Interview: Sleigh Bells Confirm That Treats Is Good For Exercise
Phil Knott Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss
Sleigh Bells, the Brooklyn duo of former school teacher Alexis Krauss and former waiter/Poison The Well guitarist Derek Miller, have a rather apocalyptic presence, as we've previously noted. Hearing Treats for the first time, you might think this is somebody's dying boombox, left stranded with a warped cassette on some sad loop. But the more time you spend with it, the more Krauss's syrupy-sweet vocals blend with the abrasiveness that is Miller's half-programmed, half-not compositions. It works so well, partly because there's nothing else working like it.
This weekend, Sleigh Bells join labelmate/fan M.I.A., Rye Rye, Die Antwoord, and Theophilus London at the HARD Festival, which takes place Saturday, July 24 on Governor's Island. We spoke with Krauss and Miller earlier this week as they were driving to Montreal.
You all have had a rather successful last six months--and the record is called Treats. Have you treated yourself to anything nice?
Derek: Mostly just touring and playing shows. As much work as it is, it's really fun. I can't tell if it's vacation or work--it's kind of both. I'd consider that a treat. Especially a headlining tour. Playing to your own crowds, there's not a lot of work. Playing for other bands, it's a little different, where you're playing for blank faces.
Alexis: Not yet. We've been so busy, it's the day-to-day routine. I haven't necessarily felt the need to treat myself yet. But we have a break coming up at the end of August and there will be some treating going on.
But no Flavor Flav-style clock necklaces?
Derek: I'm trying to think. We buy some ridiculous shit. In Florida, we bought some gator hats and gator teeth. Our manager Will had a gator-tooth necklace, but he took it off and gave it away; it was bringing bad vibes. No jet airplanes yet. That's next year.
I don't know if you know this, but there's an Internet idea circulating that Sleigh Bells' Treats is great for exercise.
Alexis: Oh, and I feel like the Village Voice did something to propagate that idea!
But I have gone jogging to it!
Alexis: I feel like that's a compliment. That gets me excited. The type of albums that I like to work out to get your pumped or that you want to dance to. I think that's good--that the record charged people up and makes them feel like whatever they need to conquer, they can conquer.
Some of the songs have this anger that you want when you're working out.
Alexis: Absolutely. When I go to the gym, I'm pissed. I hate being there in the first place [laughs].
So what do you work out to?
Alexis: I haven't worked out in a while. Now I work out to Sleigh Bells--because of our live set. When we were in the studio, I made a playlist that had some Justice on it, some Beyonce. Annie. Club beat stuff.
When you were first getting together with Derek, were you apprehensive about bringing your vocals to his work?
Alexis: No, I have a lot of experience being in the studio, working as a session singer. That was my job basically all throughout college. I feel comfortable walking into a studio and working with people, developing ideas and seeing different styles. So when I started working with Derek--it was a challenge, sure, but I wasn't apprehensive. I wanted to do a good job. It was more excitement and feeling really eager and determined.
You and Alexis met at the place you were waiting tables. [Derek was waiting on Alexis and her mother.] Did you think this was a rather risky move in taking stock in a customer and say, "Yep, let's do this"?
Derek: I had nothing to lose, really. I was definitely the waiter with big ideas--and annoyed the shit out of my boss and coworkers [talking] about how I was going to do this band. And it's funny, when I met Alexis, I went back and said, "Hey I met this really nice girl, and she sings." And they said, "Well, there you go, you found her." But obviously it worked out.
I feel like at some point, we all have this dream where we think we have an amazing connection with a waiter or waitress, forgetting that they're working for tips.
Derek: I know. But Alexis waited tables as well and I think we're rather friendly and like people.
Alexis: I have to give my mom the credit. I'm much more quiet and would've just sat there. It was a weird confluence of our personalities and it was a nice night.