School Of Seven Bells: Music From A Lucid Dream The alternative band takes the concept of dream-pop to the next level. Singer-songwriter Alejandra Deheza talks about the group's influences, the new album and her sister Claudia's recent departure from the band.

School Of Seven Bells: Music From A Lucid Dream

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(Soundbite of song, "Windstorm")

GUY RAZ, host:

This is the sound that some indie music fans call dream pop. It's a dense thicket of guitars and shimmering keyboards, with (unintelligible) back voices that seem to come down to earth from the sky.

The British band, the Cocteau Twins, who performed in the '80s and the '90s, were sort of the prototype, but now there's the New York-based School of Seven Bells.

(Soundbite of song, "Windstorm")

Ms. ALEJANDRA DEHEZA (Singer, School of Seven Bells): (Singing) Wind mills cut through, the voids of hiding the, imagine then truth the eyes neglect to see what the heart pursues...

RAZ: This voice belongs to Alejandra Deheza. She and guitarist Benjamin Curtis are School of Seven Bells. And this is a track from their latest record. It's called "Disconnect from Desire."

Until a few weeks ago, they were trio. Ali's sister Claudia recently quit the band. More on that in a moment. The School of Seven Bells came to Washington, D.C., this past week. And Ali Deheza join me here in the studio.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. DEHEZA: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

RAZ: The song we're hearing right now, it's called the "Windstorm."

Ms. DEHEZA: Yes.

RAZ: It's a beautiful song, I wanted to add.

Ms. DEHEZA: Thank you.

RAZ: When I hear that song and so many songs on the record, it's clear that there's - I don't know if it's conscious or unconscious - but there's an homage to an earlier full sound.

(Soundbite of song, "Windstorm")

Ms. DEHEZA: (Singing) When the fires burn and from sky to ground, swing my weight around, begin the windstorm. When the fires burn and from sky to ground, swing my weight around, begin the windstorm. When the fires burn...

RAZ: You know, you've got this kind of industrial new wave in '90s Cocteau Twins sound, but it's updated. It's modern. It's completely different than those sounds. Did you listen or do you listen to a lot of music in those periods?

Ms. DEHEZA: Oh, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DEHEZA: Definitely. A lot of it. I mean, when I grew up in Miami - it's a cool place to grow up, because that are - that were the (unintelligible) when I was there. Basically, you'll hear hip-hop, you'll hear electro and you'll hear '80s and you'll hear '90s in the same night. So everything blends in together and everything makes sense together.

RAZ: And Southern Florida was one of its weird places, like Southern California, where there was this huge fan base of Depeche Mode and Smiths band, right?

Ms. DEHEZA: Oh, yeah.

RAZ: This kind of British - mid-'80s British pop music. And I guess we call it alternative music. That fan base was there.

Ms. DEHEZA: Oh, yeah. Obsessive fan base.

RAZ: And were you one of those kids?

Ms. DEHEZA: Yeah, of course.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Dressed in all black and...

Ms. DEHEZA: Oh, yeah, definitely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: You were born in - you weren't born in the U.S. You're born in Guatemala.

Ms. DEHEZA: Yes.

RAZ: Your parents Bolivian and Costa Rican.

Ms. DEHEZA: Mm-hmm.

RAZ: You came to the U.S. as a kid, right, as a baby, right?

Ms. DEHEZA: Baby.

RAZ: Eleven months or something?

Ms. DEHEZA: Yeah.

RAZ: Are your parents musicians? How did you get into this world?

Ms. DEHEZA: My father was an opera singer when he was very young. And I know he did a lot of training. He did a bunch of shows. But then, you know, he got married and decided to do the whole...

RAZ: Did he used to sing as a kid?

Ms. DEHEZA: Oh, yeah. It was always in the house. You know, my parents always had records playing, always very vocal heavy records, a lot of like Spanish ballads and things like that. So, yeah, it was inevitable. It just sipped right in.

RAZ: You and your sister presumably pursuing a lot together. Did people say to you you have a great voice?


(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DEHEZA: I think at points, they just wanted us to stop. It was this thing where we couldn't help it, you know? If there was something on the radio, you know, I had to sing along. If there was anything playing anywhere, I had to sing along.

No one ever - you know, I never really thought about it as something that I could do, ever. Like, it's...

RAZ: Professionally - to actually do this for a living?

Ms. DEHEZA: Never. It never occurred to me.

