The noise-pop Brooklyn-based duo Sleigh Bells are no strangers to Australia. We had a chat to them ahead of their appearance at the Big Day Out.
When asked where the name ‘Sleigh Bells’ came from, guitarist Derek Miller explained: “It is something that I started writing on CDRs when I was first putting out demos. It was like around 05, 06 … pretty much anything I had recorded. It was just to delineate the CDRs that I had around, just write Sleigh Bells on it. I don’t really know why, it’s just one of those things. Unfortunately, it’s not a very interesting story (laughs). It’s just a band name.”
Ahead of playing alongside headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Killers, Derek revealed what he thought of the Big Day Out festival: “It’s flattering really. I was over there around two years ago, and we played some festivals. It wasn’t Big Day Out but it was in January. It is crazy. I did it in 2004 with a hardcore band called Poison the Well. That was a good Big Day Out!” He continued, “The Flaming Lips were there that year, who else was on it… Metallica, The Strokes. It was amazing, especially because we had a day off either before or after, so we actually had time to check out the city. It’s not like touring in the States, where you are literally there for ten hours. You actually get to meet people, go and hang out. It is pretty great times and we are lucky to be a part of it.”
He then told us about his relationships with some of the bands on the upcoming tour: “We’re friends with some of the Vampire Weekend guys. We recorded with the same engineer/producer. I always have fun with those guys. RHCP are playing as well. We toured with them in the States this year. They are really great people, especially Flea. He is an incredible guy. Animal Collective are on it as well. We are looking forward to pretty much everyone.
We then ventured more into the topic of headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, as Derek elaborated on previously touring with the band in 2012: “It was kind of an experiment. When you open for a band that is that big and established, you just go into it thinking how something on that scale operates. It is fascinating. You walk into a twenty or thirty thousand capacity arena in the morning and it’s just empty. Within eight hours there are thirty LED screens and a massive sound system. It is incredible how quickly they transform it. It is amazing to see how they operate. They were really sweet and they took such good care of us. They killed it every night! They’ve been doing it for so long. You can tell their entire day hangs on whether or not the set goes well; it is pretty amazing.
2012 has been a massive year for Sleigh Bells. The beginning of the year saw them release their sophomore album, Reign of Terror. Derek tells us how it came about: “It is a personal record. It’s a reflection of a lot of difficult things that have happened personally. You know…lost a lot, gained a lot; it was a difficult time. I’m usually not one to talk about my emotions or anything. I am glad that it is behind me. It was great; it helped me out a lot.”
The lead single Comeback Kid has received great reviews. Derek told us, “Comeback Kid was one of the only positive songs on the record. It was the last that we recorded. Bands are usually more excited about their new songs than their old songs. We just finished it and really liked it. Our label liked the idea of us putting it out first.”
There is no slowing down for the duo, who are already preparing for album number three. Derek says, “I worked through a lot of difficult material on the last one. Getting it off your chest kind of tortures you. (The new album) is not as dense. It is not quite as heavy, emotionally. I love the last record, but it came from a dark time, which is kind of depressing. I’m happy to put it behind me a little bit.”
One of the biggest storms ever hit the US recently; Hurricane Sandy tore through much of the East Coast, which brought people together as they are trying to rebuild. Derek talked about playing a Sandy Relief show with Grizzly Bear, and what it meant to him to support such a cause: “I grew up in Florida, where there are a few incidents of hurricanes, especially because my dad was a sugarcane farmer. You have a very small window to produce. The planting season coincides with hurricane season. I didn’t lose my home or anything like a lot of people did, but close to it. It’s kind of part of the coast, people are like ‘oh my god, a hurricane came and wiped out the first floor of my home’, which is insane! People are just not really prepared for it. I have done disaster relief in Florida for years, scrapping and just helping out in any way I possibly could. It didn’t feel like a big deal, but this is what you do. The Government is not responding in time. You just pull clothes out of your closet. It’s very normal to me. It’s kind of been part of my life since I was born. I’m happy to be in a position to be able to help.”
On a more positive note, the duo were happier than ever to return to Australia in the summer. Derek explained how the country treats him: “It is just what you would expect. If we were near the coast, we would go to the beach and hang out. It is interesting because it’s a foreign country, but it is English-speaking obviously. It is completely unlike visiting Europe. Americans are very unwelcome no matter what anyone tells you. You are just a nuisance anywhere you go. If you are a tourist in Europe, you’re very welcome, but when you are working there, you just feel a little less welcome. In Australia, it’s much friendlier. I have just always felt very welcome there and when you are touring that helps you a lot, so I’m looking forward to it. We can’t wait!”
Sleigh Bells are stopping at all Big Day Out stations January 18 – 28.
Sleigh Bells side shows:
Saturday, 19 January – Metro Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday, 23 January – Billboard, Melbourne