Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images for Levi's School of Seven Bells guitarist…
- Posted on Feb 28th 2012 5:00PM by Eric R. Danton
School of Seven Bells recorded the new album during breaks in a busy tour schedule, which loaded the songs with the band's considerable live energy. Between studio sessions, Curtis and Deheza cranked up the new tunes while on the road, which helped them shape the overall feel of the album -- a conceptual piece about ghosts, metaphorical and otherwise -- surrounding a girl named Lafaye.
Spinner caught up with co-leader Curtis to talk about how the band's future and the phantoms present on their recent album.
How did Claudia's departure affect the band?
It's a really interesting question, and there's no disrespect to Claudia at all, but as far as writing and sort of hatching our musical plans, it's really been Alley and I's thing since the beginning. The departure was crazy and unexpected, but it definitely galvanized us in the sense where we sort of had to rediscover why we started doing this together in the first place, and it's because we love our music and we love the way we write together, our collaboration. We had to look at it as a chance to go in any direction we wanted.
What direction did you want to go?
We were really excited about playing live and excited about diving as deep as we could into the School of Seven Bells musical world, and we did it. We were really bringing the energy we were feeling from the stage into the studio with us, into the songs. That was a conscious decision, going out and playing and really listening, feeling that chaotic spontaneity that happens with us live, and really trying to capture that, in a way. Whereas before, 'Alpinisms' and 'Disconnect From Desire' were slightly different. In fact, they were much more constructed in the studio, like collages.
'Ghostory' is being talked about as a concept album.
That's funny, because in a certain sense, I feel like all of ours are. I know that sounds ridiculous, but the way Alley and I work, and especially Alley lyrically, she's very much aware of the overarching theme of what's happening on this record and what does this record mean and what is the music saying on this record? We use that as a tool to make sure it's a coherent work, and that's really important in any kind of art these days. You have to be really aware of what you're making. It comes back to the belief that it has to be worth adding to the clutter of music that exists right now. Is it saying something? Is it standing on its own? Is it worth a s---, really? This time we took it a lot further.
Alley has always written from the perspective of these different characters. She's discovered this technique of taking a perspective and then making a complete personification of that perspective and writing songs from the point of view of that person. This time, what it turned into was basically this woman, Lafaye, became the central perspective of the record, and each one of these songs is really a conversation that she's having with another perspective, another event in her life. They're all inside her head.
How much shaping did the songs take to fit that theme?
What we really worked on and really focused on was just making sure that the emotion that was there wasn't hidden at all, that it wasn't being obscured by any kind of vague language. I feel like the mood is still really obvious. We wanted to make sure the emotion of these songs was directly injected into your ears as you were listening.
Do you think indie rock has become safe for real emotion?
It seems to come in phases. It seems like for a while, anything resembling a sad love song, you really put yourself out there for criticism or appearing to be self-serious. It's one of the most amazing things that's happened in pop music now, because to me, pop music is so weird. The fact that really, hip-hop radio is just crazy electronic music, there really isn't this division of underground and mainstream, as far as aesthetics go. As you go down the rung, things get a little more rough around the edges and certain things wouldn't work on radio, but really, as far as intent and songwriting goes, there's really no difference. It's just music. That's really where we're at in our culture, and that's great. You ask any underground musician and they're just as likely to be listening to Jay-Z as they are Gang Gang Dance. I guess as a result, people are less scared to write a sad, honest song that maybe in the past would have been cheesy. Now everyone is just trying to be real.
Remember when everybody was all about irony?
Oh, man. I feel like my nemesis is irony in music.