School of Seven Bells have Interpol to thank for their togetherness. Alejandra Deheza laughs when I suggest this, but really, it’s sort of true. The New York trio made up of Benjamin Curtis, Alejandra, and her twin sister Claudia, met while supporting Interpol on tour — Ben with the band Secret Machines and the Deheza twins with On! Air! Library!. As Alley tells it, she was enamored with the way Ben played guitar, watching him every night, and amazed that no two nights were ever the same. And though they didn’t leave their respective bands to start School of Seven Bells until a couple years later, the rest, as they say, is history. And so I stand by my suggestion of sending the boys in Interpol some flowers.
Since their full-length LP Alpinisms debuted late last year, it has garnered major critical acclaim and earned SVIIB touring spots with Bat for Lashes, White Lies, and Black Moth Super Rainbow. The most unique praise has been from The Edge of U2, where, in a Rolling Stone cover story, he cites their sound as an influence on No Line on the Horizon’s droning side. The sound: tribal, womanly, warm, and dreamy, is created by a method of total creative immersion. After they quit their respective bands, Alley, Ben, and Claudia set up shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (they’re regulars at Enid’s), living and working in the same space. “When we’re at home everyone’s always working on something,” says Deheza. “So when we’re in the house we can hear what everyone else is working on.” Songwriting thus is an organic process, melding with the processes of everyday life.
There is an air of mystery to the SVIIB. It’s in their name, taken from the final exam for a South American school for pickpockets, which Deheza saw on a PBS special at 3 in the morning. “There were seven items in seven pockets with bells attached to them, and you had to remove each item from each pocket without ringing the bell,” she explains. “I like the idea of taking something like shoplifting and making it into such an art.” The mystery came alive at their CMJ show last year when the smoke machine broke, flooding the stage with haze, and unexpectedly enhancing the experience. And then there’s Alley Deheza’s lucid dreaming, or the ability to control her dreams, that she experiences and writes about in her songs. “It’s basically something that I’ve been doing since I was really little and I didn’t know it was anything different. I had a lot of nightmares when I was a little kid, so it was something that developed as a way to get out of nightmares,” she says. “It wasn’t until I was about 20 years old, when I was talking to someone about a dream I had and I’d be like, “yeah, and then I got out of it,” and they’d be like “what the hell are you talking about?” And that’s when I knew it wasn’t as common as I thought.”
See what else is uncommon about the School of Seven Bells when they play their New York homecoming show tonight at Bowery Ballroom, before taking a break to record new material.