Interview : Film School

18 Jul

Since their formation in the late 1990s, San Francisco’s Film School have seen changes in both sound and lineup, evolving along with the industry and embracing each transition as it comes to pass.  Now set to release their fourth full-length album, Fission, later this month, the Californian band has taken yet another direction, channelling the freedom associated with leaving their former label and the energetic mindset that came along with it.  Enthused about their latest endeavour, Dirtbag caught up with Film School a few weeks back to discuss the departure from Beggars, the affinity for all things Californian and the integral role played by social media.

Dirtbag Journalism: You guys have been established in California since the 90s, but it’s only really now that the west coast has become en vogue for music.  What are your thoughts on this recent and overdue attention that’s come to the west coast?

Greg Bertens:  Well, I remember when we were playing in San Francisco, people were writing about us and they thought we were a New York band.  I really didn’t know what to make of that, actually, because I thought there were a lot of bands that had the same energy as us on the west coast, but they weren’t getting attention for some reason – I don’t know why.  I think there’s a really vibrant scene in Los Angeles right now. There’s a lot of really talented stuff coming out of here, so I think it’s cool.  It’s great.

DJ: Do you find your band has a distinct “Californian” vibe or does that even exist?

GB: Well, I think that when we were getting compared to some of the New York bands, our music and our vibe was a little bit darker.  This album, to me, has a lot of energy and it’s a little bit more positive, I guess.  I don’t think it’s sunny and easy, but I think that in general maybe the west coast has a little bit more levity in their music, but I don’t know if there’s genres based on locations anymore just because there’s so many bands and sounds going on.

I guess it’s whatever’s popular in general is sort of found wherever.   And I think that maybe some of the bands coming out of LA right now are energetic and real spazzy.

DJ: Well, your new album, Fission, is coming out this month, and your previous releases have been with Beggars.  Have you found since leaving Beggars you were able to approach Fission differently than when you were with them?

GB:  I think there were a few things that happened over the past couple years that just generally has a freeing effect, and just allowed me to feel some kind of new energy and inspiration in music. And part of that was just leaving a label that we weren’t totally jiving with.

And the idea of Fission – this wasn’t intended when I named the album – but it is like when splits happen; I think I started listening to the album and kind of reflecting on the past couple years and I think that title just seemed appropriate and one of the reasons why was because of our split with Beggars.  I felt a lot of energy and excitement and passion and I think it’s reflected on this album.

DJ: It’s almost like you’re starting a new band because there are no previous connotations or expectations associated with anything – it’s just you guys.

GB: Exactly.  We were kind of free to do whatever we wanted.  And you know, Beggars never really told us we had to do anything in particular, it was just more in that feeling of when you break up with someone you feel really free, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that other person, you just feel like you’re ready to move on and do new things, and that’s how I felt at the end of all of this.

DJ: Since you’ve been around since the 90s, have you found you’ve been able to express yourselves better musically as time’s gone on?  Is your approach different?

GB: Well, you know, music’s changed so much in nine years.  The ability to release your own record and do it in a good way, in a solid way that’s the most profound change.   And I think that being able to work directly with fans or speak directly with fans is one of the most exciting parts about music in general for me now because it always seemed like it had to be through a label or you had to be working with people in the industry.

And I do think that the industry’s shifting as well, but as an artist you can reach people directly and communicate with them directly, and that’s something’s that’s really cool.

DJ: Do you pride yourselves as an interactive band?

GB: I don’t think you can do it without it today – it’s not really a choice.  If you want to make it as a band in any sort of way beyond your hometown, you have to be involved in it.  Personally, I really enjoy it, I design stuff, too, so I’ve always had a fascination with the Web and its social media aspects.

I mean, some bands do want to be as private or mysterious as possible, but I don’t know – that’s not really what I’m interested in doing.  I really enjoy interacting with fans, and every time people go to our Facebook page and write things I always read them, and I love writing back and saying hi and stuff like that – that’s just kind of how I am.

Posted by : Anne T. Donahue

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