Last December, Alejandra Deheza lost her School of Seven Bells bandmate and best friend Benjamin Curtis to T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. Curtis had battled the disease for just shy of a year. He made music on his hospital bed — his death bed — in the interim.
Noting that Joey Ramone had suffered from the same disease, Curtis and Deheza recorded their take on “I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)” off the lead Ramone’s posthumous 2002 solo record Don’t Worry About Me. It was the last music Curtis made before passing away at age 35. Deheza would soldier on and finish it, shooting an accompanying video in, among other locales, the deserts of Indio, California, and Joshua Tree, a landscape Curtis had always been attached to, she said. Watch the video, which premiered today, here.
Six months after Curtis’s death, Deheza maintains a positive attitude while letting their music be his tribute.
How have you been?
Eh, you know [pauses]. You know what? Things have been good.
When I got word this song and video were released, I was relieved: one, because we get to hear the last music Ben made and two, it gave me a sign that you were ready to talk about everything.
I had wondered what [people] were thinking about it. I was curious about the kind of reaction people would have, that there was more music.
How did this song and video come to fruition?
When Ben was in the hospital, he had a bunch of equipment with him. He had a bass, guitar, pedals and his computer studio set up. He became really attached to ["I Got Knocked Down (But I'll Get Up)"], probably because Joey Ramone had the same [illness]. I would go to the hospital every day and we’d talk about music. And I said, “Why don’t we just do it? Why don’t we just cover this song? It’s not like we don’t have everything we need here.”
This is what he did, this is his blood, you know? Making music and being creative and keeping that muscle going. It meant so much to him to keep doing it. He sat there 24 hours a day for a year. And I think it just made him alive.
You cut your vocals through FaceTime, right?
[Laughs] It was actually really funny. Benjamin was there with the same demeanor he had in the studio: super serious and super focused. Nurses would come [into his room in the hospital] and he’d tell them to keep it down [laughs].
On the last School of Seven Bells record, Ghostory, your lyrics are so much about spirits and the supernatural. With Ben gone, do you ever feel his presence?
Every day. I definitely feel it stronger some days than other days but he’s definitely here. And it’ll show up in the craziest things. When I was filming the video — and this might sound crazy to other people — we were in the middle of a forest and there was nothing on the ground but what was supposed to be there — sticks, dirt, leaves and rocks — and we were in between takes…and I see a quarter on a pile of earth stuff with our birth year on it. It was crazy.
You can kinda see this in the video in Joshua Tree. This raven, out of nowhere, flies over and stands next to me just to hang out while I was by myself. And I hadn’t seen any other birds. It felt like [Ben] was there.
Things like that just blew my mind. I don’t know if it’s the energy I’m giving off or some memory that I’m just putting out there. But it’s so cool. And it makes me feel like he’s around, you know?