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Interview
School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells

date
Monday 9th August, 2010 1:32PM

Introduce yourselfÖ

I am Benjamin Curtis and I am in a band called School of Seven Bells with Ale and Claudia Deheza. We met, they were in a band called On Air Library and I was in a band called Secret Machines and we were on tour together in 2004 and then it took a couple of years but we decided to start School of Seven Bells I guess in early 2007. Itís a really good healthy collaboration, definitely the best work Iíve done so far. Itís cool weíre busy, weíre in the middle of a 6 month tour which has been completely insane.

Had Secret Machines become unhealthy?

Oh no no Iím implying that it was unhealthy, I think a collaboration is unhealthy if you think youíre done collaborating. You know, the thing with the Secret Machines was that I think the statement had been made, it was a great band, I feel like I did my part with it. I was proud of the work I had done and it was time to move on and do something else.

What part did you play in Secret Machines?

I played guitar, there was three of us.

Are they making music?

Yeah yeah they still exist, itís my brothers project now. I got to see them play recently that was cool (laughs) Iíve never done that before.

What other bands have you played in?

I used to play in a band with Tim from Poly Phonic Spree. There was a band we were in together in Texas itís called Tripping Daisy I played drums in that band when I was just out of high school, weird weird moment in time. Iíve been making music for as long Iíve been able to do it, Secret Machines was the first thing I ever played guitar in, it was like my first real thing I guess.

So you're a Texan?

By default, I just lived there for a while Iím actually an Oklahoman which is one step down from a Texan (laughs).

You live in Brooklyn NY now though right?

Yes I do

Brooklyn is well known for producing some great music, why do you think that is?

Um well thereís a lot of energy of New York City, the thing is with Brooklyn, the reason there are so many musicians here because itís cheaper. There is a lot going on, there is a lot of really great music here, living here is so difficult in a way because the pace is so high and the rent is so high and itís not easy. Itís really hard to coast so if youíre going to do something youíve really got to give everything you can and all you can. If you donít you really will sink, if youíre not worthwhile in what your doing youíll just go broke, itís hard to have just a hobby band here you know because if you spend that much time on it, itís got to work. But itís a great place to live.

Tell us about your new album Alpinisms?

We recorded it probably in spring of last year, we recorded it our selves, I produced it and mixed it and engineered at my home studio. Itís the first record I ever did top to bottom without relying on any other engineers. The songs we wrote pretty quickly but the album we recorded really quickly too it probably took us three to four weeks to record and mix it. Itís a work Iím really proud of. I was really kind of off the album for awhile because Iíve been just kind of getting into singles tracks and putting together and album like this and seeing the way people listen to music as an album and hearing how the songs work together maybe me kinda all in love with it as a format again.

What is your writing process?

Itís the three of us in a room, coming up with a lot of vocals, recording that, coming up with the vocal arrangement and then worrying about the music after, making sure the music ornaments the vocals and not the other way around. Itís very much centred around the vocals.

How has the reaction been to Alpinisims, have you read any reviews?

I donít read reviews, speaking to people though itís been really great. The cool thing is people are so different, there isnít any correct way to our listen to music or to interpret it, it is what it is and I Iove hearing peopleís reaction to it. Itís always surprising to me, itís cool.

So you never read you written reviews?

No I donít like written reactions. I mean if someone approaches me with a comment thatís cool, Iíll engage in a conversation but I canít handle reading reviews. Why would you read your reviews, they donít give you any information thatís useful. The thing is everyone has their opinion and they could be having a horrible day or they could love something, I mean if someone loves it, it shouldnít change what I do and if someone hates it, it shouldnít change what I do. If they hate it, it just makes me feel bad so I donít read it.

Itís not going to make me any better as a musician, thatís a fact, Iíve learnt that over time (laughs).

How did you hook up with Speak and Spell?

Iíd been in touch with Jonny for a long time, he first put up on our myspace Ďhey I love it keep in touchí. And when we finally had our album done we called him up and said Ďhey remember us, do you still want to work with us, do you still like us?í And yeah he still liked us which was cool, theyíre a really really great great label and weíre really happy that weíre able to work with them.

Who are you signed to in America?

Itís Ghostly International, thatís what theyíre called. Theyíre mainly an electronic label from anh arbor Michigan. We met kind of in the summer of last year, itís cool I like them a lot.

What other bands are signed to Ghostly?

Matthew Dear, Dabrye, weíre really the only song orientated band on it, itís actually a lot of dance music. Weíre kind of the black sheep of the label.

So they donít invite you to their parties?

No they do, everyoneís just kinda like who invited the band, weíre just trying to hang out and dance (laughs).

Do you have any other release out?

Thereís a bunch of singles and an EP that came out earlier before the album. Thereís lots of stuff youíve just got to go online and check it out.

Clearly youíve had some international success in you career, what's it like to hear you have fans in other countries around the world?

Itís weird, you here things like oh itís okay here and not okay there or something like that but it doesnít really mean anything to you until you're there. Itís really strange, like being in a city that youíve never been in and then playing to a room full of people, itís amazing. I feel so, not to sound corney, but I feel really lucky, I feel really blessed because there is so much music out there, I mean there is way too much music to even get a handle on. I mean just the fact that we can actually peak our heads above water with the constant din of zillions of indie bands is great. Just the fact that anyoneís heard of us is a feat and that they like it is even more amazing.

Any plans to visit NZ?

I hope so, hopefully in the fall. Weíre going to be in Australia in April but thatís as close as weíre coming for the next few months but weíre always touring. Thereís a huge list of cities in front of me that I canít even look at because itís so huge.

Are you looking forward to any show or city in particular?

I donít knowÖthereís a lot Iím looking forward to. Weíre playing in England with Bats For Lashes and Iím excited about seeing her play every night, sheís amazing. Iím looking forward to that for sure.

What can people expect from a School Of Seven Bells live show?

Itís going to be a little different from what you hear on the album, itís just a different experience the beats are a little heavier and thereís more guitars. We rework things live so itís still the spirit of the album and still the spirit of the song but itís definitely itís own unique experience the live show.

What is your favourite show so far?

Itís always my last show is always my favourite, New Years Eve in Tokyo was fun I liked playing there. It was just us and some DJs. We played at this banging techno club which was bazaar. It was just us, we were the only band. It was cool.

What have you been listening to lately?

I really love the Fever Ray record, itís from the singer of The Knife itís a really beautiful album. Ummm, I donít know, thereís the new Miss Kitten The Hacker record, thatís actually good Iím not really familiar with that band but itís really good. But yeah the Fever Ray album has been on not stop rotation for me itís really great great pop record. Totally recommend it.

Where should I go to see some good bands in NYC?

Hmmm, letís see, in Brooklyn thereís a great place called Studio B which is cool theyíre kind of a lot more like bands on the dancier side of things.

Todd P throws great warehouse parties, look that stuff up on the internet.

Thereís a great place called Williamsburg Music Hall, itís a big venue itís really beautiful.

For electronic music thereís a club called Bunker thatís really really really a lot of fun, just kids dancing and going crazy, itís really great, Iíd recommend that one too.

Your favourite place to eat?

Enids for sure, up in Greenpoint Brooklyn. Itís my local hangout, I kinda spend every day there when Iím at home.

One thing you have to do in NYC?

Hmm thatís a good question, you know one thing I would do is not make any plans, because the coolest thing about New York City is how spontaneous it is you know, if youíre out of your car, walking around NYC, bumping into people. Just donít make any plans and just go Iím sure youíll have way much more fun than if you try and see every sight. Just kind of go with it, thatís the way to see NYC thatís for sure.

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