Brooklyn noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells had a rapid rise to success, becoming hipster heartthrob darlings on the back of their debut LP, Treats, a noisy blend of thrashy guitars and pop melodies that received glowing reviews from the music bloggerati. The band has just released their follow-up, a more diverse collection of songs, called Reign of Terror, which the band will bring to Seattle at the Showbox SoDo on April 8. We caught up with the male half of the duo, guitarist and producer Derek Miller, to chat about the expectations for the record, his love of Def Leppard and the current state of hardcore.
The record's sound seems to reference Def Leppard. Did you ever consider hiring Mutt Lange to produce Reign of Terror? First of all, we're both so stubborn that we'd probably kill each other in the studio. He is 100% my biggest reference from a production standpoint. I tore so many pages out of his book for this record. The Hysteria Def Leppard record is like top five for me. And Phil Collen, the guitar player, came to our New York show a few weeks ago and I had the chance to meet him. I kind of blushed when I met him. I was like, "Yo, dude. Are you mad at me?" And he got it. He understood that what we were doing was an un-ironic, very sincere love of the band and their records. He said, "Do you know how many people I've ripped off? I'm not even going to get started." I think that we take those influences and hopefully put them in a new context and do something interesting with them.
Can you tell me about the cover? It's a striking image. Thank you. All those things are my grandfather's World War II antiquities -- with the exception of the shoes. He passed away like 15 years ago. There's a shot-through canteen, a folded up American flag, just a bunch of stuff that I got from him. I just wanted to take all these things and photograph them, just as like a straight, almost commercial photography. And the shoes were one of the items that we set up in the studio. I was like, "Bring your bloody Keds." And we doctored it up a little bit, but some of it is real blood. It's a little literal and it's kind of corny but I love it and I'm not afraid of that.
How did you arrive at the decision to start the record with a crowd's roar, as if "True Shred Guitar" were from some arena rock live album? It's a studio creation and that's a canned audience. I think we sort of pride ourselves on going places creatively that other bands would be embarrassed to go to. It's borderline idiotic, but if you can see the humor in it and you understand we don't take ourselves 100% seriously, then hopefully you can appreciate it. Our litmus test was, when we had friends coming in to listen to rough mixes, that was always the first song we'd play. And they started cracking up immediately. What's not to like about it? It's ridiculous and completely over the top.
Do you have a favorite song on the album? Yeah, "Never Say Die," the second-to-last track.
You've definitely had a unique career path going from hardcore to Sleigh Bells. Do you still follow hardcore? I don't. I feel like hardcore is a lot of fresh, colorful neck tattoos and hair straightened with a flattening iron.
Have you always been interested in making challenging music? To be honest, no. I love music and I love making records. Somehow my taste has just led me to this sound. I don't really know how or why. I don't think too much about it. I'm not really precious about it. I didn't make my first beat until 2008 and then I got so into production. And I'm still just learning the ins and outs of beat-making. I still don't really know what I'm doing and I think that's one of my strengths, because if I do things different it's because I don't have the rule book which leads to a lot of really happy accidents.