A sultry chirp “Hello”?, comparable to the ringing of the telephone that preceded it, is the first note of The Badger Herald’s interview with Sleigh Bells’ “Sexi Lexi.” Like calling an 8th grade girlfriend from your parent’s land-line, Alexis Krauss of the Brooklyn-based noise rock band giggles at jokes and meanders off topics, breaking every sentence up with inaudible mumbles. But Krauss has proved that her pipes and not her pout are the real force to be reckoned with, and she’s ready to treat Madison to a listen.
The duo that makes up Sleigh Bells – front woman, Alexis Krauss, and her more instrumentally inclined cohort Derek Miller – met in 2008, “very serendipitous[ly]” said Krauss. “Our initial bond was always over making records, and that’s kept us extremely focused on the agendas of the band. But the more time we spend together, we’re like a big family now.”
After the release of their first record, Treats, the pair of strangers grew closer and according to Krauss their “closeness has led to a lot more collaboration” making the record they are currently touring with, Reign of Fire much more personal, both lyrically and musically.
Facing the sudden death of Miller’s father and his mother’s cancer diagnosis, Krauss casts the mood as “a darker, more melancholy record.
“A lot of [the album inserts] come from Derek’s belongings, things that [belonged] to his father and his grandfather,” Krauss said. “So [Reign of Terror] was more of an exploration of a family history.”
When faced with such tragedy it’s natural to assume a go-for-broke sensibility. With an already blunt tone focusing on harsh and repetitive guitar riffs paired with nearly inhuman vocal tracks, Reign of Terror goes one step further with its unabashed lyrics and violently humorous imagery.
The pair cite over the top “arena rock bands, everybody from Queen to Def Leppard,” as inspiration for the album alongside the unexpected melodic likes of, “Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las and Cindy Lauper.” According to Krauss, this combination of influences make the vocals “more pop-y in the traditional sense, and the song structures…more comprehensive than in Treats.”
The aesthetic they worked on for this album is equal parts ’80s American high schooler and a back-handed sense of ‘I not only found the keys to dad’s liquor cabinet, but his gun safe, too.’ The bloody Keds that grace the face of the new album, as well as Krauss’ feet in every music video and live performance, “are a symbol of American innocence,” according to Krauss. “To have the blood on them is definitely representative of being tarnished and obviously something tragic – something going wrong,” she said.
Despite this heavy aesthetic influence, Krauss said it hadn’t affected the writing on the album. She instead references the classic movie “Poltergeist” as both a musical and aesthetic inspiration. Krauss said, “The score [from "Poltergeist"] is really one of our favorite pieces of music… the way the children’s chorus sings that melody, it’s a very haunting but also extremely beautiful.” She added the “End of the Line” music video is “a time when the aesthetic and the music definitely came together.”
Their live show, coming to The Majestic on Thursday, promises to be equally dynamic and engaging.
“Derek and I have always approached the live set as something that should be very interactive between us and the audience,” Krauss said. “We’re not interested in people standing there with their arms crossed nodding their head politely. We want the show to be incredibly dynamic, sort of an experience that involves all senses – definitely a sensory overload – and we really hope we’re doing our job well enough that it inspires people to dance, and to move and to feel like they can completely let go and not be hindered by any of the baggage they brought in with them earlier in the night.”
One thing, however, is promised to be most noticeable: volume. In the vein of their arena rock inspiration, their volume (think full wall of Marshall amplifiers), should quite literally bring the house down as well as quite possibly melt some emotional faces. Krauss hopes to elicit a similar live performance to one of her favorite bands, LCD Soundsystem, who’s shows she said she “couldn’t believe how loud [they] were. But everyone was so enthralled by the music, and so engaged by it, that it seemed to work.”
Sleigh Bells’s opener AraabMuzik is “a real master of what he does,” according to Krauss. AraabMuzik, a producer whose skills with the MPC (a type of drum machine) will be paired with hip-hop hype man Duke Da God, is promised to produce a set that incorporates elements of a dance DJ with a percussive live performance that Krauss herself describes as, “overwhelmingly positive.”
So when asked what we could expect from the show’s collision of the hip-hop and hard rock worlds, Krauss responded with the matter of fact of a mother going down a grocery list; “a lot of volume, a lot of strobe lights, a lot of loud heavy guitars, a lot of me in the crowd, or on top of the crowd and hopefully a good time had by everyone.”
Sleigh Bells will play at The Majestic on Thursday with AraabMuzik. Doors open at 8 P.M. and tickets are $25 in advance or $28 at the door. For more information visit majesticmadison.com