Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller initially met by chance. While serving Krauss and her mother in a New York restaurant, Miller mentioned his new musical project needed a singer. Krauss, then a fledgling elementary school teacher with a performance background, gave it a shot.
It wasn’t long before the pair surfaced as Sleigh Bells, and the duo released their critically acclaimed debut, “Treats,” in 2010.
The band’s caustic mash-up of distorted rock hooks and pep-rally beats took pop music into new territory, and by 2013, had spawned a pair of quickly turned follow-ups.
Their just-released fourth LP, “Jessica Rabbit,” was not only three years in the making, but it finds the pair pushing themselves like never before - Miller opening up his production to incorporate sounds outside of the typical Sleigh Bells pallet, and Krauss in the writing of melodies that allow her to utilize her expansive vocal range for more than sheer power.
That first chance meeting has steadily evolved into a band that’s excited to take chances on their new album, and Krauss says they’ve never been in a better place artistically.
PacificSD recently spoke with the dynamic front woman about it all from her home in New Jersey.
PACIFICSD: Congratulations on “Jessica Rabbit.” Seems like it’s a long time coming.
KRAUSS: We did put out our first few records in pretty quick succession. This one took us a while, but ultimately I think it needed to be that way. We needed to take our time experimenting, revising and pushing ourselves to write more. Write better.
Do you feel relieved or anxious around a release?
By the time you release something, you’ve spent so much time with it and experienced so many highs and lows. Derek and I are very temperamental about our music. We love it one day and kind of despise it the next. It’s a constant roller coaster ride of emotions. (laughs) You definitely hear it one way. And then, when other people hear it and start responding, you end up perceiving it another way. I always have to build a bit of armor around myself when the music goes from the private space to the public. Your perception of it is inevitably going to change, but that’s a part of the process. And it’s always scary taking something that you’ve spent so much time and energy on and subjecting it to criticism. But it’s what we do. You just hope that everything you do is a step above what you’ve done in the past.
Did you like the extra time between albums or want to go back to the quick turnaround?
I think we’ll probably find a middle ground. There is definitely no rush to get out a fifth record. But I don’t think we want to take as much time as we did. And there was a change with the label in there as well. We worked with Mom + Pop on the last three records and it was great, but we were looking for something different. Self-releasing just feels right for our band and our music. We can make what we make without any compromise.
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Do you think you’ll follow a similar artistic trajectory on the next one?
If you’ve been with us for every album, I don’t think this one feels that different. We’re just building on the foundations we’ve laid with these past records. To me, it’s a logical next step. We started to flesh out some of these ideas on (2013’s) “Bitter Rivals,” and now we’re just really digging in and committing.
Seems like you really are expanding the vocal ends of things as well.
My approach on “Bitter Rivals” was a textural one. A lot of those songs relied on an almost robotic delivery. There wasn’t a lot of emotion, there was a lot of repetition, and “Jessica Rabbit” is the exact opposite approach. There are a ton of arrangement changes, tempo changes, and there is an emotional approach to the vocals as far as creating a melody that really connects with the lyrical content and is more narrative and visceral than what we’ve done in the past.
It seems like this is just the natural progression of Sleigh Bells.
We’re pushing and stretching ourselves to be outside of the box that a lot of people think our band should exist in. People say this record is very pop. Sure, it certainly has pop instincts, but it’s still pretty f*****g weird pop music. And I think as long we’re doing that, it’s going to be okay. (laughs)
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.