School Of Seven Bells
School Of Seven Bells have slowly refined their wistful, electro-pop sound across the course of three albums, culminating years of sonic reworking with their latest, Ghostory. The refinement has gone on behind the scenes as well, with Ben Curtis and Alejandra Deheza modifying the live lineup to a four-piece after the departure of Claudia Deheza in 2010. Reproducing in the live setting the intricate layers that SVIIB drench their music with has always been a challenge, with Curtis taking onstage musicianship to an exhaustive level.
“I’m still multi-tasking for sure,” Curtis says of the new format and bringing Ghostory to life. “I have always done that and I probably always will but I don’t have to be focussed on generating all of the dynamics of the music. When you have more people up there producing the energy you can be a little more nuanced. The thing with School Of Seven Bells is that it’s always so hard to bring it to the stage because there is so much detail and so many layers to the sound. We spend so much in the studio that when we are thrown onto the stage and we have to play the song, well, it never occurs to us when we write the song that we are going to play these songs live eventually.”
Curtis is softly spoken and thoughtful through our chat. He seems genuinely excited to be playing music, not resentful or caught up in indie angst, and respectful of the opportunities his band is being given. There is gentleness to his personality and you can feel how the dreamy melodies of SVIIB are an extension of his nature. He speaks about his relationship with Alejandra Deheza with utter respect and joy. “I think that it’s really interesting that we’ve this chance at various points in our relationship where we have really disagreed,” he says. “But the one thing that has mattered the most is that we have always loved the sound of the music we make together; we like the way music sounds when we have written it,” he laughs at the conceit of that comment and conveying the fact that they are really quite humble. “I think the most important part of us was a couple of years back, I remember telling her how much I love making music with her, we tell each other all the time. The collaboration gets better because we can lay anything in each other’s lap and know it will be treated with respect.”
With Ghostory a culmination of the band’s diverse and evolving sound, Curtis manages to explain exactly how happy he is with the album while removing himself from the banality of artists who proclaim that every new album is their best ever. “I hate the cliché of people saying the newest album is their best ever,” he laughs. “You have to say that, you’re selling it, and that’s not to be dismissive of people who have their favourite record. There are some fans who only ever want to hear the first record of every band they have ever loved and that’s cool too. But for me, as far as the process went of making art, of having an idea and manifesting it, it was the most satisfying ever. That felt so great.”
The focus of the band for the past few years has been saturated in the departure of Claudia Deheza, probably due to both sides being withheld as to the reasons why. Curtis speaks of the comfort that he and Alejandra Deheza have as a songwriting unit. “That circle where we create is really delicate and it takes a lot of trust to share that,” he says. “I can’t say what the system will be for the next record. There are a lot of issues at play here. Simultaneously there are two control freaks but then also a lot of freshness to that and excitement so it works out to be a happy medium.”
Is Curtis a little tired of people being so curious about the relationship between himself and the Deheza sisters and Claudia’s exit?
“I don’t blame them,” he says. “For better or worse there was something that was really attractive about twins.”
I am compelled with that comment – albeit innocently made – to ask whether that attraction has resulted in some sort of eerie sexual innuendo which leads on to joking about the misconception that he must be having some sort of twin three-way backstage after every gig. “Absolutely it’s weird,” he laughs. “I wonder what the fans were listening to in the first place. Was the appeal the music? Because live it sounds better than it even has and the studio is no different so really the photo has just changed…There is this whole old man contingency that really freaks us out…How ridiculous is that idea when men are dismissive of women in a band thinking their only function is sex and being pretty and all of that? I remember the tour where Claudia left we got off stage and this creepy old guy came up to Alley in this really deep voice and said, ‘I was expectin’ sisters.’ It’s like, gross! Don’t come, please, don’t ever come to our show.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS play The Hi-Fi as part of their Shoreline Series this Thursday June 21 with Little Scout. Ghostory is out now through Vagrant/Inertia.