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Interview
School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells

date
Monday 9th August, 2010 1:32PM

Introduce yourself…

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. It’s a really good healthy collaboration, definitely the best work I’ve done so far. It’s cool we’re busy, we’re in the middle of a 6 month tour which has been completely insane.

Had Secret Machines become unhealthy?

Oh no no I’m implying that it was unhealthy, I think a collaboration is unhealthy if you think you’re 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, it’s my brothers project now. I got to see them play recently that was cool (laughs) I’ve 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 it’s called Tripping Daisy I played drums in that band when I was just out of high school, weird weird moment in time. I’ve been making music for as long I’ve 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 I’m 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 there’s a lot of energy of New York City, the thing is with Brooklyn, the reason there are so many musicians here because it’s 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 it’s not easy. It’s really hard to coast so if you’re going to do something you’ve really got to give everything you can and all you can. If you don’t you really will sink, if you’re not worthwhile in what your doing you’ll just go broke, it’s hard to have just a hobby band here you know because if you spend that much time on it, it’s got to work. But it’s 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. It’s 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. It’s a work I’m really proud of. I was really kind of off the album for awhile because I’ve 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?

It’s 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. It’s very much centred around the vocals.

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

I don’t read reviews, speaking to people though it’s been really great. The cool thing is people are so different, there isn’t any correct way to our listen to music or to interpret it, it is what it is and I Iove hearing people’s reaction to it. It’s always surprising to me, it’s cool.

So you never read you written reviews?

No I don’t like written reactions. I mean if someone approaches me with a comment that’s cool, I’ll engage in a conversation but I can’t handle reading reviews. Why would you read your reviews, they don’t give you any information that’s 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 shouldn’t change what I do and if someone hates it, it shouldn’t change what I do. If they hate it, it just makes me feel bad so I don’t read it.

It’s not going to make me any better as a musician, that’s a fact, I’ve learnt that over time (laughs).

How did you hook up with Speak and Spell?

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

Who are you signed to in America?

It’s Ghostly International, that’s what they’re called. They’re mainly an electronic label from anh arbor Michigan. We met kind of in the summer of last year, it’s cool I like them a lot.

What other bands are signed to Ghostly?

Matthew Dear, Dabrye, we’re really the only song orientated band on it, it’s actually a lot of dance music. We’re kind of the black sheep of the label.

So they don’t invite you to their parties?

No they do, everyone’s just kinda like who invited the band, we’re just trying to hang out and dance (laughs).

Do you have any other release out?

There’s a bunch of singles and an EP that came out earlier before the album. There’s lots of stuff you’ve just got to go online and check it out.

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

It’s weird, you here things like oh it’s okay here and not okay there or something like that but it doesn’t really mean anything to you until you're there. It’s really strange, like being in a city that you’ve never been in and then playing to a room full of people, it’s 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 anyone’s 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. We’re going to be in Australia in April but that’s as close as we’re coming for the next few months but we’re always touring. There’s a huge list of cities in front of me that I can’t even look at because it’s so huge.

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

I don’t know…there’s a lot I’m looking forward to. We’re playing in England with Bats For Lashes and I’m excited about seeing her play every night, she’s amazing. I’m looking forward to that for sure.

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

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

What is your favourite show so far?

It’s 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, it’s from the singer of The Knife it’s a really beautiful album. Ummm, I don’t know, there’s the new Miss Kitten The Hacker record, that’s actually good I’m not really familiar with that band but it’s really good. But yeah the Fever Ray album has been on not stop rotation for me it’s really great great pop record. Totally recommend it.

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

Hmmm, let’s see, in Brooklyn there’s a great place called Studio B which is cool they’re 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.

There’s a great place called Williamsburg Music Hall, it’s a big venue it’s really beautiful.

For electronic music there’s a club called Bunker that’s really really really a lot of fun, just kids dancing and going crazy, it’s really great, I’d recommend that one too.

Your favourite place to eat?

Enids for sure, up in Greenpoint Brooklyn. It’s my local hangout, I kinda spend every day there when I’m at home.

One thing you have to do in NYC?

Hmm that’s 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 you’re out of your car, walking around NYC, bumping into people. Just don’t make any plans and just go I’m sure you’ll have way much more fun than if you try and see every sight. Just kind of go with it, that’s the way to see NYC that’s for sure.



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