Sleigh Bells’ Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss are back after a three-year hiatus. The duo came roaring on the scene with their pop-meets-punk flare in 2009 forcefully changing the music scene. Their latest album Jessica Rabbit, out today, is a departure from the raucous sonic elements we’re used to blasting through our speakers.
Trading guitars for a synth pad, the usual confrontational tracks are toned down to a softened madness, a dialed down aggression. Instead, the passion is centered in Krauss’ vocals. “Fuck you people, I’ve had it up to here,” she roars on one track, while an unexpected slow jam finds her affectionately crooning into your earphones. Long-time Sleigh Bells fans will find snippets of the OG band in certain tracks, but they’ll also find a new, additional layer composed of schizophrenic beats, and an even tighter twist on pop.
Krauss told us via email that her main objective for the album was to step out of her comfort zone. “My primary goal with this album was to push myself creatively to a place that was uncharted for us,” she says. “I was inspired by artists from Beyoncé to David Bowie, renegades that have taken their music to a completely uninhibited place where they have the confidence to explore and execute bold ideas.”
In addition to the album release, the duo is also going on tour this fall. The 14-track album is something they should be proud of—and Krauss is—but says that she’s most looking forward to connecting with her fans in real life. “I’m excited to play these songs live in front of our fans,” she tells us. “Our shows so far have been thrilling and have really exceeded my expectations. There is nothing I love more than debuting new music and realizing that the people we’re playing for really care about it. It’s what drives me to keep making music.”
You can listen to the full album below but, what’s even better, we had Krauss break down the album, track-by-track. Check them both out ahead.
“It’s Just Us Now”: The last track we wrote for Jessica Rabbit, recorded at The Bayou, Derek’s apartment, and The Creamery in Greenpoint. The video for it is my favorite music video we’ve made. I look like a maniacal Phoebe Cates from Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
“Torn Clean”: One of the last tracks we recorded, and also the name of our recently started record label. This song is full of pain but also hope. It’s one of the most fulfilling songs to sing.
“Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold”: I remember the first time Derek played the intro piano melody for me in L.A. I freaked out and pretty much begged him to develop the track. He initially insisted that we keep it for our fifth album, but eventually I was able to convince him to work on it. I know Derek has kind of cooled off on this one, but it still makes me feel euphoric every time I listen to it.
“I Can’t Stand You Anymore”: One of our favorites on the record. We got to work with Mike Elizondo on it and he really pushed us to make every aspect of it better. I especially love Derek’s badass guitar solo.
“Crucible”: I think “hunting sheep in my sleep/ no I don’t count them” is a perfect example of why I love writing to Derek’s lyrics. It’s such a disturbing, violent image, but in the context of the song and my melody and delivery, it sounds almost saccharine and playful. It’s kind of a twisted thing to say, but I find that juxtaposition very exciting.
“Loyal For”: I remember the night I demoed this in my bedroom. I initially recorded the vocal almost as a whisper sitting on my bed. I think these are some of Derek’s best lyrics. I was just trying to deliver a performance that did them justice.
“I Can Only Stare”: This is Derek’s favorite track on the album. I’m very proud of it, too. I’d feel confident playing this song for Beyoncé, which is one of the things I think about when I’m writing and recording. So yeah, Beyoncé, if you’re reading this, let us know what you think.
“Throw Me Down the Stairs”: This song is brutal. I think it showcases some of Derek’ best guitar playing. We played it live for the first time in Boston, and even though none of our fans had heard it before, they seemed psyched, which is a good sign.
“Unlimited Dark Paths”: Normally when I demo something I don’t send it to Derek until it’s finished, but with this one I emailed Derek the intro vocal before everything else because I was so excited about it. “Take a picture at the gallow’s pole the Atlantic below” might be my favorite moment on the entire album.
“I Know Not To Count On You”: I think this is one of Derek’s best instrumentals. I sat down with it while we were recording in San Francisco with our long time friend and engineer Shane Stoneback, and recorded the vocal in one take without a mic into Garage Band. We never re-recorded it, which I love.
“Rule Number One”: My new favorite song to play live; this song is schizophrenic, but ultimately makes me feel very calm and determined. I never did try Pop Rocks and Coke. I did, however, try Pixie Stix and Jolt. That’s what happens when you grow up in a small town.
“Baptism by Fire”: We didn’t have a proper chorus for this song until Mike Elizondo suggested we write one. I’m very happy we took his advice.
“Hyper Dark”: I remember tracking this at Treefort in Brooklyn, the studio where we recording most of Treats and Bitter Rivals. It was one of the last things we recorded there before it closed. That tiny vocal booth had so much history for me. When I sang this vocal, I tried to be as still as possible and kept my eyes closed the entire time. There’s a loneliness to the delivery that I’m really proud of.
“As If”: This song gives me hope that all the craziness in the world will somehow work itself out and everything will be okay. So, yeah, I guess it gives me false hope... but sometimes that’s exactly what I need.