The School of Seven Bells are destined for cult status. Twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza (formerly of On! Air! Library!) teamed-up with Ben Curtis (formerly The Secret Machines) to conceive an extraordinary debut album. Alpinisms is an atmospheric, enigmatic electro-indie record that puts a spell on you and almost makes you want to join a monastery. Just before their Australian tour, we caught up with Ben on the phone from New York.
Hey Ben. What have you been up to? I’ve been playing some music, doing some recording and now I’m talking on the phone.
Some quick ones to start: what have you got in your pockets? Just 75 cents and a metro card.
Do you have any tattoos? No. Any plans? Well, maybe a big white elephant on my chest.
What’s you poison? Guinness.
What question do you least like being asked in interviews? Umm. I don’t know… None really. I don’t mind any question as long as they’re genuine.
How did your band get its name? There was this crime spree in the 80s which was traced back to this Colombian academy of thieves, called the School of Seven Bells. There was this leader who would have a big coat with seven pockets, each had a bell in and the young pickpockets had to try and take things from his pockets without setting off the bells. We liked something about that.
Your album is called Alpinisms – where did the title come from? We had been reading some books about mountaineering that really affected us. Alpinism is a type of mountaineering. The books were about climbing of course, but much more philosophical than that. They were really about our relationship with the world around us and how we look at ourselves and things like that.
Tell me about how you all met? Both of our previous bands were supporting Interpol on a tour. We met and we got talking, we shared some ideas. But we didn’t get together as a band for a couple of years after that, when our other bands had come to a natural finish.
So what happened with The Secret Machines? I guess things kind of wound up there, for me anyway. It got to a point where it was hard for a big ship to take a sharp turn. I felt my contribution had been made, I guess. It wasn’t going to go much further.
Alejandra and Claudia are identical twins – can you tell them apart? Yeah, they’ve got quite distinct personalities. If it’s a silhouette or something, maybe. It hasn’t been a problem for us. No, they haven’t played any pranks on me.
You all live in the same house. Doesn’t that drive you literally up the wall? Not yet, no. I mean it would be pretty weird if we were all still living together when we’re 80, haha.
You’ve not been to Oz before, aren’t you scared of all the nasty animals? There are plenty of scary creatures here in New York, so I think I’ll be okay.
Lastly, if you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? Er, good question. From ever since I can remember I thought I was going to be a musician, so I don’t like to think about it. It would be like erasing so much of my life that’s been about music. If I wasn’t a musician, I think… I guess I would be very confused.
So you wouldn’t be a mountaineer? I don’t think so. I’m scared of heights.
School of Seven Bells play Sydney’s Gaelic Club on Thurs 23 April; Brisbane’s The Zoo on Fri 24 April and Melbourne’s The Corner on Sat 25 April