Sleigh Bells guitarist, producer and songwriter Derek Miller has a tough time listening to his group's latest album, Reign of Terror.
The Brooklyn-based band - Miller is originally from Florida, where between 1998 and 2004 he played in hardcore outfit Poison the Well - came a long way in a short time before Reign of Terror.
Debut album Treats catapulted them to stardom, making Entertainment Weekly's Top 10 and Pitchfork's Top 20 albums of 2010.
Treats was a fresh and innovative record that combined Miller's hardcore guitars with hip-hop beats and singer Alexis Krauss' pop vocals. Perhaps most surprisingly for something so defiantly original, it also sold 500,000 copies.
Released in February, Reign of Terror is an altogether different beast. Heavier both in tone and theme, it substitutes the variation of Treats for a more consistent sound.
Miller explains this is largely down to his state of mind at the time.
"(Reign Of Terror) comes from a very specific time in my life that was not exactly great," he says. "I don't want to complain about it but it was a very difficult time for me personally and for my family and so in a way I still care about it and I'm glad I made it but I have very much moved past it.
"My relationship with it is confusing because when I listen I hear somebody that I used to be and by the end I feel removed and sad for whoever made it. I'm like 'My god, this poor son of a b….'," Miller laughs.
"Writing and recording is so therapeutic. It was something I felt I had to do, but then from a production standpoint I'm also craving new sounds and I went so overboard with guitars on Reign of Terror, it was a lot of fun but I'm totally back in a production mindset now, making new sounds."
Miller has a good grip on where both Sleigh Bells albums sit for him and is using this to inform their upcoming third album, slated for release next year.
"The thing about Treats, its lack of cohesion is one of its strengths," he says. "It's all over the place but that's also part of what makes that record fun. I'm sort of back in that direction on a lot of the new songs, they each stand on their own. Reign of Terror feels very much like an album; it moves like an album while Treats feels like a collection of singles.
"As an album, front to back, I prefer Treats but I think Reign of Terror has a few songs that are stronger than anything on Treats. I think Comeback Kid is my favourite song I've done so far. The vibe of Treats is much more up, but I'm glad they both exist and I wouldn't change it, I'd rather just make something new.
"I don't really give a s… about failure. I know it very well, I feel like I'm constantly failing and because of that I push myself really hard so I don't feel trapped creatively. On Reign of Terror I was like 'F… it, I want to make a metal record', and we did and now I want to do something different. I have the tools and resources to do that, so I am fortunate and grateful."
One artist who had a huge impact early on Sleigh Bells was M.I.A., who signed the band to her N.E.E.T. Recordings label. Miller explains that she was actually one of the band's first two fans.
"In the beginning she was absolutely integral; she gave me so much confidence," he says.
"She was seriously our first fan, like, two people on the internet had heard about us and she was one of those two people.
"Keep in mind this was my favourite MC, she's literally one of my top five favourite artists and she just emails me out of the blue and says 'Hey, this is M.I.A., I'm going to come to New York, I want you to produce for me, I want to sign your band'. I started crying, after that email my life changed in a day."Reign of Terror is out now. Sleigh Bells play the Big Day Out on Monday January 28. Tickets from Ticketmaster.
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