Interview: School of Seven Bells — "I just want some black coffee and pie"
Mon, 28 Jun 2010 06:56:42
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School of Seven Bells sound like a dream.
They captured all kinds of hazy harmonies on their debut Alipinisms. At times eerie, but most often entrancing, Alipinisms stood out as one of the most intriguing (and simultaneously gorgeous) records of 2008. However, Disconnect from Desire (Due out July 13) captures that same ethereal energy, while refining the band's enigmatic sound into pure pop magic. Songs like "Dust Devil" morph from pulsating electronic passages into unforgettable melodies, and Disconnect from Desire sees School of Seven Bells space truckin' along. It's a trip well worth taking.
That was just their intention too…
"We wanted to make a record you listen to all the way through," exclaims vocalist Alejandra Deheza with a smile. "It's like a film. You get to know the characters. There's this build-up, and there's this climax."
For more, you'll have to watch…err listen to it though…
School of Seven Bells' Alejandra Deheza sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Disconnect from Desire's electro side, why Spain rules and David Lynch flicks.
What encouraged you to take a more electronic approach this time around?
I think it was being in loud clubs for the majority of the last fourteen months on tour. Hearing music on really great soundsystems is always inspiring to me. That got me into music when I was younger. We definitely wanted to make a record that sounded great on loud speakers.
That lends itself to those synth sounds.
Oh yeah, definitely!
It feels like a natural progression from the first record at the same time.
On Alpinisms, we were working together for the first time. I feel like there was a lot of experimentation going on. We were getting to know each other's writing styles, and that produced Alpinisms. With this record, because we got all of that stuff out of the way, a more deliberate statement came out. We knew exactly what kind of record we wanted to make. We went into it with a specific sound in mind and we approached lyrics more directly. I feel like it's more spacious in a weird way. There's still a lot to take in but it's not so in your head anymore—I feel like it's a lot more physical.
What's the story behind "Dust Devil?"
That's my favorite! "Dust Devil" was a pretty late addition. The beginning of the music for "Dust Devil" came about during our European tour; I think it was in the UK. At first, we labeled different song ideas things like, "London to Birmingham." I remember re-visiting that particular loop though. We had just played these crazy shows in Spain. Barcelona and Madrid are like party towns! They're really fun. We had this late show that we played at like 1 or 2 in the morning, and it was packed. It's funny because we were up until 9am, and everybody was still out! People were still coming back from clubs! It's a totally different culture over there; it's so awesome. Anyway, I found that piece of music again. Benjamin likes to give me a lot of stuff so I can look it over and work on it. For that track, the lyrics and the vocals came out really fast. We'd recorded a bunch of songs, and I remember putting it together in the hotel room in Barcelona. I was like, "Whoa, this is the song!" It was actually one of the fastest songs that we did too. I'd written a little vocal melody that I had in my head over an acoustic guitar, but it wasn't until Spain that I listened to this piece of music that Benjamin had given me months before. I knew I had a song that worked exactly with that. It was perfect.
Do you tend to read a lot while you're writing? What's the lyrical process like?
I'm just writing a lot—always. It's something that I do. It's just natural. If I don't write, I start getting a little antsy and foggy, and things don't make sense. I think writing is just a way for me to stay sane. If you're approaching a certain situation creatively, it helps. I feel like a lot of these feelings are very abstract when they come up in your head. When you try to approach something like that creatively, all of these different perspectives happen and they help you see the problems from so many various angles. That's how I started writing to begin with in third grade. I'm not sure how many problems I had in third grade [Laughs]. It helps you get outside of these emotions though. When you're in them, nothing makes sense. All you see is that confusion and that lack of clarity you get when you're feeling something really strongly. All you can feel is fire. You don't see anything from a sane perspective or from an objective point of view. That causes a lot of confusion.
So writing can make those emotional conundrums and easier to grasp?
Exactly! When you're so incredibly overwhelmed and busy with "feeling it," you don't get a chance to observe it. When you separate yourself from it and you can observe it, things always become clear, and you're forced to do that with writing.
If Disconnect From Desire, what would it be?
I would like to say something that David Lynch did, and I'll tell you why. His films are so visually bizarre, and there are so many strange ways he portrays a situation that no one else would've ever thought of. Then, he'll throw in this really sugary '50s pop song, and you're like, "What?!" [Laughs] I've never heard that before! Where is his head? But it makes perfect sense. It's pretty much the same thing. I think Disconnect From Desire is a really poppy record. There are really strong melodies in it. It's not something people are going to have a hard time singing to or anything like that. At the same time, the subject matter—whether it be the lyrics or even the different ways Benjamin came to certain sounds—still kept a little bit of that surrealism that was in Alpinisms.
What are some of your favorite David Lynch movies?
I love Twin Peaks. That's a very obvious one! Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire—they're all good! I feel like I haven't seen a film by David Lynch that I didn't like. I watch them all over and over again still because of course I don't ever get them the first time around. I re-watched all of Twin Peaks actually just recently. That put me in a crazy headspace because I did it in a marathon. I just NetFlix-ed them, and went through all of them. At the end, I was like, "God, I just want some black coffee and pie." You go to a diner and normally you'd never order that, but it looks so good in Lynch's stuff! Fire Walk With Me was so good too!
What records shaped you? What do you always come back to?
A huge album from when I was little was Fleetwood Mac's Rumors. I was totally blown away by the harmonies they sang. I'm a really huge Echo and the Bunnymen fan. I love his lyrics, and I love the music. Will Sergeant's like my favorite guitar player ever. His guitar lines are almost Middle Eastern. I feel like what he was doing, no one was doing at the time. Ian McCulloch's such a great singer. I love what they do because they're very abstract, but they know how to make a melody everyone can relate to. That's really important to me when I hear music. You don't want to make music to alienate people or to make someone feel like they don't get it. There's a place for things like that. For me, I love making music that can communicate something real.
"The Wait" encapsulates everything.
That was a really late addition as well. You're picking my favorite songs! I love that guitar line as well because it sounds really '50s, like something you'd hear in a David Lynch movie [Laughs].
Have you heard School of Seven Bells yet?