The Life is the new musical project of NYC-based multihyphenate Curtis Everett Pawley. Known to many as a mischief maker in the film world, Pawley unveils a radically different side of himself via The Life. The upcoming debut album, True – written, produced, and performed by Pawley – is a stunning display of sincerity, delivered by way of ravishing hooks and meticulous production.
As a DJ and curator of some of the wildest events in town, holding court at hot spots like China Chalet and H0L0, Pawley was already a prince of NYC nightlife when a June 2022 exposé in The New York Times revealed him to be one-half of anonymous disruption-duo The Ion Pack. In the words of the Times: “The project, which began as an Instagram account in 2018, peddling memes that punched up and poked fun at New York City’s film establishment, has become something of an underground talk show for the city’s downtown artistic scene.” Beginning with incisive roasts of the film industry and branching out from there, The Ion Pack has skyrocketed to notoriety. The now-unmasked Pawley and co-conspirator KJ Rothweiler have welcomed guests such as Jonah Hill, Abel Ferrara, Julia Fox, Chloe Cherry, and Dasha Nekrasova onto their “Ion Pod” podcast and the pair recently announced plans to expand the brand into a production company.
With The Ion Pack soaring, Pawley now introduces to the world this new facet of his creative spirit: The Life. Debut album True defies all expectations and delivers an instantly accessible, ecstatically soulful version of pop-rock. A glorious embrace of the mainstream, an exuberant reimagining of commercially viable sounds, True uses Top 40 hits of the ’90s and ‘00s as its lexicon, offering up earnest, irresistible songs that bounce and glisten. Across tracks like “I Don’t Want You to Be Happy,” “Just Drive,” and “Grace,” Pawley’s vocals are clear and yearning; the beats are bright and slamming; the melodies are lethal. Buried deep within the gloss are darker details: big beat glitches, metalcore screams, fleeting moments of dissonance.
Pawley describes the winding path that led him to this place: “I got deep into out-there music very young, going to basement noise shows when I was 13 or 14. I got obsessed with getting into as much weird stuff as I could. Something I always noticed about people I met in more avant scenes was that they rejected the mainstream. It didn’t make sense to me then and it still doesn’t make sense to me now.”
Pawley claims his biggest influences to be those great artists who, like himself, started out as weirdos, punks, and denizens of the underground, but who eventually came around to choose pop as their medium, bringing traces of the underground with them in the process. Peter Gabriel is one example; Green Gartside of Scritti Politti is another.
“I ended up going to college for composition and getting deep into studying avant- garde stuff,” he states. “To me, classic songwriting was actually the most extreme.
Nothing blew my mind more than a perfect hook. The deeper I got into music, the more I was enthralled with perfect song craft. Writing something that could stick in people’s heads, soundtrack their life events, their breakups, their existential crises. This felt like the most monumental and extreme thing you could do with the art form.”
With True, Pawley has indeed succeeded in creating a monumental work of art – an album that will stick in people’s heads and provide soundtracks for their lives. From driving rockers to pining ballads, each and every one of True’s nine songs evokes visions of the most pivotal scenes from the greatest rom-com never made – a film which The Ion Pack may or may not roast.
True was mixed with the help of Gabe Schuman (Oneohtrix Point Never, Bladee) and mastered by Robin Schmidt (Pixies, Liam Gallagher). The cover art was created by Tom Keelan. In recent months, Pawley has brought The Life to the stage for its first shows, playing with the likes of The 1975, Beach Fossils, and Phantom Planet. The live band counts ace drummer Chris Colley (Phantom Planet, Collapsing Scenery) amongst its members.