Benjamin Curtis - School Of Seven Bells

Benjamin Curtis, founder of the excellent NYC dream-pop band School Of Seven Bells, has passed away after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 35 years old.

Curtis came up as part of the Dallas, TX band Tripping Daisy (which later morphed into the Polyphonic Spree) from 1997 – 99. In 2000, he and his brother Brandon founded the heavy psychedelic rock band Secret Machines, who released three albums between 2000 and 2008, two with major label Reprise. Curtis left Secret Machines in 2007 (prior to the release of their third and final album) to form School Of Seven Bells. SIIVB released three increasingly ambitious albums, the last of which was February 2012′s outstanding Ghostory. Almost exactly a year after the release of that album, Curtis announced he had been diagnosed with T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. In that announcement, he wrote, “It developed pretty aggressively, and the chemotherapy to treat it will be pretty aggressive, but the good news is that it’s TREATABLE.” Musicians including the Polyphonic Spree, the Strokes, and Devendra Banhart participated in benefits to help offset the costs of Curtis’ treatment.

Curtis died yesterday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC.

UPDATE: School Of Seven Bells have shared a statement on Facebook:

Dear friends,

Last night, Dec. 29th 2013, we lost our friend and brother Benjamin Curtis to his fight against cancer.

While we had hoped to delay this announcement until a more suitable time when his friends and family could feel better prepared and settled to greet any correspondences from folks attempting to reach out, unfortunately the news has prematurely leaked. So we felt it would be appropriate to at least offer an official acknowledgement from us, in light of all the fans who loved and supported Benjamin and his music.

We kindly ask that his immediate family, friends & bandmates’ privacy be respected during this time, and that instead, any inquires, well wishes, or notes-of-consolation be sent through School of Seven Bells’ management, where it can be shared with them at the suitable time. They can be sent to a special e-mail address here:

If relevant, further information will be made available through the suitable channels in the near future.

We can’t thank all of you who supported him and his music through the years enough. All of you who attended or participated in the various benefits in and around New York City over the past year since his diagnosis, and of course those who contributed and gave generously to help support him throughout that journey. You made it possible for all of us, and for him, to see how truly loved he was and how many lives he had touched through his music by your gestures. We will all miss this incredibly talented and rare person every day, but we are fortunate enough that he shared with us his music, and that is something that we can keep forever.

Comments (15)
  1. That’s awful

  2. this is very sad news. ghostory was one of the more underrated albums of 2012. rip

  3. “Musician-Producer-1/2 of School of Seven Bells-Nothing to fall back on.”

  4. :( Very sad to hear. He left a great musical legacy, but still completely sad to hear this.

  5. Oh no, what heartbreaking news. RIP.

    • Also just wanted to say…

      I know it comes across as really lame and perhaps narcissistic when people make other people’s deaths about them, and I assure you that is certainly not my intention here, but I just wanted to say that “ILU” by School of Seven Bells is one of my favorite songs ever. It’s just so beautiful and so profound, and I may have cried to it once (don’t judge). That song struck a chord in my heart somewhere, and I know I have Benjamin Curtis to thank for that feeling I get when I hear “ILU”. In that way, he has succeeded as a musician and as a person.

      If you haven’t heard the song, you might think I’m being hyperbolic, and if that’s the case, go have a listen right now.:

      I remember seeing the band play it on Fallon and it was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. Curtis and his gorgeous guitar tone stole the show. I wish I could find the video.

  6. secret machines was da bomb yo!

  7. So friggin sad. I saw Secret Machines in Vancouver some years back. And his School of Seven Bells albums were amazing. :-(

  8. Ten Silver Drops is one of the most underrated albums of the last decade, and Ben Curtis was one amazing guitarist. What a privilege it was to see Secret Machines perform those songs at the Parish in Austin…one of my favorite shows ever.

  9. fuck… i’ve been following the band’s facebook, and although things were bad, they did a good job of making it all seem like a temporary setback. I’m not going to say this came out of nowhere, but still, shocking… during the holidays, too. I don’t even know what to say.

    time to blast Put Your Sad Down and hope all his friends and family are alright

  10. What a heartbreaking way to end 2013.

    Serious question, but why is it that so many people die during the last few weeks of the year? It’s as if anyone who has been battling a terminal illness or is of old age stands a good chance of passing away around the holidays. The year-end death parade is something that always mystified me. Is it weather-related due to the shift in temperatures, thus accentuating health issues such as pneumonia? Maybe the stress of the holidays is too much for a weak human heart to take? I don’t know…

    • I don’t think there is actually an increase, but we all simply notice it a little more this time of year because it adds another layer of sadness.

      Such a great musician, and will be truly missed.

  11. I think because I was convinced he was going to get better and had already began anticipating how special it’d be to see these guys again makes this harder for me as a fan. For now, thanks for the memories. Thoughts to his family.

  12. Such a shame, i never liked School Of Seven Bells, but i love Secret Machines.

  13. RIP. I can distinctly remember discovering Secret Machines back in the day and being blown away. A truly unique sound and a great, great album. I might need to finally check out School of Seven Bells.

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