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Ring Them Bells
Championed by MIA, Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Miller muses on the poltics of being character assassinated by the NY Times and - maybe - producing Beyoncé.
Ed Power, 29 Mar 2011
In the dimly-lit alcove of a heaving downtown bar, Derek Miller worries he’s gone to far. “I shouldn’t say Maya walked into a trap,” says the Sleigh Bells guitarist, with a self-conscious wince. “But... she walked into a trap.”
He’s talking about the career-wrecking interview Maya Arulpragasam – aka Tamil-London rapper MIA – gave to the New York Times last summer. A good friend of Maya – she was an early cheerleader of Sleigh Bells, helping them score a major label deal – Miller was horrified by the piece, which portrayed her as a glib, bratty hypocrite, mouthing off about the world’s downtrodden whilst stuffing herself with truffle fries.
“She’s a really inspiring person, someone who has a million ideas. She’s a lot of fun to work with. That was an assassination piece. That’s what [former NYT magazine writer] Lynne Hirschberg does. It was really kind of odd and surprising. I shouldn’t talk about it – the whole thing was unfortunate. The way I see it, anything that distracts from the music is negative. Look, I understand there’s a game you have to play to promote your band. A game in which, in order for people to be interested, it has to be about something other than music – an aesthetic, a dress sense... something like that. Which is fine – but I’m not comfortable with it.”
He may not want to goose-step to the industry’s drumbeat, but such reluctance hasn’t prevented Miller and Sleigh Bell vocalist Alexis Krauss materialising, essentially from nowhere, to become one of the year’s hottest newcomers. With a sound best described as melodic hardcore, the pair come on like a White Stripes as made over by Atari Teenage Riot: Miller cranks out sheet-metal slabs of treated guitar, whilst Krauss contributes schoolgirl coos and crazy-lady shrieks. On paper, it sounds like a hipster-baiting mess – in reality, it’s a racket that frequently reaches towards the divine.
Following the release of debut LP Treats late last year, Sleigh Bells’ unlikely conflation of the sweet and the apocalyptic has won admirers in some dizzying places. Stumbling upon an early demo on MySpace, the aforementioned MIA booked herself on the next flight to New York and demanded Miller produce a track for her. There was only one problem... He was still holding down a day-job at the time.