School of Seven Bells
GHOSTORY is the third full-length album from shoegaze-pop trio-turned-duo, School of Seven Bells. With the new line-up comes an evolved sound and what just might be the band’s career defining release.
School of Seven Bells formed nearly six years ago, and at the time as a trio: vocalist Alejandra Deheza, guitarist/producer Benjamin Curtis, and ex-vocalist/synth player Claudia Deheza. Curtis and the Deheza sisters met while on tour with their respective bands (Secret Machines and on! air! library!) and within two years dove full time into School of Seven Bells. Their debut album, Alpinisms, hit streets via Ghostly International in 2008 and garnered much attention for the band’s eclectic mix of introspective rock and poppy electronic tones. In the years to follow, the trio released the critically acclaimed sophomore full length entitled, Disconnect From Desire (Vagrant Records/Ghostly International) and toured both domestically and internationally with the likes of Interpol, Blonde Redhead, and label-mates Active Child to name a few.
Between tours, the transformed duo recorded GHOSTORY at My Active Driveway Studio in Williamsburg. “We recorded the album in two three-week sessions and it took us about a month to mix,” notes Benjamin who also produced the album. Much like Seven Bells’ previous releases, GHOSTORY is layered with shadowy vocals and ambient guitar tones that weave between pop-driven electronic sounds. However, we see the band take on the task of storytelling for the very first time. GHOSTORY tells the tale of a young girl named Lafaye and the love that enters and exits her life. “Lafaye is a story of our experiences,” says Alley. “These songs are about things that everybody has been through. I like the fact that it’s big and you never know which voice is mine or what side I’m on. Every person has a voice in each situation. I feel like calling that voice Lafaye is a way for everyone to own these songs. I didn’t want it to be the Alley show. I want everyone to cry for themselves.”
From start to finish, the story of Lafaye is told as Alley’s words intertwine through airy synth loops and mystical notes. Early tracks like ‘Love Play’ play off the wistful aura threading through lyrics that keep the listener wanting to know more. " ‘Love Play’ is one of the songs that when I hear it, I immediately go back to that place. I feel it really heavy in my heart still," says Alley. Later tracks such as ‘Scavenger’ feel reminiscent of previous Seven Bells’ records musically speaking, but lyrically brooding and fervent like never before. " ‘Scavenger’ is closest to my heart," notes Benjamin, “It’s really different from anything we’ve done before. We wrote it early on and it really set a tone for our record. Alley sang one of the vocal lines and I couldn’t believe how raw it was emotionally speaking. Hearing how powerful that could be gave us a lot of courage to take the entire album in that direction.” Start to end GHOSTORY flows seamlessly and effortlessly, a result of the shared songwriting process.
“GHOSTORY is our most collaborative music to date,” says Benjamin, “Alley and I have always written our music together, but always independently and on our own time. This time around we just wanted music that was a lot more immediate, emotional and raw. We ended up together writing in a room and playing off of one another and I think that spontaneity shines through.” Through the voice of Lafaye the band is able to shed light on personal relationships, struggles, and defeats we’ve all endured. Unlike abstract lyrics in the past, listeners find Alley opening up like never before on GHOSTORY. “This time around I was able to just say exactly what I was feeling which is very different. This record is so direct, so straightforward. Almost therapeutic for me,” Alley notes.
Both beautifully constructed and stirringly moody, GHOSTORY moves through the body while simultaneously penetrating the mind. School of Seven Bells truly hit the mark with GHOSTORY, having conjured the most indelible album of their career.