This article is from Issue 52: July/Aug 2011

Sleigh Bells

There’s something to be admired about Sleigh Bells: their hustle. Normally, indie rock acts (if that’s even what you can classify Sleigh Bells as) are thought of as being a little more laid back. But Derek E. Miller—the song- writer, guitarist and producer behind Sleigh Bells—is an artist who found a style and has dedicated himself to running with the opportunity he’s grabbed. Miller isn’t messing around—rappers talk about the grind, how important hustle is to being successful, and that’s how Miller is taking on indie music. In that way, some might call him the Diddy of hyper-produced, speaker- destroying indie rock.

Sleigh Bells came around at the perfect moment in music history for their sort of band and sound. The immediacy of being able to record music on a budget of zero on a laptop, upload those songs to the Internet and then have an audience in hours and days, based on one song distributed without a marketing machine, worked perfectly for a band whose first single, “Tell ’Em,” announced itself with machine drums and laser guitars (or whatever that noise is). Digitally com- pressed beyond what human ears and earbuds are supposed to handle, the first time someone hears Sleigh Bells, it’s an event. But where does a band that seemingly came from nowhere go for its second act?

When Miller says he’s “30, so none of this is an accident,” it’s easy to believe him and sign on for his long-term success. Sleigh Bells wasn’t a side project he tinkered with while with playing with moderately successful hardcore act Poison the Well from 1988 to 2004. He’s clearly a guy who felt the draw to do things his own way, limited by the process of being “in a band.”

"I liked that everything was wide open. We didn't have to have any respect for the genres."- Derek Miller

“I was frustrated,” he says. “I wanted an unlimited number of high hats, to do whatever I wanted with every aspect. I wanted that freedom.” He had the name Sleigh Bells long before he knew what to do with it, but he knew whatever became of the music he was making on his laptop, fitting within a genre or a traditional band structure was not a main goal. “I liked that everything was wide open,” he recalls. “We didn’t need to be a band in the respect of a four-piece rock combo ... we didn’t have to have any respect for the genres.”