What: Sleigh Bells, with AraabMuzik
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030
More info: bouldertheater.com
S leigh Bells’ Reign of Terror is either over or still going strong, depending on how you look at it.
“Reign of Terror came from a dark time in my life. “Reign of Terror” is literal. It’s not us trying to be clever,” said Derek E. Miller, the main songwriting force of Sleigh Bells. “It’s about really intense topics — death, suicide.
“It’s a dark record.”
Miller was coping with the sudden death of his father in a motorcycle accident just as Sleigh Bells was blowing up. The pain created a stark lyrical contrast with the Florida duo’s debut LP, Treats, with its crunchy guitars, hip-hop beats, cooing melodies and shouting choruses. The record was a raging party, and on Reign of Terror a dark metal band crashed the party.
The songs are still dance-ready, but with titles like “Born To Lose,” “Demons” and “D.O.A.,” it’s clear they’re coming from a scarier mental space.
The heavier metal sounds on the second album weren’t just a reflection of Miller’s mood; they were a return to his roots.
“I played guitar for 20 years so I’m pretty sick of it, which is why I got into beat making and production work, but I felt like exploring the sentiment again,” he said. “I got back into it and dug up the references I grew up on. It was fun to make and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play.”
Writing the record helped him work through it all, but the Reign of Terror, as in the record and the tour, are still going strong.
It seems like Sleigh Bells has been on the road in support of the record forever now, and it doesn’t sound like they’re tiring out. The current tour has Miller and singer Alexis Krauss out with AraabMuzik. Their travels were only briefly put on hold when Miller broke his arm skateboarding. The injury presents obvious challenges for playing guitar, but it also doesn’t help Sleigh Bells’ pre-show push-up routine.
“I’d say it’s [healed] probably about 80 or 90 percent. It doesn’t hurt for most things, but if I were to try to do a push-up and put half my weight on it, it would be kind of sore,” Miller said. “Before we play we’re rowdy and kind of have a few drinks. I’m sure it’s laughable from the outside, but we’re having fun so I don’t give a fuck.”
When they’re not on the road, performing and partying, Miller and Krauss are already at work on the next record. In fact, they’ve already got three songs down, and much like in the last record, Krauss has had a bigger role in songwriting.
“With the new material — she’s getting so comfortable. It’s about our chemistry. It’s growing so rapidly. As we get to know each other the exchange of ideas is so fluid,” Miller said. “I’ve been giving her beats and instrumentals and she comes back with most of the melodies mapped out and I think she’s far superior to me in that.”
The next record won’t be nearly as dark, either, and Miller said the sound is more spacious. It’ll be upbeat, and the vibe will be closer to Treats.
“Thats one thing that I think Treats has on Reign of Terror — it lacks cohesion,” Miller said. “That’s one of the things with Reign of Terror that I’m bored with. There’s not much different color. I think, sonically, the new stuff is just more varied.”
It might sound overwhelming, but Miller seems incredibly happy about all of — the old records, the new record, touring, partying, everything.
“We’re not big vacation people,” he said. “We don’t do a lot of sitting around on beaches. There’s really nothing else I’d rather do. If I’m not touring, I’m in the studio with Alexis. I don’t really have a life outside the band, and I don’t want one. I love it.”