me. She’s the one who was looking back at all of these stories and writing these letters. I wanted to give her a name, because her perspective really demystified and healed a lot of the stubborn emotions I was carrying around. She’s like a guardian. I think realising the role you played in any relationship that ended in heartache puts things back into your hands. It’s exhausting to constantly reinforce this idea of bad guy and good guy, and it’s utterly pointless. You tie yourself in knots making certain negative emotions more acceptable to you and it’s completely ineffective. You end up just giving the same drama a different name.

What’s your personal favourite song from ‘Ghostory’, and why?
It changes all the time. Right now it’s ‘Show Me Love’. She’s another guardian. Kind of like an inner guide, that intuition that we all have that tells us we may be compromising ourselves. She’s like an internal compass.

What do you think made you take on a darker, more goth-y sound? Was it something you were listening to, or reading at the time of writing?
Ben had a super clear idea of how he wanted the record to sound before we even started recording. We’d been playing in these huge rooms, some of them beautiful theatres and it made us hear ourselves differently. Also the different themes going on in our lives were definitely a colour we wanted represented on the record. Introspection can take you to some dark places. Especially when really having to go to those places you put off going to for so long. When he started playing some of the arrangements for me, I couldn’t believe. It still blows my mind how in sync we are when it comes to how we manifest or materialise whatever we are experiencing at the time. This time more than ever though, we were on the exact word of the exact line of the exact same page.

Finally, what have you got planned for the rest of the year?
More shows. UK again, Spain, Norway, Portugal…that’s just for the rest of the summer. We just recently did China, Mexico, Japan, and Australia in just a few weeks time. My goal is to be completely immune to jetlag. I’m going to master it one day soon. I’m learning to not let it affect me as much. Before summer is done I’m probably gonna have enough miles for a flight on Virgin Galactic. Machu Picchu would be pretty awesome. I’m pretty sure we’re touring through to the end of the year, so maybe I can sneak that one in – Peru I mean!

Catch School Of Seven Bells in the UK from 19th July. Their new album ‘Ghostory’ is out now.

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