School of Seven Bells

A Duo in Perfect Harmony

Since their last album, School of Seven Bells has shrunk from a trio to a duo. However, their latest album Ghostory makes a bold statement: the band is very much alive. Structured around a central narrative – the tale of a young girl named Lafaye and the ghosts that surround her life – Ghostory is a concept album. Hold the sighs, it works and it’s brilliant. Guitarist and producer, Benjamin Curtis, spoke to us about having no regrets.

Could you briefly sum up everything that has happened to the band since the release of your last record?
It’s funny, because asking anybody to sum up the last 19 or 20 months of their lives is tricky. We’ve played so much; we’ve heard and been inspired by so much music, people and art and there has been a lot of change. However, Alley and I can see a continuous line that traces right back to the vision we had in early 2007 when the band started. I’d say the biggest thing that has happened to us is that we uncovered, or rediscovered, this fire we have for making our music. Strangely enough, we’re having more fun than ever. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bummer when Claudia decided she didn’t want to play music any more but, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

How has this impacted upon the dynamic in your live shows?
Well, we’re way more confident than we’ve ever been. It’s great to be able to think more freely about how we can bring songs to life more truthfully onstage. Playing live has always been tough for us, because a lot of times the things I played or the harmonies Alley sang on the records were just too tricky to pull off for our past line-ups. We’ve finally settled down with a couple of amazing musicians who are able to give our songs legs to walk on in the live setting.

The vocal richness between Alejandra and Claudia on Alpinism was something special. How did you arrive at the harmonies on your new album?
Alley has a great ear for harmony – it’s astounding. As far as the voices go, Claudia sang on a few things here and there, but the rest is Alley overdubbed. I doubt you could tell which is which. The lyrics on Alpinisms were sung from a very dreamlike perspective, so we wanted the production to reflect that. On Ghostory, the lyrics are extremely personal and sung from a very realistic and singular perspective. There are probably more vocal tracks on this record than anything we’ve done before, but it has all been done to support Alley’s singular voice. The human connection is really important to the sound of these songs.

How did you come up with the concept for Ghostory?
It grew out of Alley’s lyrics. We decided to write everything pretty much face to face in a room this time around. In the past, we’ve done our thing in our own time, but we knew that we wanted to make something that was raw, and that meant not over-thinking things too much. After listening to the first batch of songs, we realised there was a theme. After that, it was easy; it just flowed.

What has been your biggest inspiration for the album?
Musically speaking, it has been this weird mix of early industrial, early Simple Minds and Killing Joke, mixed with a lot of amazing pop we loved as kids like Janet Jackson. Also, there are too many current bands we love right now to name. I can’t remember the last time that has happened. But really the inspiration has been our collaboration. Writing a good song is the best high.

Bethany Rex