Guitarist Derek Miller, the mastermind behind the band Sleigh Bells, isnt as much of a control freak as people may think.
And why should he be? After all, the band which plays at Lincoln Theatre on Wednesday was born out of serendipity and luck.
In 2008, four years after Miller left the Florida hardcore band Poison the Well (he found the scene stifling), Miller was waiting tables in Brooklyn, and one pair of customers changed his life.
They were his future band mate, singer and creative foil Alexis Krauss, and her mom. There had been a forecast of rain in Williamsburg that particular day in July, which meant that Sleigh Bells nearly didnt happen.
I think about it almost every day, Miller says. Had they just been in different moods, they probably wouldnt have gone (out to the restaurant) and my life would be very, very different. Its because of these serendipitous events, Im literally living my dream. Thats insane.
As it happened, they all met, and conversation turned to music. Miller, whose tastes were rooted in 80s arena rock, mentioned to mother and daughter that he was working on demos and looking for a singer.
Krauss, of course, was a singer, with roots in radio-friendly R&B. With a nudge from her mom, she went on to informally audition for Miller. They clicked.
One EP and three albums later, Sleigh Bells is on the road supporting the recently released Bitter Rivals. This time around, Krauss, whose light, airy vocals provide a thrilling contrast to Millers Def Leppard-inspired guitar textures and 808 beats, was handed a greater share of the writing process.
In the past, Miller says he micro-managed the songwriting process and the sound of the vocals. This time, he just let (Krauss) do her own thing.
Sharing the load
The pattern of sharing the creative load started in 2012, with the tour for Reign of Terror, the bands second album on the Mom+Pop Music label.
For that tour, Sleigh Bells brought along guitarist Jason Boyer to augment the lineup of singer, lead guitarist and programmed beats.
This year, Boyer has been sidelined due to an injury from a bike accident, so hes been replaced for this tour by Sleigh Bells production manager Ryan Primack, who is also Millers former band mate from Poison the Well.
Sleigh Bells has also added a drummer, Chris Maggio, who plays off Millers electronic beats while giving the band more room for spontaneity.
For the most part, I kind of just let everybody do what they want to do, Miller says.
However, theres one concession to a traditional rock-band setup that Miller is not willing to make.
Itd be too much of a compromise to bring a bass player, he says. Ive never recorded a bass guitar. Its always been just pitched 808s. Those hit speakers in such a particular way.
In its own lane
According to the bands Wikipedia page, the music of Sleigh Bells has been described by critics as noise rock, indie-rock, dance-punk, synthpunk, digital hardcore, experimental pop, alternative rock and industrial rock.
Miller shrugs off those classifications. He says hes proud that the band has created its own lane. He doesnt worry about critics, although he states without prompting that Sleigh Bells is definitely not indie-pop (thats funny to me, he says).
From their All-American-boy-and-girl look to their mashup of metal, hip-hop, R&B and pop, Miller and Krauss are just, as he says, being honest about what they like.
Theres no manual or blueprint, he says. We just are making this up as we go along. Thats how you stay inspired.