Currently comprised of founding member Greg Bertens (vocals, guitar) along with Jason Ruck (keys), Nyles Lannon (guitar), Justin Labo (bass) and Adam Wade (drums), the acclaimed, Los Angeles-based shoegazer act Film School can trace its origins to when Bertens founded the band as a primarily solo act in which he worked with members of Fuck and Pavement for the recording of the band’s full-length debut, 2001’s Brilliant Career. Ruck, Lannon, Labo and Ben Montesano (drums) were all recruited to compete the band’s first permanent lineup later that year.
2003 saw the release of the Alwaysnever EP, an effort that was recorded in Lannon’s bedroom and shortly after the release of the EP, the band went through a series of lineup changes — with the first being Donny Newenhouse replacing Montesano on drums. 2006 saw the release of their self-titled sophomore album, their first through renowned indie label Beggars Banquet. They also provided the music for a series of short films by Demetri Martin, known collectively as “Clearification,” which was used for an ad campaign for Windows Vista.
The band went through another a massive lineup change that featured Lorelei Plotczyk replacing Labo on bass, Dave Dupuis replacing Lannon on guitar, and James Smith replaced Newenhouse on drums and then relocated to Los Angeles before releasing their third full-length album 2007’s Hideout, which was primarily written by Bertens and recorded with Dan Long.
The band’s fourth full-length album Fission, which found the band exploring new sonic territory was released to mixed reviews by fans and critics in 2010. The band played what was considered their last official show the following year and went on an indefinite hiatus for several years before the band’s self-titled era lineup reunited for a one-off show at San Francisco‘s Bottom of the Hill to celebrate Newenhouse’s 40th birthday that focused on early material. Interestingly, the reunion eventually resulted in 2016’s June EP, which found the reunited band returning to their signature spacious sound.
Film School’s fifth, full-length album, last year’s Bright to Death was written and recorded as a labor of love, with tempered expectations, since it was the band’s first album in eight years. Recorded over an eight day period in November 2018 on the outskirts of Joshua Tree, CA, the album’s title is derived from text on a piece of art that Bertens had seen as part of an exhibit by Chinese students on the topic of global warming. As they were recording in the sun-blistered environs of Joshua Tree, the phrase “Bright to death” popped into Bertens’ head and it stuck.
Featuring four members of the band’s original lineup and Shudder to Think and Jawbox’s Adam Wade contributing on several songs, the album’s sessions came about almost by accident. As the story goes, Bertens was at a Fourth of July get-together and was grumbling to Justin Labo about a recent bout with writer’s block. In the ensuing months after recording the June EP, work and family responsibilities had seemingly zapped Bertens of his creativity. At the time Bertens joked “The only way, I could write is if I were out in the desert for a week.” A few hours later, Bertens received a phone call from Labo: Labo had the go-ahead from his wife and kids to go to the desert to write and record. Greg’s offhanded remark had awakened “a pent-up lust to make music the way we wanted to,” in Justin’s words. It wasn’t long before Nyles Lannon (guitar/backing vocals, also a dad) and Jason Ruck (synths) were on board, too.
As for the sessions themselves — after Bertens returned from his dawn run, the members of the band would hunker down in a small outbuilding that functioned as a simple studio. “It was perfect,” the band’s Labo said “We set up our laptops and fashioned a makeshift DIY recording setup. It brought us back to  when we recorded the Alwaysnever EP in Nyles’s bedroom.” They would spend all day and most of the night working, taking breaks only to eat and to catch a few hours of sleep. “At some points we had two recording setups going simultaneously,” Labo recalls. “Greg and Nyles might be working on an arrangement or vocals, while me and Jason would be tracking keyboards and bass for another idea. We recorded for eight days straight, right up until the very last moment.”
The band will be releasing a new EP sometime this year, and its first single is the hazy and atmospheric “Influencer.” Centered around four-on-the-floor, buzzing and arpeggiated synths, shimmering, pedal effected guitars and an anthemic hook, the song manages to bring Silversun Pickups but with an ambivalent and ironic detachment. Interestingly, the song is a a nod to people’s ambivalence and as Greg Bertens says in press notes how we “cringe at fake positivity yet we desperately want to be shown a model for the good life. We’re doomed!” The recently released video features a sweeping, glitchy landscape which emphasizes the song’s hazy and dreamy vibes.