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Meet the artist: Derek Miller of Sleigh Bells


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Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Miller, left, and lead singer Alexis Krauss have become one of the biggest names in indie music. The duo performed with their band June 14 at The Vogue in Indianapolis.
Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Miller, left, and lead singer Alexis Krauss have become one of the biggest names in indie music. The duo performed with their band June 14 at The Vogue in Indianapolis.

Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Miller, right, and lead singer Alexis Krauss have become one of the biggest names in indie music. The duo performed with their band June 14 at The Vogue in Indianapolis.
Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Miller, right, and lead singer Alexis Krauss have become one of the biggest names in indie music. The duo performed with their band June 14 at The Vogue in Indianapolis.


From the first note, the music of Sleigh Bells doesn’t seem to go together.

A maelstrom of screeching guitar and speaker-blowing bass is undercut by the pretty vocals of lead singer Alexis Krauss. Distortion and feedback give way to delicate musicianship.

To guitarist Derek Miller, that’s a direct result of their upbringing.

“I think it’s really a byproduct of growing up and listening to different types of music,” he said.

The Brooklyn, New York, band has played that dichotomy to become one of the biggest names in indie music. After releasing their new album, “Bitter Rivals,” last year, the band has played the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival in California and the Governor’s Ball in New York and is embarking on a European tour.

Prior to their June 14 show in Indianapolis, Miller shared some of the secrets of their success.

Where did your eclectic sound come from?

Until about the age of 13, I was influenced by my parents, who were big pop music fans. Records like Madonna, Michael Jackson, George Michael, the big top-40 blockbuster records of the era. Then around puberty, I got super into hardcore, trying to find out what to do with all of this energy.

When did you go from hardcore?

Around the time 17, “OK Computer” came out, the Radiohead record. That took the world by storm, and that was a gateway record; and it blew the door off it, and I was into everything.

How did that lead to what you do in Sleigh Bells?

We both loved the expertly produced top-40 music but with the energy and aggression that you get from a hardcore show. That’s what I feel our music is like. Instrumentally, it’s quite heavy. But then Alexis’ voice kind of offsets that.

How do you take that sound then and put it in a live show?

It was difficult at first. Now, we’ve had the same crew for a couple years now, and it’s much easier to put it together. Early on, it was me and Alexis with an iPod, a guitar and an amp. We were just figuring out how to vibe.

How did your early success force you to develop your live shows?

We were way out of our depth. We played some big shows way too early, but that’s the way it happens these days. But I feel really good about how we present it now.

For someone who has never been to one of your live shows, what can they expect?

Sensory overload. I feel like you either find it incredibly obnoxious, and you hate it or you love it. It gets very intense and very loud. But I appreciate that, that’s what I’m into.

You’d done big events like Coachella, and you’ve played small clubs. Which do you prefer?

It all depends on the audience. It can be 100 people in a room or 10,000 people. As long as they’re into it, it’s going to be great. And if they’re standing around bored, it’s going to be horrible. It all depends on the audience.

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