Photo courtesy of School of Seven Bells
Benjamin Curtis and I select a shady spot on a sweaty day in McCarren Park in Williamsburg, surrounded by children, skaters, and uniformed baseball players. He wears a button-down shirt that reveals his new, and only, tattoo: the sleek cover design and logo of School of Seven Bells new album, Disconnect from Desire, set for release on July 13. Curtis tells me that both Alejandra, or Ali, and Claudia Deheza, the identical twins who sing, and play guitar and keyboard respectively, also had the logo inked onto their skin. But these three artists share a bond far greater than matching tattoos, and a musical output thats sure to be just as longstanding.
School of Seven Bells, so named for a mythical South American pickpocket-training academy, released their debut, Alpinisms, in 2008: the product of an experimental and surprisingly successful formation. The Deheza sisters abandoned On! Air! Library! while Ben Curtis parted ways with The Secret Machines, and his brother Brandon, after a seven-year stint playing guitar for them. Of the transition, Curtis explains that he needed to keep moving and changing.
‘Half Asleep’ from the band’s first album Alphinisms
The new trio never consciously decided what type of music theyd play, or how they would develop their sound or imagined playing together would become their career. But all of that happened after Curtis and Ali Deheza began writing songs through email while he was on the road. Now, two years later, Disconnect from Desire is both radically different and a really logical continuation from the first album, while evidencing a natural progression.
Curtis explains, We really love sound and we really love melody, and I think that we had this vision for a kind of pop music that was harmonically a little bit different. Such a thing comes through on songs like Babelonia and Dust Devil, although the albums closer, The Wait, veers on the side of slow and sappy. Curtis quotes Charles Mingus when he says, With the last song, basically youre asking for redemption for all the sinning you did in the record before it, although School of Seven Bells, with all their dream-pop varnishes, have committed no musical crimes here.
‘Babelonia’ from Disconnect from Desire (album drops July 13)
In 1975, Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt created a set of cards called Oblique Strategies, which can shed new light on what youre doing. When the band found one that read Disconnect from Desire, Curtis says, It just rang a lot of bells with us. We both laugh at the obvious pun and then he says more seriously, I think in a million different ways it informed the vibe of the recor sort of forgetting about what you think you need and getting in touch with what you already have.
The trio is pumped for the many live shows on their upcoming tour, which will take them through Europe again and across the States. When I ask about the reaction Curtis hopes to get from his audiences, he tells me a little story: I saw Spiritualized a few times, and I know at least one time I was just standing there and literally dropped my drink because I forgot that my hand was holding it. You forget that you have a body, and thats a great effect. Maybe well get there, someday.