It’s hard to remain casual when one of your idols is in the room. Now imagine said idol happens to be a member of one of your all-time favourite musical acts, and that he’s recording tracks for your album.
It’ll probably never happen to you, but it happened to Greg Bertens, the San Francisco–based singer and chief sonic architect behind the band Film School, when My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O’Ciosoig laid down some of his trademark snare-heavy beats for Film School’s latest album, Hideout. O’Ciosoig has been a friend and a Film School supporter for years, but Bertens admits he was still a little starstruck when the legendary Irish musician got behind the kit.
“Even though he’s a friend of ours and everything, I still highly respect him as a musician and am probably as intimidated as anybody else with the great work he’s done with My Bloody Valentine,” Bertens says, reached on the way home from his local Apple Store.
Naturally enough, Hideout—Film School’s third album—is a resolutely shoegazing affair, reverberating with layers of to-here-knows-when guitar and vapour-trail synth drones, along with a healthy injection of silver-rocket feedback.
Opener “Dear Me” kicks things off with a spellbindingly melodic chorus, while the white-noise squall of “Lectric” coasts along on buzz-bomb bass and pounding-surf drums. Surprisingly, the album, despite its full-spectrum sound, wasn’t a group effort. Bertens notes that, some time after putting out its self-titled sophomore record in 2006, Film School disintegrated, leaving only him and keyboardist Jason Ruck in the picture.
“Jason and I split ways with the other three members, and I ended up writing a lot of this album on my own,” Bertens says. “The previous album was largely written as a group effort, with songs coming out of jams. This time around, I sat down in my bedroom and cranked out an album in a few months.”
Much of what ended up on Hideout began life as home demos, created through Bertens’s experimentation with recording software and digital effects. “I used Logic to write all the different parts and stuff,” he reveals. “So a lot of the instruments were things that I’d written on the computer; I’d play the guitar into the computer and later, when we went into the studio, I was going to replay them and put them through different amps and such, but I just found that the tones were so good that I’d gotten on Logic that I said, ”˜Why change these?’ ”
Since completing Hideout, Film School has become a full-fledged band again, with Bertens and Ruck joined by Lorelei Plotczyk on bass, Dave Dupuis on guitar, and James Smith on drums. “I really like this lineup,” Bertens says. “Live, especially—I think we’re just a great band live.”
With all seemingly happy and stable in the Film School family, the real test will come when it’s time to start writing a follow-up to Hideout. Having taken charge of the process the last time around, how willingly will Bertens surrender some of his creative control?
“I’ve been working on some new stuff, and it’s just mainly all on my laptop still,” he says. “I’ve played it for some of the band members and they all seem to be into it. But, you know, I’d like to also collaborate more and see where that takes us.”
Film School plays the Media Club tonight (July 31).