Sleigh Bells at BoMA

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

So. Much. Volume.

Sleigh Bells' 2009 breakthrough single "Crown on the Ground" was catchy and crunk, yes, but what perked up listeners' ears more than anything was the violent, in-the-red production values. The song literally rocks so hard it hurts.

"I recorded those [early] songs using really, really cheap hardware," guitarist and musical mastermind Derek Miller said. "The only way that I could get them to sound even mildly exciting or intense was to keep pushing the master until everything was clipping. I always imagined I would re-record those, but we just kind of got used to the sound."

In the two years since Miller, a veteran of Florida hardcore combo Poison the Well, first teamed with singer Alexis Krauss, the buzz about Sleigh Bells has become almost as deafening as the music itself.

The duo's full-length debut "Treats" has become one of this year's most championed albums for its intense combination of saccharine pop hooks with mercilessly distorted guitar riffs and electronic beats. Even the relatively light and fluffy "Rill Rill" sounds severe.

It's the culmination of a vision Miller has been working toward since quitting Poison the Well in 2004. In his downtime from waiting tables in New York, he sat at home discarding one composition after another until he stumbled upon an epiphany in 2007: You don't need a band to rock.

"That was the turning point, when I abandoned the idea of playing music with other musicians," Miller said. "That sort of freed me up to do whatever I want sonically. That was very inspiring because suddenly I don't have to deal with just one snare sound or one kick sound. There are literally endless possibilities."

Sleigh Bells carries that philosophy into its stage show. Krauss struts her stuff with a microphone, and Miller performs the gnarly guitar riffs backed only by overblown studio tracks. It's true to the duo's creative process, though it puts them at the mercy of the P.A. system even more than most acts. Thus, a performance at Austin's Fader Fort fell flat, while an opening slot for Major Lazer at BoMA earlier this year was nothing short of crushing.

"If we get to the club and the stuff's not very strong, it's kind of like a member is missing," Miller said. "It's a huge character in the music."

Fortunately for Sleigh Bells, their current wave of success has them playing a lot more venues that can do justice to their harsh sonic oomph, including a return trip to BoMA on Friday, this time as headliners.

Sleigh Bells

9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29


583 E. Broad St., Downtown