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New York band School of Seven Bells to ring in Wexner Center with ‘dream pop’

Courtesy of Justin Hollar

School of Seven Bells has a few meanings. It’s a band, and it’s a pick-pocketing school, according to Alejandra Deheza. Or the latter could just be a South American urban myth.

Regardless, Deheza has her own School of Seven Bells and it’s no myth. It formed in 2007.

The band is scheduled to perform 9 p.m. Saturday at the Wexner Center for the Arts’ Performance Space.

Deheza, lead vocalist and guitarist for the group, first caught word of School of Seven Bells when watching a PBS documentary that touched on a pick-pocketing school in South America.

“The final exam was basically seven items in seven pockets with seven bells. Whoever lifted each item without ringing the bells graduated; I thought that was really cool,” Deheza said. “I heard that name and immediately I was like, ‘That sounds like a band. I have to start a band called School of Seven Bells.'”

She said after watching the PBS documentary, she immediately Googled the school and came across about three articles on it, some of which deemed it an urban myth. Deheza doesn’t want to believe that though.

“Maybe it’s real,” she said of the school. “I don’t really want to know if it isn’t.”  

The New York-based group came together as somewhat of a merger of two bands, Deheza and her twin sister Claudia Deheza from On!Air!Library! and Ben Curtis of The Secret Machines.

Upon the band’s formation, Alejandra Deheza said her aim was to produce a sound for School of Seven Bells that set itself apart from bands they’d previously played in.

“I wanted to write vocals and write lyrics that had to do specifically with School of Seven Bells,” Alejandra Deheza said. “I was really trying, in the beginning anyway, to not do what I had done before. Not for any reason to dismiss it or anything. I just wanted to evolve.”

Evolving, she said is one of the most important things to her as a musician.

And when Claudia Deheza left the band in 2010 for personal reasons, Alejandra Deheza said her sister’s move offered another opportunity for the band to evolve.

The absence of Claudia Deheza hasn’t taken a toll on the band’s production or songwriting though, Alejandra Deheza said, because she and Curtis mostly took the lead on those.

The band released its first album as a duo, titled “Ghostory,” in February. Alejandra Deheza said it’s almost troubling to classify what genre School of Seven Bells is because it’s evolved exponentially, not only in going from a trio to a duo, but since its debut album “Alpinisms,” which was released in 2008.

“We’ve pretty much changed from record to record,” she said. “Who wants to do the same thing over and over again? For us I think it’s the only way that we can do what we do as constantly as we do is to constantly keep challenging ourselves and just kind of change it up a little bit.”

Identifying its music as “textual” and “colorful” with elements of rock and electronic, she also said there is pop in the band’s tunes.

Chuck Helm, director of performing arts at the Wexner Center, labeled the band as “dream pop.”

“There’s an atmospheric sense to the music. The lyrics also have this sort of dreamy quality and yet (Alejandra Deheza’s) vocals have kind of an interesting texture,” Helm said. He also said School of Seven Bells is performing at the Wexner Center as part of its Next @ Wex series, which spotlights indie or electronic bands.

“I felt that this band, School of Seven Bells, definitely set within that,” Helm said. He added when The Secret Machines played as part of Next @ Wex a few years ago it sold out, so he’s expecting heavy attendance for Saturday’s show as well.

Kyle Siegrist, manager of Lost Weekend Records, located at 2960 N. High St., said he’s restocking “Ghostory” in preparation for School of Seven Bells’ stop in Columbus. Siegrist also said Lost Weekend’s rock and electronic albums, similar to School of Seven Bells or The Secret Machines’ sounds, have sales on the upswing right now, due in part to what he says is

Columbus and Ohio State being open to a variety of musical genres.

“Ohio State’s probably good for everything because it’s such a big school,” Siegrist said. “I think they support about anything pretty much.”

And Alejandra Deheza said as long as the support is around, School of Seven Bells will be too.

“I think that the key to the longevity thing is just to keep changing, keep evolving, keep exploring musically,” Alejandra Deheza said. “I love doing what we do and I’ll do it for as long as we can.”

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the Wexner’s Center’s ticket office or website at wexarts.org.

 

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