Benjamin Curtis (of School of Seven Bells) Interview
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Interviews, Music.
Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine recently caught up with one-time Secret Machines member Benjamin Curtis to discuss his mainstay for the past two years – School of Seven Bells. In the discussion Curtis touched on the band’s curious shoegaze categorization, the relationship between the group’s set of twins and adopting the band’s music for a live setting. Later this year School of Seven Bells will be taking their adaptation on the road as they tour with M83, playing the Triple Rock Social Club November 22nd.
Last year Paul Lester wrote a glowing review of the band for The Guardian, but throughout his article he seemed fixated with relating School of Seven Bells’ sound to shoegaze. Do you think that such an explanation of the band’s music is valid?
Benjamin Curtis: A lot of what people call shoegaze is really very beautiful music. On the other hand, a lot of it is all chorus pedals and nonsense, which doesn’t seem to have a lot of depth to us. But, it’s true that in the grand scheme of things we sound more like “shoegaze” than we do “hardcore”, or “free jazz”, so I guess we can accept that explanation, if that kind of explanation is necessary.
Your songs convey a strong sense of personal sound rather than simply being another generic act in the ever simplifying electronic genre. How have various members’ histories with the likes of Secret Machines and On! Air! Library! influenced this?
Benjamin Curtis: Thanks! We have a really specific idea in mind for how we want our music to sound, but it’s hard to say how much of that is informed by things we’ve done in the past. We’re the same people, for sure, and we can’t forget where we’ve been, but I don’t think we’ve ever been comfortable enough to step out as far in this direction until now, even though we’ve been dying to for a long time. I’m glad it’s working.
My father and uncle are twins and to call their relationship unusual would be an understatement. Pleasant, but unusual. How has having a pair of twins in the group affected the makeup of the band?
Benjamin Curtis: People are really interested in that, and rightly so. It’s an interesting phenomenon to share a womb with somebody else. As far as the musical relationship goes, it seems natural. I played music with my brother before this, so I’m really used to the family vibe being present. You said it, though. Pleasant, but unusual.
The band is touring with the fantastic M83 later this year, how have you adopted School of Seven Bells to convey the depth of your studio recordings in a live setting?
Benjamin Curtis: It always changes, depending on how we’re feeling. We’re definitely excited about presenting a really full and layered live sound, so electronics will be playing a big part, but we actually make a great noise between the three of us, so it’s been easy.
Do you have any plans to do as M83 has and expand the group to add to its live sound?
Benjamin Curtis: That’s always an option. We’ve tried touring with other people in the past, but honestly it’s never sounded as good as when it’s just the three of us. There are a few specific people we talk about playing with, but it’s more about playing with them personally than it is to fill some kind of hole.
What are the plans after the tour – has there been talk of recording more material, or possibly even collaborating with another New York act?
Benjamin Curtis: We’ve done a lot of collaboration, and are always writing or recording something. We’re really excited to write more SVIIB music, and it seems to be coming really easily, so other things will have to step to the side for a while. There are so many requests from people wanting to do something with us, and even more for Alejandra and Claudia to sing on their records specifically, but at this point it has to be something really amazing for us to be interested. We’re almost finished with the first Night of the Gifts record, which is the sort of dark antithesis of School of Seven Bells, so there’s a lot to do.