Note: Sleigh Bells performs Thursday July 22 at Royale with Die Antwoord. Check the accompanying feature on the South African rap sensation here.
Let's face it: Sleigh Bells are heavy. Heavy heavy heavy. Oh sure, they sugar-coat it for all the kids out there who don't normally listen to metal and whatnot. But one listen to their recently released debut long-player, Treats (N.E.E.T./Mom & Pop) and it's clear that they are trying to pull a fast one with the stealthily smuggled heaviness moves folded into their distorto-dance thing. And who can blame them-- how many metal albums do you see here, or here, or here? But I dunno: when I caught them a few weeks ago at the Creators Project show in NYC, Derek Miller started the show by playing the demonic opening riff of Slayer's "South of Heaven". Were devil horns appropriate? I say: hell yeah.
Earlier in the day, I caught up with the dynamic duo, wearing sunglasses indoors as they did the press slog, repeatedly answering questions about how awesome it was to work with M.I.A. and how neat it must be to be so hyped and to have gotten so huge so quickly, etc. Yawn! I wanted to know how a boy and girl armed with nothing but a guitar, an amp, a microphone, an iPod blaring beats, and some glitter, manage to squeeze so much raucous throbbing rock out of so little:
Derek, you used to be in Poison The Well, who were really heavy. With Sleigh Bells, do you feel like what you do is kind of slyly super-heavy?
Derek Miller: Yeah, definitely-- and it's actually getting kind of heavier, what Alexis and I are doing. Like with the newer songs on the record, like "Tell 'Em", which has a more overt metal influence. I was afraid to do that stuff for so long because I left Poison The Well and didn't do anything heavy for about seven years. "Ring Ring", which is now called "Rill Rill" on the record, is real minimalist and electropop, and that's kind of what we were doing when we started making music together. More "traditionalist", for lack of a better word. But the will to do heavy music was always there in the back of my mind, you know, and it just took awhile to roughly understand how melodies and whatnot were going to work over a heavier framework. But I see us going further in that direction.
Further into heavy?
DM: Yeah-- not muted E's and double kick, but just sort of... heavier.
Alexis Krauss: But I guess in sort of the way that "Tell 'Em" has so much heaviness going on, but the melodies are still very present and kind of take it to a completely different place--
DM: Yeah, and I really like that, because the melodies just really kind of castrates the metal. Because that was the problem I had with heavy music: the scene, the aesthetics, and all the fights and all that macho bullshit. It just got so boring. And, uh, I dunno, I just feel like we're getting there! We both love confrontational music, especially in a live setting, it's like, you know, for some people what we do isn't really headphone music and just works better in a live setting.
Alexis, was it a struggle to find a way, initially, to fit what you do within this heavy framework?
AK: Yeah, not really. I innately have this very light pop voice, so that's what I was instinctively bringing to the table, and I found a way to bridge things to make it work. But yeah, I mean, no doubt, there were times when I had to push myself to a place that I was not necessarily comfortable. And I mean, we're both still figuring it out--
DM: We're both still learning, and will continue to. But it's definitely getting heavier, for now.