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Film School’s Bright Future: An Interview With Greg Bertens

Photo by Howard Wise

Bright to Death, the new album from Film School brings together four members first heard on the alwaysnever EP, followed by the Self-Titled and Hideout full-length albums. Their new album continues on with the focus on lush and catchy rock’n’roll first explored on 2007’s Hideout and further perfected on 2010’s Fission.


Some bands just hit that spot in your being, the combination of bass, drums, synths, vocals and guitars creating chills throughout your body. Film School does that for me and, I’m certain, many others, the band’s songs bringing joy to many lives. They’ll be playing a few dates in California this November and hopefully bring their thrilling sounds to fans across the country soon. I spoke with singer/guitarist and original member Greg Bertens about why now the time is right to bring Film School back to the music-hungry masses.


What has been happening with you and the other band members? Have you all been in different bands? Raising families, working careers outside of music? How did the stars align to enable you to get the songs together for Bright to Death?

Yes, a whole lot of domesticity going on! And yes some other music projects. Everyone’s living multiple lives, I’d say 17 different lives happening simultaneously between the 5 of us.


The recording of Bright happened sorta randomly. We were having a family get together and I told Justin (Labo, bass) that I felt incapable of doing anything creative. I half-jokingly mentioned the only way I could write music at this point was by taking a trip to the desert. Two hours later Justin texted me that he got an OK for such a trip, and when were we going? Within a few days we booked a place in Joshua Tree. I think we were all desperate for a trip like this.


Bright To Death seems to be a continuation of the neon-lit songs from Fission. What is it about you and your bandmates that makes the Film School sound?

That’s interesting because Fission was a completely different lineup from Bright, which was different from Hideout. Jason and I have been the only constant.


For Bright it’s the original 2005 Beggars Banquet lineup (sans drummer Donny Newenhouse). Tonally and structurally Bright To Death reminds me a lot of the early Film School material, like Self-Titled and alwaysnever stuff, but a little updated and dialed in. I’ve always felt like this lineup writes well together – we’re able to hear each other and build together nicely. It feels instinctive. And it isn’t always that way, especially when trying to write collaboratively with others in real-time. Sometimes you’ll be in the studio just staring at one another. One person will play a part and nothing gets going, no spark. Or worse it’s mediocre so you keep trying and failing.


Photo by Howard Wise

What did you do that was new in making Bright that you hadn’t done in the past? New pedals, new technology, new influences, new ways of sharing ideas, sound files?

We wrote in isolation. Just the band in a house with studio (Hi-Dez Recording) in the middle of nowhere Joshua Tree for 8 days. No work and minimal check-ins with the outside world.


Each day we’d wake up, make some breakfast, go to the studio and start writing until we couldn’t write anymore. We’d stop only for food and sleep. Like I mentioned, I think we all really needed this. Sometimes we’d work as a group, or sometimes solo when others needed a break. It was the most intensely creative experience I’ve been part of.


Once back in Los Angeles our long-time mixer Dan Long suggested we have Adam Wade play drums on the tracks, which was genius – Adam really got it and brought these tracks to life. Once mixed David Gardner at Infrasonic Sound mastered everything, including separate masters for the vinyl. The album start-to-finish was completely done within 6-7 months.


In the press release it is mentioned that the lyrics for Go Low were inspired by Blade Runner 2049’s Officer K. Are you a contemplative sort, thinking about your place in the world? K only had his hologram as a friend, but nothing was real. He hoped he was the child in the memories but he was just a replicant. You at least have your music as a form of expression and bring joy to the world. What does making music do for you and is there more you’d like to do with Film School?

That moment when Officer K was told he was just another replicant was a pretty powerful moment in the film. I think we’ve all had a moment like that – you’re special and then some new information comes in and you realize you’re total average. I thought it was interesting how much his perception of himself changed based on what someone else told him. Go Low is about a moment of self realization and where you go with that knowledge. It can be a messy process.


Regarding FS. I’m rea