Derek Miller of Sleigh Bells talks about past, his creative partnership and the artwork for Treats.
So the story goes: Derek Miller met Alexis Krauss one day when he was serving her and her mother at a restaurant, and Krauss's mom pushed her into working on music with Miller. Until a few years ago, Miller had been living in southern Florida where he was a member of notable metalcore outfit, Poison the Well. When Miller moved to New York, he couldn't find anyone to work with on his ideas for some new music until that faithful day when he met Krauss.
For her part, Krauss had been part of a teen pop band called Rubyblue. Together, the duo has produced a confrontational, noise pop with a sound akin to the more aggressive moments of Peaches and M.I.A., the latter of which signed Sleigh Bells to her imprint after her pal, director Spike Jonze, played the band's demos for her. Treats, the act's debut full-length has drawn attention for its tough yet playful sound. We caught up with Miller in advance of Sleigh Bells show at the Larimer Lounge tonight and talked to him about his upbringing in music, his creative partnership with Krauss and the unique cover art for Treats.
Westword: What got you into playing music in the first place, and how did you end up joining Poison the Well?
Derek Miller: I joined Poison the Well when I was sixteen. I got a guitar when I was eleven or twelve, and that was it. It kind of took over. I never really wanted to do anything else but play music.
What kind of music did you start out playing?
My first band was kind of heavy, when I was fourteen or fifteen. Back then, I was really into nü-metal like the first Deftones record and the first Korn record. I grew up in Jupiter, Florida, which is on the beach, but it may as well be in the Midwest. So there wasn't a lot going on, which isn't a slight against it. So it was Deftones, Korn and whatever Victory Records bands were distributed at the Sam Goody in the mall. Whatever was available there and was heavy.
Growing up before that, I was raised on pop music. My mom, especially, was into Belinda Carlisle, Madonna, Cindy Lauper -- stuff like that. My dad was really into Credence Clearwater and the Beatles. That was the stuff that lead me into hardcore and joining Poison the well in '96.
What prompted your move from southern Florida to New York City, and did you have any musical projects in New York before Sleigh Bells?
A good friend of mine named Will Hubbard, who I actually work with now, was living up there and so were a couple of other friends. I actually played a little music with J.P. Pitts and TJ Schwarz. I was roommates with TJ and we all lived in Northwest Palm Gardens together. We worked on stuff together and Boom Boom was actually kind of cool, but I ended up moving to New York still looking for something else.
Before you met Alexis, it sounded like you were looking for a while for a female vocalist to work with. Why do you think it took as long as it did?
I don't know. It just wasn't happening, and I asked everybody. They either didn't take me seriously, or, for whatever reason, I never found anyone no matter how hard I tried. It was hard to find someone that works creatively and personally.
When you first started working with Alexis what music common ground did you share?
Pop music, really. We're both huge fans. We both like Motown and soul, but beyond that, we're pretty different. We never talk about music except when we're making it. I think it was exciting for her because, she's been doing music for almost her whole life, this is very different from anything she's done before. It was also challenging. She had never done anything as hard or as rhythmic as what I had written, and it had more of a percussive delivery and less vocal acrobatics, which she is more than capable of. It was crazy for me to finally be able to share these ideas I had. They'd been kind of driving me crazy for a few years.