Return to New York: Sleigh Bells Bring Bitter Rivals Home
With each passing year since their 2010 debut, Sleigh Bells have churned out a record uninhibited by the expectations put upon them by genre, hometown sounds or industry trends, and it's garnered them a growing fan base full of thrashing kids copping letterman jackets and bangs Bettie Page would be proud of. Alexis Krauss and David Miller have been touring since the September drop of Bitter Rivals, their third studio album, and they've been enjoying the additions they've made to a live show that's expanded alongside a climbing uptick of BPMs. We caught up with Miller in between tour stops before their deafening return to New York at Terminal 5 this weekend, and it turns out the Sleigh Bells status quo is about continuing this insatiable need to create and devour their music at a pace all their own.
Courtesy of Press Here
What feels different this time around for Sleigh Bells on tour? When it comes to taking Bitter Rivals on the road, what's something you did to change up either your prep for tour or your approach to the shows?
We've been playing with a drummer, which is something I swore up and down I would never do. I get a sick pleasure out of going against that for lack of a better term. It feels fresh. It feels really good. The new songs work really well in a live setting. Everything's around 80, 85, maybe 90 beats-per-minute, which is, on average, 10 to 20 BPMs faster than the first two records. It all feels like it leans toward on the other stuff.
What lead to the decision to bring a drummer into your live framework?
Basically, I just wanted to keep things fresh for us. For each record, we've added a new live variable: For Reign of Terror we added a second guitar player to cover all the harmonies as there are quite a few on that record. I basically figured out a way to blend all the samples like a live kit and have it work at front of house. We've also found got an incredible drummer, Chris Maggio, so it was tough to find a guy who could cover stuff like double-bass, but still be a pocket drummer, which Chris is. That's a tall order for a drummer, but he's killing it. He's a total maniac onstage, which is to be expected. He's part of the family. Most of us have been touring together for a couple of years now. There's a little bit of hazing and all that stuff. (laughs)
Hazing?! Do I even want to know?
It's not bad. (laughs)
In addition to bringing in a new drummer, how did Bitter Rivals grow between the record and the launch of the touring efforts behind it? What was a hurdle you jumped while prepping for this tour?
Here we are, a band on their third record, and Treats doesn't feel that far behind me. We just made that record in 2010. I'm still sort of wrapping my head around that one; if anything, it still feels kind of new. It still feels super fresh. It's not a matter of banging your head against the wall trying to come up with things; it's more, "What do we do with what we already have? How do we pick and choose where to go?" Usually, I just try to get out of the way and not overthink it. We record, and when we have 30-35 minutes of music that feels slightly cohesive, we call it a record. Then, we go play shows for a year, and then we go do it all over again. That's what works for us. I can't take two to three year breaks in between records. I can't do it. I'll go insane. It's really important for me to keep working. It's also a great way for me to gauge where I'm at in terms of head space, because I don't think or talk a lot about how I'm feeling, per se. It's not a macho thing; I just don't do it. I've never been good at diagnosing myself with anything. I just tend to ignore it. I can make a record, and when it's finished, I can stand back, and have an idea of where I'm at. It's an important thing for me. Not to sound too precious about it.
Do you feel like your fans pick up on that?
We've only been out on tour for a few weeks, and to see fans who've come to see us two or three times, there's a small culture that's developed which is amazing! When you start a band, I mean, I'm 32--I didn't have a cell phone until I was 20. Social networking doesn't interest me at all, that type of thing. A lot of our fans are 21 and 22, so talking to our fans and getting their perspective on the show, and I feel really fortunate about that. Once that newness wears off, that's the currency for a lot of people, especially internet people, and I understand that. But to see people coming back, and for us to have a real fan base, it's fascinating. It's great.