Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller needed to escape. The duo, who form the noise-pop group Sleigh Bells, were feeling the weight of our current political and social climate in a way that was soul-crushing and mentally damaging. So, for the recording of its new mini-album, Kid Kruschev, the band decided it needed a change of scenery.
Krauss, a self-professed nature addict, made the decision to move to a nearly isolated home in the wilderness of upstate New York. According to Miller, the experience provided a sense of freedom that couldn’t be found back in Brooklyn.
“Alexis moved. She got the fuck out of the city,” says Miller. “She had been here for like 14 years and just got tired of it. When she’s not onstage or in a studio with me, she’s on a cliff somewhere, or hiking, or camping. That’s probably her first passion. If you put a gun to her head, she’d rather be on the side of a mountain than making records with me, which I completely understand.”
Miller says recording a noisy record was easy in a place of complete solitude. “It’s really simple up there,” he says. According to Miller, that feeling of being shut off from civilization was a necessary step to completing Kid Kruschev, and something that has been beneficial to him and Krauss amidst a suffocating cycle of bad news on both micro and macro levels.
“When I’m up there, I don’t read The New York Times, I don’t watch CNN, I just turn all that shit off,” he says. “But it still sticks with you. I don’t know how you can have air in your lungs in 2018 and not be affected by our current president. Certainly we’ve elected scumbags in the past, but I’m not sure if we’ve ever done it on this level. It’s not like we elected him believing he was a decent human being and then he was outed as a wretched bastard. We knew that going into it. So everything about that has been shocking, disheartening and massively depressing.
“In addition to that,” he says, “I have had some what some people refer to as ‘demons’ in my own life. I don’t want to get into my personal shit, but there’s a lot of that in there, too. The record basically consists a lot of interior and exterior problems thrown into a blender together.”
In terms of the record’s reception, which has been mostly positive, Miller says he’s too far into his career to truly put stock in the opinions of critics. “It’s been a decade,” says Miller. “I was a little jaded about the whole industry itself a long time ago. At this point in my life, at 36, I have very little interest in any part of the music business that doesn’t include making records and playing shows or doing something with visuals.”
However, “I really want our fans to like it—that’s important to me,” Miller says. “I’m not one of those artists that has contempt for their audience. We’re going in this new direction, and we hope you all are willing to come with us.”
Miller and Krauss recently made the decision to form their own record label for all future releases. So far, it’s been a creative success. “I love it. It’s been liberating,” says Miller. “For most record labels, the bottom line is important. I don’t like to sit around and strategize about how we can make the band bigger. I like to sit around and think of how I can make the band better. I think working with a label right now would be frustrating for them, because I’m not too interested right now in other people’s perspectives on what we’re doing. We’re not lacking for direction.”
Miller is excited to get back on the road and then back in the studio. His aim is to release a new mini-album—though he now claims to regret using this term during Kid Kruschev’s initial press run—of seven or so songs every 12–14 months. It’s a system that he thinks works much better than waiting three years to put out a full album.
As for the future of Sleigh Bells’ sound, Miller says the band is going to stick with what it knows best: playing from the heart. “We’re not putting out any big pop singles, we’re just sort of following our instincts,” he says. “And I love big pop singles for the record, but we’re not exactly going for the brass ring commercially. We’re just doing what feels right while keeping ourselves excited and immersed in the creative process.”
SLEIGH BELLS Popular, hook-laden noise-pop duo from New York. See story on p. 10.
SUNFLOWER BEAN Psychedelic-leaning post-punk revivalists from Brooklyn.