RAZ: How did it happen? I mean, did you decide, you know, I'm going to take a leap and I'm not going to go to college, and I'm not going to do the traditional things that maybe my parents want me to do, and I'm going to try this...

Ms. DEHEZA: Yeah. It happened by accident. It was actually - I was having a conversation in a really loud club in New York and I was about 20 years old.

RAZ: Were you visiting or living there?

Ms. DEHEZA: No. I just moved there, actually. And he - somehow, in the conversation, it was misunderstood that I was in a band. And before the night was over, I had a show in a month and I was going to open up for his band at The Knitting Factory. And I knew I couldn't turn it down. I was like, well then, I have to write some songs because I'm not turning that down. So that's just what happened.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Dust Devil")

Ms. DEHEZA: (Singing) And I'm not a fool. I know it's what you do. I know more than you think I do.

RAZ: School of Seven Bells has been together since about 2007, is that right?

Ms. DEHEZA: Mm-hmm.

RAZ: And, you know, I'm doing some research on the band before you came in, I went on your Facebook page and I saw that one of your members, Claudia, quit just a few weeks ago. She is your sister.

Ms. DEHEZA: Yeah.

RAZ: So much of the sound seemed to be wrapped in these amazing harmonies that the two of you produced.

Ms. DEHEZA: Right.

RAZ: Will she come back to the band?

Ms. DEHEZA: No, I think she's done. You know, it was something that we sensed coming, which actually was a pretty natural change.

RAZ: Has it been hard to lose her?

Ms. DEHEZA: Yeah, it was a definite - you know, it shook us up a little bit when it happened, but any change is welcome. It forces you to be really creative and to get back to what, you know, you started out doing. The band started out as Benjamin and I, so, yeah.

(Soundbite of song, "The Wait")

Ms. DEHEZA: (Singing) The imposed rhythms of the passing time. Urgency solely defined by...

RAZ: I'm speaking with Ali Deheza. She is with the band School of Seven Bells. And their latest album is called "Disconnect from Desire."

I want to hear another track off the record. This one is called "Dial."

(Soundbite of song, "Dial")

Ms. DEHEZA: (Singing) I dreamed my perspective was on a dial, wired to spare me from this will.

RAZ: You said that - and I guess, with a lot of your songs, lyrics you write come from dreams and I've seen you say that these were lucid dreams. But when you say that you mean that you can actually control your dreams, which is I haven't heard that before, how does that work?

Ms. DEHEZA: It basically starts with being aware that you're dreaming. And once you're aware that you're dreaming, you realize that everything around you is you're creating it.

RAZ: It's like being in a video game, kind of.

Ms. DEHEZA: It is. It's really, really wild. And it's just something that I figured out, I guess, intuitively how to do when I was really young. And I didn't really notice anything bizarre until I was older, you know? And people started telling me, no, I don't do that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Some of your lyrics - I mean, I think they would seem opaque. It would seem hard to understand. I mean, they do seem hard to understand. I mean, I dreamed my perspective was on a dial, wired to spare me from this will. But I've seen you say that actually, they're perfectly clear.

Ms. DEHEZA: They're perfectly clear to me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Where do they come from? I mean, what are they about?

Ms. DEHEZA: That was actually kind of literal, actually. I did dream that my perspective was on a dial. I could change the colors in my dream and I could change the mood by the changing the colors - for me, it's every day life. It's just the way that I see things. In the same way where when you're dreaming, you know, it seems like a bizarre landscape if you were to try to explain it to somebody else, but you understand it completely.

(Soundbite of song, "Dial")

Ms. DEHEZA: (Singing) The cold and strange could set its hue to the setting sun, to subdue the most immersive blue.

RAZ: What do you want people to take away from this new record? I mean, a feeling or a particular sentiment?

Ms. DEHEZA: I definitely want them to reset with it, just even for a moment. I think it's really important for people to reset and to try it and think for five minutes outside of their story and kind of going to somebody else's story for a second and just lose yourself in it, lose yourself in the character so you can see things in a fresh way when you come out of it again. I think that's what music is for.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: That's Alejandra Deheza with the band School of Seven Bells. You can check out a few tracks from their latest album, "Disconnect from Desire." That's at our website

Ali, thank you so much.

Ms. DEHEZA: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

You can hear the best of this program on our new podcast, weekends on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Subscribe or listen at

We're back tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.

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