For School of Seven Bells' third album, the Brooklyn dream-pop duo revisited a sound they had long abandoned: rock'n'roll. "At the start of this band, rock was a four-letter word to me, but I fell in love the guitar again," says singer/multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Curtis, who joined the band after serving as the guitarist in heavy psych trio Secret Machines. "I love the visceral power you get from blasting into a song. This album is more energetic and frenetic than any music we've written before." (Don't worry — there are still synthesizers.)
The amped-up vibe of Ghoststory, due February 28th, is partly due to when it was recorded — between gigs on the band's tour with Interpol earlier this year. "We brought the energy from our shows straight back home," says Curtis, who sketched out tunes in the Brooklyn apartment he shares with singer Alejandra Deheza. "The idea was to write really quickly and not second guess anything."
The spontaneous writing sessions evolved into a concept album; as the disc's title suggests, it's about ghosts. The songs are written from the perspective of a girl named Lafaye (the moniker choice was random), who's dealing with unresolved issues. "Ghosts are everything that's ever happened to you that you haven't been able to let go of, like someone you love, or someone you hate," says Curtis, adding that Alejandra — who wrote the lyrics — is likely exorcising her own ghosts through Lafaye. "Once you look at them, they become less scary."
Could one of those ghosts be Claudia Deheza, School of Seven Bells' former member (and Alejandra's twin sister) who quit the band in 2010? "Having someone freak out and split the day before our first-ever TV performance was an intense moment in our lives, and something that's in our worldview at this point," says Curtis. "I can't say it didn't affect things we wrote."
Despite the loss, Curtis is psyched for 2012, when the band will tour behind Ghoststory. "When I was young, I had this notion that there's this moment in life when you're suddenly complacent and nothing ever changes," says the 33-year-old. "Luckily, that hasn't happened to me. I'm excited for the future. I still feel like I'm 18."