n eight-city tour of Florida? In February? With a DJ sharing top billing? What rock band in their right mind would think this sounds like a good idea?
Easy: A rock band that doesn't think like one.
"Some people don't think it makes sense, but we say we're not a band," Sleigh Bells singer Alexis Krauss says by phone from her home in Brooklyn. "We don't represent the traditional rock format. All of our music is electronic. We sort of see our sets, in a way, like DJ sets, where it's really about hyping up the crowd."
Sleigh Bells has that down pat. The duo ripped into the mainstream in 2010 with their unconventional debut album Treats, a blistering, id-driven mix of Krauss' breathy pop vocals and Derek Miller's fuzzy metal guitars and hip-hop beats. Indie music watchers are counting down the days until their second album, Reign of Terror, is released Feb. 21 — but starting this week, fans all over Florida will get a sneak preview, as the group embarks on a comprehensive tour of the Sunshine State alongside superstar DJ/producer Wes "Diplo" Pentz.
With Sleigh Bells invading the Ritz Ybor on Saturday, Krauss explained why the group has so much love for Florida. Here are excerpts.
It's really the obvious place to start the interview: Why are you doing eight shows in Florida?
Well, Derek is a Florida native, as is Diplo. To be totally honest, the tour came to be when Derek and Wes were just having some drinks, kind of messing around, and they were like, "Hey, we should do a tour of our home state." And the next morning, in their sobriety, it actually became a legitimate idea, not just some drunken rambling. Derek talked to me about it, and I was like, "Hell yeah." I like to think Florida is the key to Derek and I even being in a band together, because when we met, that's really what got the conversation going. I was out to dinner with my mom, and she was asking Derek where he was from, and he was telling her he was from Florida, and my mom is also a native Floridian. I feel like if Florida hadn't been part of the conversation, we probably wouldn't be here.
That's funny. Where's your mom from?
She grew up in Thonotosassa, right outside of Tampa. I actually lived in Tampa for a little while, when I was about 5. I have really great memories as a kid, going to Weeki Wachee and the beach. I have a good amount of family there, who we see when we come through. It feels a little like a homecoming for me as well.
Did Derek ever talk about being a music fan in Florida, how sometimes bands just don't come here?
Absolutely. As a band, we've always found that we have the best shows when we play cities where kids — I don't want to say are deprived of good music, but where kids are more grateful to have bands coming through. When you play big metropolitan areas like New York and San Fran, they're obviously wonderful, but the kids tend to be a bit jaded and a little bit more self-conscious. And when we play cities like St. Pete or Pensacola, they tend to go a little bit more mental than the more uptight places. (laughs)
When I saw you guys last year in St. Pete, one of the things that struck me was these moments where it's just you on stage with a mike and all those amps, and Derek just leaves the stage. It's kind of like a hip-hop concert or a pop concert. In those moments, what's your mind-set?
I see myself as sort of a hypewoman, as the frontwoman who's there to really pump up the crowd and engage them, because they're providing all the energy that I'm thriving off of. And you know, pop, for us, is not a dirty word. We love pop singers. Some of our idols are pop icons. Some of the best performances I've ever seen are one person sitting on stage with a mike.