Film School Breaks Down Cinematic Fission

One of my favorite cinematic bands is Film School, who are not cinematic at all, band leader Greg Bertens once told me for Wired. My latest chat with Film School for Wired examines the band’s latest effort Fission, Macs, PCs, materialist anthems and more. And even though they’re not cinematic and just because I couldn’t help it, I asked Film School’s members — none of whom save one have actually gone to film school — to break down some of their favorite films. Roll it!

Film School Talks Fission, Fave Flicks

[Scott Thill,] Fission has darker electronic atmospheres than Film School’s previous work, although it’s very sunny in places — like the song “Sunny Day” for example.

Greg Bertens: I like its diversity; it’s got energy and levity as well as heavier moments. Our last live set was on the dark side, with constant guitar layering, but I didn’t specifically focus on less or more guitars. I’ve been feeling electro-inspired the last couple years, maybe as a result of DJing more. We’re fans of the album’s title.

Bertens: We had a hard time coming up with it after going through several mediocre titles — Aberrations, Direction Perfection, Clarity and some others even worse! It wasn’t until I took a picture of some swirled rain boots and tweaked it in Photoshop, which eventually became the album cover, that the name came about. I don’t know exactly how. Maybe the strips of color splitting the black? Or maybe it was some of the lyrical content. In the end, the idea of something splitting, whether an atom or a relationship, and resulting in energy worked. Fission is addictive. I read that you worked with comedian Demetri Martin to soundtrack a Windows Vista campaign. Are you Macs or PCs, or both?

Bertens: Macs. My MacBook Pro and my bed (standard king, latex foam) are my two prized possessions. Have you ever had a big soft-but-firm bed? It’s amazing. I find it unsettling but apropos that you’re praising Macs and beds in the same swoop. I’m a big fan of Apple and Steve Jobs, but I’m bumming on the iPhone. They need to work it out. It’s a great device, but not much of a phone. And don’t try to tell me it’s all AT&T’s fault. I have friends who have other internet phones and they don’t drop calls half as much as I do! This is true. Speaking of technocultural fetishes, Film School’s swirling serenade “Sick of the Shame” seems like the perfect materialist ode for those lamenting what they want and can’t have, whether that’s iPhones or whatever.

Bertens: I wrote that after listening to Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs for the first time. I remember thinking he made it all feel so simple, which all the great songwriters do, and I wanted to write a song like that. It definitely feels like a lost Pink Floyd classic.

Bertens: Lyrically, it’s about dreaming of how a relationship or a life could be different with money or possessions. But it’s also about falling into the trap of thinking that money will fix unhappiness. That fantasy — that if there was an abundance of money you could live a stress-free life that would lead back to love, reconnect with childhood wonder, repair feelings of shame, and so on — is so powerful and alluring that we continue to fall for it. Sometimes it’s the closest we get to filling those voids.