It’s a little surprising that the three members of NYC-based School of Seven Bells have embraced live audiences. The band’s intimate, homemade style suggests a shyer group, but the band is sure to greet its crowd at the Blind Pig tonight with enthusiasm.
School of Seven Bells
Sept. 16 at 9 p.m.
The Blind Pig
“When we made (our) first record … we knew we were going to play live, but we didn’t realize that we were going to love it as much as we do,” guitarist Benjamin Curtis said in an interview with the Daily. After completing Alpinisms, its worldly and otherworldly 2008 debut, School of Seven Bells took off for a year of touring.
“It was amazing,” Curtis said, “connect(ing) with people and just discovering this really intense energy. We weren’t really aware of the power there.”
It was while on tour in Europe that Curtis and identical twin bandmates Claudia and Alejandra Deheza were inspired to start writing their second album, Disconnect from Desire. More emotional than its predecessor, Desire retains the band’s wispy, ethereal sound.
“All these ideas started coming to me really quickly,” explained Curtis, who handles the band’s dreamy and sparse music while the Dehezas write and harmonize the lyrics.
“I’m deaf and I blast my headphones,” he continued. “Ally and Claudia started writing, just from the headphone bleed.”
Before Desire was completed, the band had already found its title in a mystical deck of cards — Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s “Oblique Strategies.”
“They made it as a tool for artists … to help you out of a creative problem,” he said. Alejandra Deheza drew a card that read “disconnect from desire,” a message Curtis said resonated with the band.
“We knew we were going to write a record that was sort of a lot more personal and original.”
While School of Seven Bells certainly concocts its own original blend of delicate melodies and slowly shifting accompaniments, it’s often boxed in with a shoegaze label and treated with a string of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins references. Curtis is resigned to the shoegaze tag but still finds it limiting in some ways.
“I think everyone has a little shelf that they need to put things in, and I’m fine with that,” he said. “What’s unfortunate about it is, it seems like more often than not, labels scare people away from music than steer people toward it.
“There’s a lot more subtleties to the genre terms than most people think about.”
Veterans of music biz labeling and terminology, Curtis and the Deheza twins met while their former bands (Secret Machines and On!Air!Library!, respectively) were both supporting Interpol. Curtis soon left his old band to focus on School of Seven Bells.
“There’s a certain delicacy to our music that doesn’t really exist in the Secret Machines,” Curtis said, “there’s just a bigger dynamic. And I kind of like to explore that a little bit more.”
But one thing that Secret Machines does have in common with School of Seven Bells is family ties: In the former band, Curtis played alongside his brother Brandon Curtis; in the latter, he shares the stage with two sisters.
“They have a particular way of talking to each other that I don’t think anyone else can really understand, kind of like a language, like a tone,” Curtis said. “It’s hard to read, but it’s cool.”
And Curtis remains unfazed by the duo’s closeness.
“If there’s anything I feel left out of, I’m probably glad that I feel left out of it,” he said. “Family dynamic’s pretty intense.”
Maybe it’s that intense family aspect that gives School of Seven Bells shows that special intensity — based more on crisp harmonies and communicative lyrics than a big sound — that will be on display tonight.