Q&A: School Of Seven Bells
By Andy Malt | Published on Wednesday 11 April 2012
School Of Seven Bells released their debut album, ‘Alpinisms’, in 2008 to much acclaim. Then a trio fronted by identical twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza with former Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis, they released the follow-up ‘Disconnect From Desire’ in 2010, picking up yet more fans along the way.
In October 2010, it was announced that Claudia had left the band citing “personal reasons”, but Alejandra and Benjamin resolved to continue as a duo. They then began work on their third album, ‘Ghostory’, which was released via Full Time Hobby in February.
Last month, School Of Seven Bells played a one-off show at The Garage in London, and CMU Editor Andy Malt caught up with Alejandra to ask a few questions.
AM: How did becoming a duo change the way you work together?
AD: Benjamin and I have always been the main songwriters in the band, so the songwriting dynamic didn’t really change. So I knew that, if anything, the change would be from the outside looking in, ie the way that people would perceive the band. But the fact that people would be expecting something different was exciting. And we did just that. We created something different.
The approach for writing this record had more to do with timing. We had about a month break between two tours and we knew that the bulk of the writing had to happen then. We were super inspired and still carrying the live energy from the shows we’d done. We just channelled all of it into the writing. Every day going in at the same time and writing side by side, summoning inspiration instead of waiting for it.
I had always been so scared of losing inspiration, or it never finding me again – but not any more. I realised that it’s fully in my control. It’s incredibly liberating.
AM: Did you consider bringing the project to an end when Claudia left?
AD: I love School Of Seven Bells, and why would I stop doing what I love? The band began with and Benjamin and I wanting to write songs together, because we love what we do. And now it’s back to Ben and I after a few line-up changes. I think we’ve been through every change you could imagine! We started as two, and have had as many as five members at one point. The only constant has been the songs that Ben and I write. I’ve always found change to be an inspiring thing. It definitely keeps thing moving and evolving.
AM: Tell me a bit about the story running through ‘Ghostory’. How did you go about writing it? Did you plan it out before you wrote the lyrics?
AD: When I sat down to write the lyrics for what would become ‘Ghostory’, I found myself writing these letters to people from my past, my different selves included. In the story, Lafaye [the protagonist] is the girl looking back. She is the girl writing these letters. She’s writing to herself just as much as she is writing to the others that shared experiences with her. She is the victim and the villain.
‘Ghostory’ is something of an exorcism. These experiences all have a voice, several even. They’ve been moving her, influencing her, possessing her until now. She’s never addressed them until now. These undesirables are screaming for recognition, for validation, for an audience. They won’t leave until she gives them that chance, until she let’s them say what they need to say.
I wasn’t aware that there was a concept unfolding until halfway through. But when I did, I ran with it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
AM: How long did it take to develop the story and write the music? Did you go into the studio with a clear vision of what you wanted to record?
AD: We wrote the majority of it in about a month. The production took a bit longer. Benjamin definitely had a clear idea of the mood for the record. He took a lot of care with making sure the energy was right, and that it was sending a clear message.
AM: How do you feel your sound has developed on this album?
AD: I think every statement being made is very clear, sonically and lyrically. We really discussed what each song was about and made sure that we were saying exactly what we were trying to say. Simple as that.
AM: What other artists are you listening to at the moment?
AD: For this past week, it’s been Active Child and Joni Mitchell.
AM: You’ve just played a one-off London show. How does playing London compare to elsewhere? Do you plan to come back to the UK soon?
AD: I love playing London. I only get to maybe twice per record, so it’s always special.
AM: How would you like to see School Of Seven Bells develop in the future?
AD: I’m sure changes will keep coming I think that’s where we thrive. We’ll keep evolving and pushing ourselves creatively. As longs as that happens, I think I’ll be in love with it forever.