Even more exciting, Curtis's thematically related debut YA novel Boy Robot has just been announced. The book, the first in a trilogy about synthetic-cell teens with special powers battling the government that created them, will be published in November 2016 by Simon Pulse.
In a release, Curtis said:
I’m excited to finally share this book after starting to tell the story years ago in my first album. I’ve always made music for people who feel like outsiders, and I’m thrilled to say Boy Robot continues that narrative in a big way.
I'm so excited that my pal Simon Curtis is now a part of a new duo, Wrathschild (Twitter & Instagram), with his friend Wolfy. Their debut single, "Fall Into Love," is shimmering, sensual, optimistic pop with enough hooks to fuel several Top 40 singles. This song is flat-out great. I want it to be subtitled "Like an '80s Movie."
The song premieres exclusively on Billboard.com on March 24, with a worldwide release on iTunes, Spotify and other digital outlets on March 31.
I'll bring you an interview ASAP. Until then, a teaser of the song follows...
On Friday, I was thrilled to finally be able to go see my pal Simon Curtis perform live in his first-ever NYC gig. Curtis was just profiled by Billboard, which estimates his debut album 8Bit Heart's been downloaded 150,000 times and which previews four of his new tracks, yet he was setting foot in Manhattan for only the second time in his life as part of the supercool, superyoung SUPERFRAICHE concert put on by Arjan Writes and GUMBO.
I've been to Brooklyn's DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) fewer times than I've been to L.A. since moving to New York 18.5 years ago, but it was worth the trip; it's a beautiful area and despite being pitch-black as I made my way to the Galapagos Art Space, no one seemed too concerned about the deserted quality of the streets. Everyone was more interested in gazing at the majestic cityscape. I, however, was sprinting along since I had a pocket full of cash in advance of my Burbank trip the following day. Still, I slowed down and was able to scoop up some chocolate at a cute shop that was closing—I even got some free bark, which was no match for my bite.
Speaking of candy, I was then promptly carded at the Galapagos Art Space (always delicious when you're 42), which I would say is a sweet spot for this kind of showcase. Considering the youngsters (and a few oldsters) who gathered for a bill headlined by Sky Ferreira and featuring Curtis and newcomers Databoy and She's The Queen are probably more than used to standing around for G.A. shows, it was a treat to be able to sit down. The stage faces a lower level made up mostly of comfy circular booths with narrow runways between them, everything punctuated by mini-moats. Yes, there are metal railings everywhere, but after a few drinks, it's conceivable more than one party person might wind up not only soused but doused.
I had an excellent seat with a perfect view that was only occasionally marred when just one of the many photographers, who were not reined in at all, kept waltzing up the central runway to the stage and pausing to reflect on which angles she liked before taking countless shots without bothering to stoop or move along quickly. It's important to record events for posterity, but not important enough to wreck the view for a chunk of the audience.
Host with the most Arjan emerged in a natty red jacket to announce She's The Queen, a boy-girl duo with an authentically '80s sound but not as much stage presence as one would expect considering that fierth band name. I think they will improve over time, though, because the songs were tight and while the lead singer is a bit awkward when it comes to moving and presenting herself, she has a strong voice I'd like to hear again. Their EP hits iTunes April 12, 2011.
Next up was Databoy, a cute, quirky electro-duo who won me over with their loosely choreographed, in-sync pelvic thrusts, not to mention a sturdy performance that had the challenge of having to rebound after a sound issue thwarted their initial try. I don't know if heads rolled after that, but they did bob rhythmically to choice cuts like "Stupid." Plus, if you pronounce the word as "day-ta," then their group name is queerily appealing.
I was sitting next to a cute college student, Eric, who has a radio show on campus down in DC, so I asked him who he'd come to see. "Simon and Sky," he replied. This put me in prime proudness position, allowing me to brag that Curtis is a friend. Eric proceeded to school me on other acts I should brush up on, and in return I made sure he got a pic with my wunderkind buddy.
Curtis followed soon after, easily living up to my high expectations. He's been at this doggedly since I first encountered him when he was 17, and his devotion to it shows—he's a singer who owns the stage and knows it. He takes care to ensure that his act is more than just an excuse to win potential fans or reward devoted fans with readings of his songs.
He opened with new song "Don't Dance," a pained, line-in-the-sand expression of his determination as an artist:
Next up was one of his best new ones, "Pit of Vipers." Whereas 8Bit Heart was vulnerable and romantic, his new album RΔ (sounds a lot like "raw") is more reflective of what happens to boys who are vulnerable and romantic—they get stepped on and abused, and, in Curtis's case, they strike back:
I'm sure the crowd was jonesing for some familiar stuff, and Curtis served up one of my personal favorites, "Don't Wanna Be Alone," a stark contrast to what had come before:
Simon Curtis's goal in life is to become a popstar. I think the 24-year-old dynamo has wanted this more than anything since at least the days when *NSYNC roamed the earth, and I'm certain he was most urgently spurred on by the rise and rise and fall and fall and rise of Britney Spears. Don't hold that against him; he's better than his #1 idol, even if he would be loath to admit it. But being better, being good, is no guarantee in the world of pop—the right look, luck, connections, hard work, timing and an unquantifiable X factor are at least as important as talent. Talent is almost an embarrassment of riches if you have several or all of the others.
I go way back with Simon Curtis, back to his original name, back to when he lived in Oklahoma (he's now "too left for Oklahoma, too right for L.A., just right"), back to when he was 18 and entered a contest in the magazine I was editing. The contest was called "Get Famous" and promised one male and one female winner a chance to be flown to Orlando to meet with and perform for pop mega-producer Johnny Wright. Not too many boys entered, maybe because at the time every male who could sing or dance was already in a boy band, but it didn't matter—Curtis's entry (which I still have) clearly revealed his was a winning package. It was a package sporting several of those aforementioned important traits for pop success plus the icing on the cake—talent.
The prize was fulfilled, though I question how beneficial it was for him. Maybe it gave him a taste of winning against long odds...but then he'd probably already learned that lesson by beating leukemia as a child after being given only a 50% chance of survival. But I think listening to Max Martin over and over had more to do with nurturing his creativity.
Over the years, I've stayed in touch with Curtis and both encouraged and critiqued him. My criticism of his early songs that he'll remember involved his using too many 25-cent words, which is a good problem to have because it means you're smarter than your chosen medium. Mostly I've assumed he would "make it" at some point, and while I've done my part, Simon's not someone to sit around and wait for things to be done for him. As much faith as I've always had in his talent, I've been as amazed as some of his doubters by just how successful he's been—he moved to L.A., persevered through some management issues, hooked up with a producer, released an EP (the purposely and purposefully titled Alter Boy), did some fairly high-profile acting and eventually, earlier this year, found himself spending 13 frantic days writing and recording his album 8Bit Heart "in a tiny basement in the hills of West Virginia."
I mention my history with Curtis by way of full disclosure. He is my friend and I do want him to do well. But I will just review his record as if I didn't know the guy. Or rather, as if I didn't know him personally but knew he'd be reading this—which is how I review everything anyway, come to think of it.