Some critics and know-it-alls assumed Sleigh Bells — arguably Brooklyn’s loudest noise-pop platonic pairing — would fizzle out within a few years. And perhaps, considering the utterly distinctive yet kind-of-formulaic nature of blast-off tracks like “Infinity Guitars” and “Tell ‘Em,” plus the psychic pressure of being one of the biggest “next big things” in 2009, naysayers had a point.
But they hadn’t reckoned that Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller might be smarter than the bands who implode after a few blogosphere-catapulted hits. Or at least more showbiz savvy.
“From the very beginning, we were very cautious about who we worked with and who we took advice from,” explains Krauss, when asked about all the expectations when, before a Sleigh Bells album existed, they were getting national exposure and signing with M.I.A.’s label. “I don’t want to make it sound like we were paranoid, but we said ‘no’ to a lot of things.”
The duo’s prior experiences with the industry hype machine made it easier to dodge its pitfalls. During the first half of the ’00s, Miller played in hardcore act Poison the Well, while an adolescent Krauss fronted obscure tween-pop act RubyBlue. Not coincidentally, floor-punchin’ crunch mixed with bubblegum blithe-ness aptly describes the music they wound up writing.
“Bitter Rivals,” their latest, probably won’t turn any haters into fans, but it’s not a retread of earlier albums either.
“We’re interested in being a band that makes you feel lots of different ways,” says Krauss, “that has you dancing your ass off at one moment, feeling a bit more pensive at another, and moshing the next.”
This one goes up to 11…
Coinciding with their sonic progress, Sleigh Bells added a live drummer to their touring lineup, which ought to beef up the already staggeringly ear-splitting volume.
Even though Krauss and Miller made their mark with all-encompassing, absolute loudness, it’s not their endgame. “I think we’ve maxed out the volume threshold at this point,” says Krauss. “It’s about more than just being loud.”