In one short year, everything changed for Film School founder Greg Bertens. He had been feeling disillusioned and disconnected. In fact, he was questioning whether he wanted to continue making music at all. But when the San Francisco group's gear was stolen and 160 people turned out to show their support, Bertens realized that Film School was, undoubtedly, worth keeping alive.
"I recognized [that] yeah, I am in the right place on the right road on this planet and it's a worthwhile place to be," Bertens said recently by phone. "I had been reconsidering if I wanted to continue doing any of it anymore. But when all these people came to our aid, to have that level of support made me feel connected to a community of musicians. It was like finding how we fit into the bigger picture," he continued, "instead of feeling disconnected in a big universe of bands."
Still, Bertens—vocalist/guitarist and chief songwriter—was unhappy with Film School's lineup at the time, which he began as a solo project eight years ago. And so, to abandon its confinements, he opted to change it. "It was a very freeing feeling," he said. "I've found it's really important to be on the road with people who are supportive and who enjoy it and have fun."
Film School's new album Hideout is the result of Bertens' newfound freedom and sense of place. "I felt like I could do anything I wanted," he said of writing and recording for the new record. "I didn't have to continue with the same sound the old lineup had been developing years prior."
While the Film School sound itself—a brainy My Bloody Valentine-inspired foray into atmospheric post-punk—has not changed all that much since Bertens released his first 7-inch, I'm Not Working, on Metoo! Records in 1999, his tendency toward creative expression and experimentation (through electronic tinkering, for example) has changed. Especially with Hideout, which is a hazy, noisy stream of unbreakable sound that seems on a mission. It's the sort of record where personality and voice take a backseat to a dense arrangement of dominating, repetitive instrumentation. Bertens whispers emotionally from a dark and distant place on the horizon while guitars, keys, and drums melt into an ominous, fuzzed-out cloud of impenetrable, hypnotic sound, enveloping the room like steam taking over a sauna.
"I've always been interested in large washes of sound," Bertens explained, "and in that change of psyche that occurs as you're watching a band with a large sound that is repeated, it can change the whole room."
Bertens first became involved with writing and recording music because of the way it can change a room and a disposition. "I found it was the best way to relate to people and to have that shared emotional experience," Bertens said. "And you get this especially when playing live, there's this shared emotional experience that I've found nothing like anywhere else."