Artist of the Week: Sleigh Bells

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Since they formed in 2008, Brooklyn’s Sleigh Bells have been one of the most popular and acclaimed new bands to hit the scene. With the release of their second album, Reign of Terror, in February on Mom + Pop Records, the duo of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss have seen their profile grow in ways they would have never anticipated when they first started out.

Before they met at a restaurant in Brooklyn, the duo had very different backgrounds. Miller was used to play guitar for hardcore band Poison the Well, while Krauss was in teen pop group Rubyblue. The melding of these two genres has made their brand of indie rock meets power dance pop popular with a wide range of fans.

Signed to their record label shortly after a much-talked about performance at the CMJ Music Marathon in 2009. From there, they released their debut, Treats, and built a steady following, which culminated in performances at Coachella, Primavera Sound Festival and the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2010. In addition, they had songs featured on television programs like Gossip Girl and Skins, which helped their profile grow.

But it hasn’t stopped there. The duo has been busy promoting Reign of Terror, having just returned from a European tour, played a couple of gigs at SXSW and are slated to hit the road in North America this week, starting in Toronto and will crisscross the country and will conclude in May opening a few shows on the East Coast for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Brooklynite’s European tour was much more successful this time around as compared to years past.

“Europe has been more challenging for us than the States,” singer Alexis Krauss says. “We don’t have as big of a presence as we do here, so we’re still kind of proving ourselves and we have to work a bit harder. That being said, it was really rewarding this time around to finally reach the point where it seemed like our shows were full of fans instead of people who read about us on the Internet and were there to check us out. It exceeded my expectations, which was really exciting.”

Already veterans of the SXSW rodeo, Krauss says the band’s experience this time around was a bit different, albeit more relaxed than in years past.

“Austin is one of my favorite cities in the world,” she remarks. “For the first, we didn’t have to kill ourselves since we only played two shows. We flew in from Europe on a Sunday night and played Monday, and didn’t play again till Saturday. We had a week to relax and explore everything that Austin had to offer.”

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In February, the band did something that many dream of when they’re growing up: performing on Saturday Night Live. One would think that performing at the iconic comedy show would be planned months in advance, but that’s not how it happened. Instead, the group got a call just 10 days before the taping.

Even with the pressure of a time crunch, the band’s renditions of synth-driven dance pop songs “Comeback Kid” and “End of the Line” were both well received by fans and critics alike. But performing on the show isn’t as easy as you’d think.

“You can’t bring in your own production or do it the way you’d necessarily want to do it,” the singer explains. “But that entire team of people are so professional and are the kindest most down to earth people I’ve ever met.”

Reign of Terror has demonstrated that the duo is ready to make the leap into the hearts and minds of those beyond the indie scene. With catchy hooks, funky synths expect to see the New Yorkers move beyond its buzz band status to wider scale acclaim.

All photos by Patrick O’Dell