In The Ring With Sleigh Bells

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11_SleighBellsPhoto: Courtesy of Sleigh Bells. Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
With a buzz-saw sound so ubiquitous it's signature, Sleigh Bells isn't exactly known for subverting expectations. Yet, that's exactly what Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss have done with their new record, Bitter Rivals. Instead of touring last year's smash Reign of Terror into oblivion — something no one would've blamed it for — the band chose to jump right back into the studio. While still a Sleigh Bells album through and through, Krauss and Miller have lightened the tone, stripped the excess, and imbued its signature sound with more soul. We gave Krauss a ring while on her way to the boxing gym to talk finding her inner diva, working on fitness, and teaming up with none other than Danny Brown.

Two Years, Two Albums
"Derek and I are pretty restless when it comes to writing new material and recording. We essentially started working on Bitter Rivals immediately after we released Reign of Terror and worked on it throughout the touring cycle for Reign of Terror. As soon as we got off of the road, we were in the studio for four or five months. For us, it feels like an incredibly empowering, fun record, especially coming off the heels of Reign of Terror, which was a much darker and more serious record. That was definitely a cathartic record for Derek — it was a big part of how he worked through losing his father and his father having cancer. So, this felt like a new beginning — a fresh start for us. Creatively, it was our most rewarding record in the sense that it was a true collaboration."

Super Sonic
"It felt like we were accomplishing things sonically that we didn't know we were able to do. There were a lot of moments where we were like, 'Is this Sleigh Bells? Is this our band?' Can we do this?' Instead of limiting ourselves to people's expectations, we decided to move forward. As a result, we've created something pretty exciting — at least in our opinion!"
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Soul-Searching
"'Young Legends,' in particular, is the most R&B/pop thing we've ever done. I love that we're able to do things like that and not feel self-conscious about them. It's a testament to Derek's production. I grew up singing R&B and soul, whether it was Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, or Etta James. I'm a huge fan of everyone from Aaliyah to Beyoncé — that's sort of my natural way of singing. On this record, we tended to stay away from a lot of the ways I was singing in the past, which was softer with a lot of layered, breathy vocals and shouting — which we still have on the record. The vocals are very melodic and straight-forward sounding."

Down With Danny Brown
"We're big fans of him. We had reached out a couple of times prior, and he had asked us to do some things, but because of scheduling conflicts, it hadn't worked out. He was our first choice for the big shows, like New York. I think it'll be great — he's an incredibly dynamic performer, and I love the material. People are in for a really great show."

Mind, Body, & Song
"Boxing has become a really regular part of our routine. You know, it's just one of those things that when your body feels that strong, and when you feel that good about yourself physically, you're obviously a shit-ton more confident in a lot of different ways — not just in terms of your appearance. When you come off of that natural adrenaline high and go into the studio, you're in a frame of mind that is really conducive to making music that's generally more anthemic, and up, and has a lot more energy and go. So, I think that really impacted the record. Plus, we were watching a lot of old fights and Raging Bull and Rocky, so there were a bunch of references to that."




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