SXSW SPOTLIGHT: Presenting Sleigh Bells, a Rick Rubin Experience Without the God Complex or Shitty Hair

Photos by Aaron Richter

The Artist & Their Latest Release: Sleigh Bells, Sleigh Bells (self-released CD-R, 2009)

The Showcase: Levi’s/FADER Fort, 3.20.10

The Set In Quite a Few Sentences (This Was One of SXSW’s Most Debated Acts, After All): Take it from someone who actually remembers Poison the Well‘s two classic metalcore albums, Tear From the Red and The Opposite of December: The fact that guitarist Derek E. Miller is getting more attention from the rugged beats and riffs on Sleigh Bell’s self-titled CD-R isn’t just surprising. It makes us want to clobber our credit rating at Guitar Center and start a blog-bound band of our own.

Not that we’d succeed without a born rock star like Alexis Krauss. Nothing against Miller’s minimal but muscular productions or anything, but Krauss–a schoolteacher-turned-feral frontwoman–is exactly why a bidding war led these Brooklynites right into the arms of M.I.A.’s Universal imprint, NEET. No doubt about it, the girl’s a natural at stalking the stage and stealing the attention of anyone within earshot. And with such anvil-like beats (“Infinity Guitars” and “Crown On the Ground” being two immediate standouts) behind her, Krauss is just what the industry ordered–a tat-dotted femme fatale who doesn’t hit notes so much as nail them.

Never mind the fact that Sleigh Bells basically sounds like a lot of shouting and pseudo singing over Fruity Loops and live guitar lashings. Or as our art director put it, “They recorded songs on a tape deck for fun and are making the best of it. The rest is out of their hands…What they’re essentially doing is Rick Rubin with shitty equipment.” Touché. Come to think of it, Rock the Bells sounds like a more fitting name here, doesn’t it?

By the way, how crazy is this–Sleigh Bells and Surfer Blood played a CMJ show together last fall? That shit would sell Terminal 5 out these days. Just saying…

And a Letter Grade: B- for the songs because they still need some work, but an A for Krauss’ spotlight-seizing stage presence