Brooklyn beat dreamers School of Seven Bells came to a sad end in 2013 when multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Curtis lost his battle with Lymphoma. It was two years before Alejandra Deheza could revisit their final sessions, eventually enlisting M83 producer Justin Meldal Johnsen to finish upcoming album ‘SVIIB.’ Part eulogy, part life-affirming tour-de-force, she reveals the pained process behind its creation.
Most of ‘SVIIB’ was written in 2012, before Benjamin was diagnosed. What were those sessions like?
We felt unstoppable. We were constantly coming up with songs. The only funny thing was that I’d started writing about our relationship for the first time and I didn’t understand why. I’m glad I did. It felt like this story I needed to tell. We were together for five years, then we broke up, then we immediately went on tour. There wasn’t space to process any of it but we stayed side by side for the next five years.
Did you discuss the future of the band when you found out Benjamin was ill?
No. It never entered our minds that it would go any other way, that it would end.
Is it true he worked on the album in hospital?
He had a proper set up! Guitars, bass, synths, everything. It was totally against the rules but everyone there adored him. One time the nurses snuck him out so he could come to the studio. ‘Confusion’ is the only track written when Benjamin was ill.
Benjamin was so sick at that point. He started laying down this synth part, the words just came out and we recorded on the spot. It was really intense. It ended up being the last time we worked together. We didn’t know it would be, but we were both crying. It was really, really heavy.
Did you ever consider not finishing the album?
No, never. But it was hard. I couldn’t listen to music. I still can’t listen to certain things. It’s like an involuntary response, it just floods you with memories. But there was no way I wasn’t going to release it, I had to show people what he did. Eventually I just started, every day, making myself listen to the tracks over and over again. Almost as an exercise until I was ready to go into the studio with Justin.
Will you tour ‘SVIIB’?
I’m still thinking about it. It’s tricky because it’s not both of us up there.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m writing on my own for the first time without a partner for ten years. It’s important for me to figure this out alone.
How will you remember School of Seven Bells?
Meeting Benjamin completely changed my life. I’ll always see the band as that moment. Just this decade where I seriously feel like I woke up, where I went through every colour on the spectrum of love with one person. Even with all the sadness, I really do feel lucky I got to experience that.