Today we were introduced to shoegaze pop. Apparently it is a subgenre of alternative rock that appeared in 1980s England and came to a head in the early '90s. It is characterized by groups that perform in a detached, introspective and non-confrontational way -- seemingly gazing at their shoes as they play. The band School of Seven Bells (or SVIIB) belongs to this sub group and create glittery, ethereal music that makes the perfect soundtrack for online shoe shopping ("shoe" "gazing"...I mean really, we couldn't help ourselves with that one.)
SVIIB was founded by Benjamin Curtis and identical twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. The three met in 2004 while involved with separate musical undertakings that were supporting acts on an Interpol tour. Curtis was currently part of the band Secret Machines with his brother Brandon and the twins were in a group called On!Air!Library. Upon finding each other they immediately dropped their respective commitments and began working on an all consuming music project named School of Seven Bells, named for a mythical Columbian pick-pocket training academy. With Curtis on lead guitar (as well as various electronics) and the girls primarily on vocals, the group began producing dreamy, ethereal tunes combined with what most consider to be abstract lyrics. The three moved into a shared space complete with at home recording studio and recorded on and off until 2007 when they released their first EP Face to Face on High Places
. They have continued to make music together, with their 3rd full length album Ghostory
being released this Spring, have toured nonstop, including gigs with Blonde Redhead, Prefuse 73, Bat for Lashes and of course Interpol, and have reformed losing Claudia to personal reasons. Every song their release embodies it's own specific sort of magic and they continue to find new ways to present their dense, multilayered sound live.
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The group employs an unorthodox method of song composition -- they write the lyrics first and then find the proper music to supplement them. The sweeping and suggestive lyrics are reminiscent of '70s progressive rock, and it is clear that the complex vocals and the interplay between the twins' voices (the two sing every song together on the first album Alpinisms
) is a fundamental element of the band. Many claim that the lyrics are abstract and obscure, but it may just be that they cannot wrap their minds around Alejandra's expression. She disagrees with the claims of abstraction, explaining
"I'm basically communicating things exactly as they come to my head." The sound is entirely inspired by the words, and NPR
describes it as "warm and embracing swirling sonic miasma with a center of crystalline harmonies [acting] as [an] anchor." The music is mysterious and somewhat psychedelic, and combined with the sensual, lush harmonies of the twins creates multilayered, vibrant soundscapes. There is a visceral adoration for rhythm, along with a penchant for atmosphere and melody. The harmonies of the twins are incredibly precise; the two seem to have a connection that only existing in the same womb could achieve. They've been called
"two heads of the same beast" and their voices meld together in a peaceful and uplifting manner as the synth background provides both density and tension.
[caption id="attachment_6702" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Cover for Alpinisms, their debut album"]
[caption id="attachment_6704" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Disconnect from Desire cover"]
[caption id="attachment_6703" align="aligncenter" width="608" caption="Ghostory cover"]
[caption id="attachment_6705" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Current members: Alejandra & Benjamin"]
They spent almost the entirety of 2010 touring with Interpol -- an experience that left them feeling at the height of inspiration as they came together six years ago while touring with the same band. Alejandra explains
that SVIIB blurs the lines between life and art -- the three spent a few years living together in a space that served as both a home and a recording studio. For the first two albums, Alpinisms
and Disconnect From Desire
, they created everything separately. The girls would hand over lyrics to Curtis who would then create the sounds to accompany them. There was no escape from the music, not that they wanted one, and every part of their lives was involved with its creation. Near the end of 2010 it was announced on their Facebook page that Claudia left the group citing personal reasons and since then they have gotten a friend to join in on the keys and as back up vocals. Their newest album Ghostory
is set to be released this Spring and Curtis has described it as more powerful, frenetic and faster than the previous two. He says that the lyrics are more frank this time around with Alejandra putting together blunt and emotional songs. This marks the first time that Curtis and Alejandra have actually worked simultaneously on an album -- instead of putting together their own parts separately they have actually combined to create something more shared between them than ever before. The album is in its final stages and was actually mixed by Brandon Curtis, Benjamin's brother and former bandmate. The group is interested in the type of reaction Ghostory
will yield, as it is quite the step forward musically. It will be interesting to see where they will venture with their shoegazing sound and we can't wait for more of their signature raw synths, electronica edged beats and heavy production!