20 Watts

Q&A: 20 Watts Interviews Sleigh Bells by tjwell01

Derek Miller (left) from red-hot new band Sleigh Bells checks in with 20 Watts to talk about producing the debut LP and how the odd couple made the perfect match.

PREVIEW: Sleigh Bells’ MySpace and live performance on Pitchfork TV

Major breakout electronic/heavy-metal/hip-hop duo, Sleigh Bells, a.k.a. Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, lit up over night after they performed at this year’s CMJ Festival in New York City. Krauss loves pop and Miller loves heavy rock, but somehow and someway, Sleigh Bells became one of this year’s hottest bands and made our “The Five.” While the band is on hiatus recording their LP and tucking away from the shows, Miller spared some time to chat it up with 20 Watts about the new album and adjusting to the suddenly high expectations.

20W: I hear you produced the EP. Do you plan on producing the LP by yourself?

DM: I plan on doing about 90 percent of it on my own, but will likely bring in a co-producer here and there to help me when necessary. Shane Stoneback will be engineering, and the bulk of the record will be made at his studio, Treefort.

20W: How do you go about fusing your metal influences with Alexis’ pop taste?

DM: Well we are both huge pop music fans, whatever that means these days. Alexis is really into soul. early rhythm and blues, while I tend to go for slicker, punchier records from the last two or three decades. The heaviness is something that is less in my ears and more in my blood.

20W: Some of the tracks like “Crown on the Ground” on the EP are fuzzy like the levels are way too high. Was this intentional? If so, why?

DM: I had to make everything with really cheap hardware, bottom of the line Alesis and Akai beat stations. The only way I could make them sound even mildly exciting was to turn everything up and push it into the red. The newer recordings will maintain the harshness, but I’ll probably clean up the vocals a bit. They are way too distorted.

20W: How does a fifth grade teacher like Alexis get so fierce?

DM: Good question! Teaching is much more difficult than people think. It’s an intense, sometimes aggressive environment to work in. The band is a good outlet for her. We would get together around 5 or 6 p.m., after she had been teaching all day, and she would just start yelling and shit. Pretty great!

20W: Did you know from the beginning you wanted the sound to be structured around heavy hip-hop beats?

DM: No, I originally bought drum machines to help me demo, thinking I would eventually find a drummer, which never happened. Once I started using them I realized I kind of liked the sound, though I’m sick of them at this point and excited to find new sounds.

20W: What are you hoping to accomplish with the LP that the EP didn’t?

DM: Hmmmmm. Not sure. The goal is always the same: to make something badass and hopefully memorable.

20W: How have you approached the waves of publicity? It seems like you guys caught fire over night.

DM: I don’t think much about it. We’re going into the studio Jan. 2, so that’s really the only thing on my mind at the moment. Wrapping up new songs and getting ready to focus and work hard for the next two months or so. If people are digging it, right on.

20W: Have you been approached by anyone for remixes or collaborative side projects?

DM: We have, but I can’t really say at the moment. It’s all coming out next year.

20W: It seems this boy-girl, electronic psyche-pop/hip-hop model is getting popular. Why did you stick with just Alexis and play with this style and these instruments?

DM: I don’t know. It just sort of happened. I had been looking for a female vocalist for years. I was relieved to meet someone as unique and talented as Alexis.

20W: Will the album be balanced with high-powered songs and laid-back ones like what the EP has in “Crown to the Ground” and “Ring Ring?”

DM: Probably, though I think it will be heavier than people are expecting, if people are expecting anything at all. We’re psyched!!!!!!

— Interview by Jett Wells, Asst. Multimedia Editor

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