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- Sleigh Bells
We've talked about Brooklyn noise pop duo Sleigh Bells a lot in this space, tracing the band's albums from the buzzy, bloggable Treats to the quieter splash of Bitter Rivals. And according to guitarist Derek Miller, they're already hard at work on album four - and he thinks they're on the brink of something great.
They'll play at the Vogue on Saturday.
NUVO: How are you?
Derek Miller: I'm well! I'm in Brooklyn, just getting ready to play some shows.
NUVO: You're coming back to the same place that you played last time, the Vogue.
Miller: Okay, cool! Yeah, I like that place. Cool room.
NUVO: Any specific memories of that last show?
Miller: You know, I remember, I think I had some crazy monitor issue. My monitor, I think it was off, so I kept telling the monitor engineer to turn it up. This happens not often and not anymore, but it's kind of common that it's unplugged so they keep turning it up, and they realize that it's just unplugged, so they plug it in, but the volume's cranked and it just blasts you. I remember this happening. I was kind of embarrassed. I left the stage for a couple of minutes because my head basically just exploded. Alexis [Krauss, singer and bandmate] had to deal without me for a couple of minutes.
Anyway, I look forward to that not happening again. It was a great show, and Im excited to come back.
NUVO: I remember you did two stops here - usually bands go to Bloomington or Indy, but not both. You guys hit both, which was exciting for us.
Miller: Some shows, they all blend together because we tour so often, but Indianapolis always sticks out in my mind. I'm also a big Heat fan, but I love the Pacers as well.
NUVO: So have you had some conflicting feelings of late?
Miller: Yeah! Well, I like Indiana when we're not playing them in a series.
[commence 10 minutes of basketball talk, now irrelevant because the Pacers couldn't pull out a series win]
NUVO: Last time we talked, we talked a lot about the band Chicago, and we talked about what became Bitter Rivals. At the time, you said you really, really wanted to talk about the new record, but you couldn't because your publicist was yelling at you for talking about the new record too much.
Miller: That is a move that I always pull. All I ever want to do is talk about what I'm doing at the moment, because that's what I'm working on, that's what's in front of me. And it's the same case right now.
NUVO: You're working on album four?
Miller: Yes, absolutely. Like, well into it. And I fucking can't believe that I'm going to have to wait to put it out. It's one of those things ... . you know, we don't have a full record yet, but we've got a number of things that I'm just losing my mind over.
NUVO: Can you tell me about them? Some secrets?
Miller: I can't yet! We have a title for the record and everything, but I can't tell you anything other than, to my ears, it feels really, really fresh, and I'm incredibly excited about it. It just feels really strong. I don't want to start throwing adjectives around, but it will see the light of day some time next year, and I'm incredibly excited about it. So that's all I can really say.
NUVO: Dang it, Derek! That's exactly what you said last time.
Miller: I know! I always feel the same way. I always feel that we're really close from going ... I feel like we've always been pretty good, you know? At times, there are a few things over the course of three records where I think we're really good. But I don't think we've ever done anything where it's just undeniably great. Like, holy shit [great]. That's what I'm always hammering away at, trying to get to something like that. And I feel closer than ever right now. I feel like it's inevitable, that I have to get there, that I have to do something that I will just be intimidated by forever.
Whenever we finish a record, I always love them to death, but I always feel like I"m still working to get somewhere creatively. And yeah, I just feel like we're really close now. I'm like pacing around my apartment now, I've gotta calm down. We've been recording in San Francisco. I can tell you that. That's different, because we usually record in New York. We go out there and we just do 10-14 days at a time, then go back out on the road. It's great because the songs are a work in progress that way. It's not like, "Well, we've spent three months, that's it, we're finished, put it out." Doing these little windows, little pockets of recordings is better because I can just continue to work on the songs during the course of the year.
NUVO: So you're touring with a drum and a second guitarist this time?
Miller: Yep! Four piece.
NUVO: Just felt like it was the time to expand your live lineup?
Miller: Each record, we've done something slightly different in terms of how we present it live. And this feels - I think it sounds really good right now. Our drummer, Chris Maggio is just a maniac. He's got a lot of energy. So the front of house, basically what's coming out of the PA is a mixture of all of the samples (because I never record live drummers, I use samples and what not) - so it's a nice blend of his live set and the samples. It feels really good to me.
NUVO: I've read several interns with you and Alexis together, and you reference several times process change in Bitter Rivals, where you still wrote lyrics but Alexis worked the melodies. Can you talk about the shift towards a more collaborative experience?
Miller: Absolutely. That has continued to be the case. She does 100 percent of the melody work now. With Treats, there was a lot of coaching and talking about how she was going to do things, delivery and whatnot. She had never really just shouted over something, she was always singing. So, on like "Infinity Guitars," where its more percussive and rhythmic, that was very new to her. So we did a lot of talking before we tracked her vocals. We do virtually none of that now. It's 100 percent her domain.
I still write all the lyrics, but I pretty much just give her lyrics and an instrumental and then get the fuck out of the way and let her do her thing. I feel like we're better for it, especially now. It was a newer thing on Bitter Rivals, so that was a bit of a transitional record. And now, that's how we operate 100 percent of the time. She's way more involved now, there's such a sense of ownership. It's not mine anymore, it's ours. I want her to feel that way, because it takes up all of our time. This is what she's doing with her life. So I want her to feel a sense of ownership and be proud, because she should be.