Sleigh Bells Ring It On With Their Debut Album ‘Treats’

Following last October’s CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival in New York, there were, as expected, a number of previously unknown bands from Brooklyn being raved about on music blogs. Sleigh Bells, a duo whose tender vocals are ripped apart by pounding guitars, blown-out beats, distortion and a whole lot of dancing, led the pack. (Pitchfork hilariously labeled them “the best beat-based boy-girl duo going in New York City.”)

Perhaps the positive reaction should have been predicted: M.I.A. doesn’t just bike over to every new band’s house to discuss the possibility of producing their record. But the “Paper Planes” firebrand did that very thing after listening to a few songs by composer, guitarist and percussionist Derek Miller and lead vocalist Alexis Krauss, riding over to Miller’s place to put together a deal. “A friend of hers played our music, after which she wrote to us out of the blue,” says the 28-year-old Miller, who grew up in Pahokee, Florida. “She said she loved our music and wanted to work with us. She wasn’t even halfway about it, which was inspiring.”

Expectations are high for Treats, the band’s debut album (out this month on Mom + Pop in collaboration with M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T. label), thanks in large part to the storm they created on the music festival circuit, most recently at SXSW. “The first few shows after CMJ, there were lots of crossed arms and pens out,” says Miller. “Honestly, that’s fine. It’s not fun to play to journalists, but they create opportunities for us by writing all this shit.”

Miller comes from hardcore—he was a guitarist for Florida-based outfit Poison the Well—a genre that tends to attract an angry or alienated crowd, but “Derek is a happy-go-lucky guy,” says his former bandmate, drummer Chris Hornbrook. “He’s also very intense. He always wanted to do something percussive. His grandfather was a drummer.”

Krauss, too, has music in her blood. “My father is a full-time musician, so music has been a part of my life since I was very young,” says the 24-year-old New Jersey native and former schoolteacher, who also did time in RubyBlue, a teenybop quartet. “I worked my ass off between the ages of 13 and 16. And as packaged as it was, there was definitely a lot of creativity in RubyBlue. But I had no intention of returning to music until I met Derek.”

The pair found each other two years ago at a Brazilian restaurant in Brooklyn called Miss Favela. Krauss was getting drunk with her mom; Derek, who had come to New York in search of a female vocalist, was their waiter. “I wasn’t working in music at the time, but my mom was like, ‘Alexis is a singer!’ We started talking about a project, and then I heard what he was working on and absolutely loved it.”

If Treats lives up to its hype, how do Miller and Krauss intend to spend their earnings? “Underwear. Toothpaste. Beer,” says Miller. “I imagine Alexis would buy a box of pencils and some yogurt.”

Photo by Phil Knott.

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