by Marcie Garcia
Though duos are a hot trend these days, Sleigh Bells' Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss are no She & Him. Not by a long shot. Brooklyn's dynamic deuce offer up grungy dance pop whose synth rave-ups has branded them a “buzz band” even before any official release to date. Their first LP, Treats, drops May 11, but already players like the Grammy nominated M.I.A. have gotten in on their fuzzed out pop by adding them to her label, NEET Recordings, sharing duties with Mom + Pop Music. And with less than a year since the pairs noisy experimental pop first hit the stage, recent stints at South by Southwest and Coachella have caused a stir, and nods by Stereogum and Pitchfork have given them some cred for relative newbies.
The two together display an almost cosmic chemistry as Krausse's sugary vocals instantly bring Miller's distorted beats and warped melodies to life on songs, “Crown the Ground” and "Infinity Guitar", off their lo-fi EP. Between the mood of her voice and her range, and his affinity for jagged riffs and volume over clarity, Sleigh Bells spit out a synth-pop, hard-core blend of irresistible in-your-face dance anthems. You can leave the acoustic at home.
Sleigh Bells supports Yeasayer at their sold out show April 29th at the Metro. Continue reading for my exclusive interview with Sleigh Bells' Derek Miller below.
Marcie Garcia: I will say I'm pretty amazed at the buzz surrounding Sleigh Bells considering you have yet to release an official release to your name. But how surprising is that to you – all the hype?
Derek Miller: We honestly aren't that aware of it. We don't think about it. We wake up, brush our teeth, get in the van, and drive to the next show. The only time we're ever aware of it is when we talk about it in interviews – ha ha – which I am now! But, it's fine. Obviously, it's kind of annoying to people, but it's a weird phenomena. People really get into a band being hyped, but I don't think about it.
MG: You said it's annoying for other bands, because of the jealousy? How do you handle that?
DM: Honestly, if the music is good, and this goes for anyone, or any band, not just ours, it'll stand up and it will survive it. We are expecting a backlash, but that's just the natural cycle of it. But I don't mind it. The one thing with hype is that it gets people really hungry, so like, they hate on you. That's the only thing, and it's never fun for anybody. But not everyone's gonna like you and that's just the way it is.
MG: And Derek, your EP certainly got the attention from some major players like Spike Jonze and M.I.A. Tell me the story about Spike playing your EP for M.I.A. and what transpired after?
DM: Well, Spike had a blog for “Where the Wild Things Are”, and there was a post about Sleigh Bells so he checked it out and wrote us a really rad email and asked to used a song of ours in one of his short films called “I'm Here”, and we were so flattered, of course. We said sure, and apparently he's friends with MIA and when he went to her house in Los Angeles, he played it for her on his iPhone and she wrote us an email immediately and came to New York shortly after, and really liked the band from the start. This was in September, before CMJ and before anyone had really heard us, other than our friends. It was very out of the blue and welcomed and encouraging.
MG: And Treats was produced by you – and you also did some work for MIA's forthcoming LP – what was your role on her record?
DM: I actually just produced one track for MIA. I don't know the final name of the track, but I'm pretty sure it's on the final track listing, and last I heard it was working with the rest of the songs. It's a little different for her but I think she's excited about it. That was a blast and so much fun and a highlight of my “career”, because at the time I was waiting tables. I was literally fired because she didn't give me any notice and just showed up in New York and said hey, lets get in the studio – and I was like – Okay! I had to figure out how to pay rent after that.
MG: Do you like wearing the producer's hat? Is it a career you're considering in the future?
DM: It's something I've always wanted to do. Well, I'm not good at kind of switching up sounds for other artists. I don't really know how to do anything other than what comes out. The track I did for MIA, it's like something I would have done for Alexis. It's a skill that a lot of producers have where they can work on so many different levels. It would be hard for me.
Sleigh Bells performing "Crown On The Ground" at SXSW
MG: Your sound is commonly described a lot as “fuzzed-out pop”, but how do you balance your music in being heavy, electronic, noisy and poppy, all at once and not too one sided?
DM: I don't know. It's something that just happens naturally with us. I'm kind of attracted to certain elements of heavy music but a lot of baggage bums me out, like being super macho, and it always has to be testosterone driven. Those are the elements that I don't like. The music is a by-product of me trying to make that correction. It's confrontational but there's this different type of element added which is Alexis. The chemistry between us is very natural and it's not something I'm intentionally doing but it's what I want to hear, really.
MG: How did you and Alexis meet?
DM: We met in July of 2008 and that was it. We met at my restaurant and I was in the habit of asking everyone I met if they were a singer because that's what I was looking for. It was the only reason I moved to New York. I was talking to her mom and she was really talkative and asked what I was doing in NY and told her I was looking for a female singer, and Alexis popped up and said she sang. I explained what I wanted to do and it sounded good to her, and we started recording two weeks later.
MG: But why just stick with two people?
DM: I played in music with a bunch of people over the years and I met Alexis and we never really intended on adding anyone else in the group. I don't use a live drum kit or anything, it's all electronic, so with a band, we would lose our sound. She's been singing since she could talk and I played hard-core music, so our backgrounds are pretty different, but it kind of works.
MG: Why did you feel the need to get away from the whole band thing?
DM: I was just bored of the basic rock element, of the whole drums, bass, guitar and vocals. I was so jealous of hip hop being able to sample music and sound and not have to just be like the ol' rock 'n' roll band bashing it out in rehearsal. Plus, it's hard to make a living when you're in a band with five people. With Alexis and I, if we make $200 we split it two-ways and that's not bad.
MG: How has it been opening for Yeasayer thus far, and how did that opportunity come about?
DM: Well, Anand Wilde saw one of our first shows, at the Market Hotel, by accident and really liked the music. He actually sent us a Myspace message and invited us on tour, really early on, at the end of October. We were psyched – they're a rad band and extremely nice guys and it was a crazy great opportunity.