Through their dense layers of played and programmed elements, School of Seven Bells brought dream pop into the 21st century.
They developed a sound as woozy and unmistakable as that of the style's early masters, including My Bloody Valentine, Curve, and Seefeel, and incorporated inspirations that tended to originate earlier, including ambient Krautrock, the icier end of synth pop, and even electro and freestyle. Although much of their lyrical matter regarded fictional characters and spirits, School of Seven Bells were also unafraid to write direct, impassioned ballads that could be classified as artful adult contemporary.
The band began as a trio. Benjamin Curtis met Alejandra and Claudia Deheza when his Secret Machines shared a bill with the twin sisters' On!Air!Library! as openers for Interpol. The three musicians left their respective acts and debuted in 2007 on Sonic Cathedral with the 7" recording My Cabal, which featured a B-side remix from Robin Guthrie -- the guitarist/producer's Cocteau Twins being another apparent touchstone. Additional singles, as well as a short-form collaboration with Prefuse 73, preceded the debut album Alpinisms, released on Ghostly International in October 2008. The relatively muscular and direct Disconnect from Desire followed in July 2010 through Ghostly and Vagrant and debuted at number nine on Billboard's Top Electronic Albums chart. Claudia Deheza left the group during a subsequent tour, and her sister and Curtis, who had been a couple, broke up later the same year. School of Seven Bells continued, however, without suffering any loss of creative power. Ghostory was issued in February 2012 and peaked on Top Electronic Albums at the same position as the album that preceded it. Put Your Sad Down, a download-only EP featuring a 13-minute title track and a cover of Silver Apples' "Lovefingers," was made available during the band's gigs that year.
Early in 2013, Curtis announced that he was diagnosed with lymphoma. That August, a benefit concert took place in New York with performances from the Strokes' Albert Hammond, Jr. and Interpol's Paul Banks, and members of Radiohead and Coldplay were among those who donated items to a concurrent silent auction. Curtis died that December. A few months later, Alejandra Deheza released a School of Seven Bells cover of Joey Ramone's "I Got Knocked Down (But I'll Get Up)" that was recorded while Curtis was in the hospital; Ramone himself died of lymphoma just over a decade earlier. A fourth School of Seven Bells album, nearly finished at the time of Curtis' diagnosis, was later completed by Deheza with help from producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen. It was issued in February 2016 as SVIIB. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi