Only two albums into their career, Sleigh Bells already have an unmistakable signature sound and style. The battered, once-white Keds that appear in the artwork for their most recent album Reign of Terror are emblematic of both: There’s a pretty-tough dichotomy to their sound and wardrobe that takes cues from both Cyndi Lauper and Def Leppard. Despite sweet underlying melodies, Sleigh Bells’ music often approaches an assaulting velocity with bruised guitar riffs from Derek Miller and warped harmonies from Alexis Krauss. It wouldn’t be hyperbolic to say that their music is powerful enough to drain the life from festival-grade speakers: they’ve done that before.
Front woman Alexis Krauss’ style has the same smoldering effect on stage. At Pitchfork Music Festival, the red-lipped singer performed in spiked bangles, torn fishnets, studded bleached-and-dyed cutoffs, and a skull tee with ripped off arms revealing her black bra. Her partner Derek Miller was also dressed with the same playful edge, wearing a camo button down and light denim. The pair puts as much thought into their appearance as they do the setlists but say there’s little difference between their on-stage style and off, which can be easy to see: Even though components of their individual styles — and their music — are taken from different eras and varying trends, Krauss and Miller blend them into something that is their own.
[To Derek] Let’s talk about your camo shirt.
Derek Miller: It’s 10Deep. They’re one of my two favorite New York brands, them and Mishka.
Alexis Krauss: He actually just got this shirt today.
Miller: Yeah, I just got this. The guys at 10Deep are super cool and probably my favorite. Everything is cut well and the camo patterns are street-wear. You can innovate on [street-wear] but it’s always the same.
Krauss: He has the 10Deep t-shirt version of this too.
Miller: I’m kind of a jeans and t-shirt dude. In general, I don’t consider myself to be a very fashionable guy; [Alexis] likes clothes. I have a joke button down with sailboats all over it, which I got at a vintage store in Kansas City, and I’ve been into all-over print patterns and more obnoxious stuff. I think a lot of people will think [the sailboat shirt] is ironic because I grew up in Florida and that’s what everyone wears. I’m super into this artist Guy Harvey, who’s big in South Florida, especially on the coast. He paints fish, sharks, marlins, all kinds of aquatic life and does white tees with a little pocket and then the back of the tee is this beautiful portrait. His signature is super recognizable.
What’s the most important thing in your tour wardrobes?
Miller: I usually don’t go anywhere without glasses. I need sunglasses because I’ll wake up hungover and then no one knows.
Krauss: I have an essential nail art kit because, God forbid …
Miller: We just sound like the most vapid idiots in the world right now.
Your glasses are pretty stylish.
Miller: I’ve been wearing Wayfarers for years and just switched to [Oakley] Frogskins. The lenses are fucking wild and they freak people out.
Krauss: It’s because you can see yourself [in them].
I noticed you were fixing your bangs in his glasses earlier. You guys work like a team.
Krauss: Yes, we do. The bangs have to be straight.
Miller: She’s crazy about her bangs.
Krauss: Can’t have them parted in the middle. It’s not right.
[To Alexis] I dig the bleach job and studs on your jacket. Did you make it?
Krauss: No, it was made by Bambi and Manson. They’re based out of Berlin and do a lot with vintage Levi denim, vests, jackets, shorts. Polly O’Connell, who runs it, works out of her apartment with her boyfriend [Jim Cubitt] — I’ve seen photographs of her in her bathtub, covered in dye and bleach. She’s been really great to me and gives me a bunch of stuff.
What overlap do you see between your music and personal styles?
Miller: We’re both into light denim which was a massive thing for Def Leppard — I’m super into their looks like tons of matching light denim. I always talk about them but they’re one of my favorite bands.
Krauss: We definitely think about it and I have certain pieces I wear on stage that are representative of this record [Reign of Terror] and I wore different things for Treats. Like Derek was saying, we’ve been referencing Def Leppard, and I’ve been referencing Cyndi Lauper with all of my bangles. I think there’s a correlation.
Miller: I don’t change into what I wear on stage. I just wear the same thing I already have on. She has more fun with it, and I don’t want to be like, ‘She’s a girl…’ but it’s more fun for her. I’m pretty basic.