Interview

Sleigh Bells' Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss hit heights of indie rock success

Up front: Alexis Krauss "loves performing," Derek Miller says. "It's rad. . . . I just want to be the guy in the shadows."
Up front: Alexis Krauss "loves performing," Derek Miller says. "It's rad. . . . I just want to be the guy in the shadows." (Lance Dawes/blixah For Associated Press)

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By Joe Heim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 27, 2010

The track to indie rock stardom these days is lickety-split. And the fall can be even faster. But if that ever-shrinking shelf life is on the minds of guitarist Derek Miller and vocalist Alexis Krauss, the two members of Sleigh Bells, they're not showing any signs of it.

The Brooklyn group, barely a year old, has shot to the heights of indie success with its much-heralded album, "Treats," released in May on M.I.A.'s N.E.E.T. label. And the duo begins a national tour this week with sold-out shows Tuesday at Baltimore's Ottobar and Wednesday at the District's Rock & Roll Hotel.

With its startling meld of massively thrashing distortion and sugary-sweet pop vocals, Sleigh Bells has earned a ceaseless stream of attention and online hype almost since its inception. We reached Miller last week by phone to chat about the origins of the band's breathtaking sound and how he and Krauss are dealing with their out-of-nowhere approval.

Q: I've come to really like this album, but the first time I heard it I thought my iPod was broken.

A: Haha. Fair enough. We get that a lot.

It's so unbelievably distorted and other than just liking how that sounds, I wondered if you were trying to make any kind of statement with that.

Definitely not, it was necessity . . . When I was listening back to the mixes, I would listen to it extremely loud so that my headphones would literally break up. And then I would turn it down, and it just sounded like a joke. I just thought, 'Wow, this is god-awful; it lacks energy and immediacy.' So I was trying to get it to sound like it did when it was turned up but at a reasonable volume.

The contrast between this intensely aggressive music and Alexis's sweet voice works surprisingly well.


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