Benjamin Curtis of School of Seven Bells, Secret Machines Dead at 35

Musician had been battling a rare disease called T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma

December 30, 2013 7:30 PM ET
Benjamin Curtis School of Seven Bells
Benjamin Curtis performs with School of Seven Bells in Los Angeles, California.
Paul Redmond/FilmMagic

Benjamin Curtis, the former Secret Machines guitarist and Tripping Daisy drummer who most recently made up half of the dream-pop duo School of Seven Bells, died at age 35 last night in New York City. He had been battling T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and the website Oklahoma Rock, which covers musicians from Curtis's home state, reports he was getting treatment at the city's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The group later confirmed Curtis's death via its Facebook.

School of Seven Bells Drift Through 'Lafaye'

"We can't thank all of you who supported him and his music through the years enough," the band wrote in a statement on its Facebook page. "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."

Curtis's counterpart in School of Seven Bells, Alejandra Deheza, announced he had been diagnosed with the disease in February, via the group's Facebook page. "It developed pretty aggressively, and the chemotherapy to treat it will be pretty aggressive, but the good news is that it's TREATABLE," she wrote. "These next few months will be tough, but he is the toughest person I know (even while here, he was trying to figure out a way to sample the MRI)."

Following her announcement, Curtis underwent several chemotherapy treatments and in August was awaiting a bone-marrow transplant. That month, his friends in Interpol and the Strokes planned a benefit at New York's Bowery Hotel named after a Seven Bells song, "Put Your Sad Shoes Down."

Curtis was born in 1978 and lived in various cities around Oklahoma. He played with psych rockers Tripping Daisy, drumming on 1998's Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb, and in an indie-rock group called UFOFU in the late Nineties. Between 2000 and 2007, Curtis played with his brother Brandon in space-rockers the Secret Machines. He played on two of that group's full-lengths, 2004's Now Here Is Nowhere and 2006's Ten Silver Drops, as well as a couple of EPs before he left that group to form the School of Seven Bells. That group put out three full-lengths and an EP.

Rolling Stone's David Fricke championed the band as a "Fricke's Pick" in 2008 and praised the "pop flair and holy-aura harmonies" of their second album, 2010's Disconnect From Desire, in his review.

In their Facebook post, the band asked fans to respect Curtis's family, friends and bandmates. It requested that all inquiries and notes of consolation be sent to a special email that will be read by the band's management: sviib@wizkidmanagement.com.

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