If an air traffic controller at London’s Heathrow airport had been a little less diligent, Sleigh Bells’ success story would’ve been over before it started.
“We almost crash landed in London,” guitarist/programmer Derek Miller recalls from the safe confines of his hotel room in Amsterdam. “We were on the plane with the Fiery Furnaces, all of us talking about how weird it would be for it to end this way.”
Luckily, Sleigh Bells avoided triggering a day of mourning in Brooklyn and landed safely, set to conquer Europe in much the same way it has triumphed stateside in the last 10 months. After generating enough buzz to power a small city, the band’s debut album, “Treats,” lands at No. 39 on the Billboard 200 with 12,000 copies sold-not too shabby for a digital-only release (May 11) from a band that barely existed a year ago. The album’s physical release is June 1.
Part of Sleigh Bells’ success is due to the fact that the band stayed out of the spotlight while the hype rose around it. After posting some demos online, blogs began to pick up on the band. Then it became the toast of the CMJ New Music Marathon last fall. But rather than jumping in everyone’s faces, Miller and his bandmate, singer Alexis Krauss, adopted a cautious approach, playing select shows and heading to the studio in January to record “Treats.”
The pair worked on the collection of 11 lo-fi noise-pop jams up until the last second. “They finished it on Saturday night [May 8], and that Monday we got it to iTunes to post,” says Michael Goldstone, head of the band’s label, Mom + Pop Records. “We weren’t interested in doing long lead stuff and preorders. We just wanted to finish the album, get it out there and let the music speak for itself.”
If the music speaks for itself, it’s further amplified by the support of some well-known voices. While both Joe Jonas and Jessica Alba have tweeted about Sleigh Bells, its biggest supporter has been M.I.A., who joined the band onstage a few weeks ago at a small show in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section. An early fan, M.I.A. mentored and signed the band to her N.E.E.T. Records imprint along with Mom + Pop.
The deal is similar to those signed by many hip-hop artists, in which a well-known rapper will lend his or her name and reputation to a project by giving it a personal stamp of approval. “M.I.A. has been very involved with the band from an artistic standpoint, really acting as a mentor to them,” Goldstone says. “Mom + Pop does all the marketing, promotion and logistics. We are the record label, and M.I.A. is the conscience.”
While “Treats” is a solid album garnering rave reviews-including a best new music nod from Pitchfork-Sleigh Bells’ strongest selling point is its live show. After playing a handful of New York dates around the album’s release, including an opening slot for Yeasayer and a sold-out show at the Ridgewood Masonic Temple in Bushwick, the band will spend the early part of the summer on the road in Europe before coming back to the United States for a headlining tour.
As for the fates that have befallen other heavily hyped bands (e.g., Black Kids), Miller is sanguine. “I can’t control it,” he says. “I think we made a good record, and good music sticks around. It’s not ‘Pet Sounds’ or anything, but I think it will have some staying power.”