The first time I saw Sleigh Bells live was during the fall of 2009 at Santos Party House, a now-defunct music venue in downtown Manhattan. I had heard the lead singer, Alexis Krauss, used to be an elementary school teacher—a fact that I found hard to believe when she appeared onstage sporting nylon leggings, a metallic gold bra, and full sleeves of tattoos. What ensued was a performance that was undeniably electrifying (see what we mean here).
Within a year, the group’s riff-heavy bangers were featured on Gossip Girl, then Girls, and memorably during the title sequence of Sofia Coppola’s 2013 film, The Bling Ring. “Performing has always kind of been an outlet for a part of myself that doesn’t get much time to exist,” Krauss recently told InStyle by phone. Here, she talks more about Sleigh Bells’s new album, Jessica Rabbit, out today, the importance of natural beauty products, and why she’s forever indebted to Spike Jonze.
The late 2000s must have been a crazy time for you guys. One minute, you’re teaching elementary school, the next, your music is playing on Gossip Girl.
It was surreal. That was right around the time that Spike Jonze had played M.I.A. our stuff, and all of a sudden she was contacting us and we were signing to her label. As far as TV goes, I think our songs really capture a certain mood. It shifts the energy of whatever’s happening. That record [Treats] is certainly not subtle. It’s bombastic.
How did Spike Jonze first hear about you?
Our friend, Molly Young, wrote about us on a blog that was launched to support Where the Wild Things Are. It was our first piece of press ever. I guess he [Jonze] was doing his due diligence and listened to our music. Then he played it for Maya [Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A.] We didn’t have a representative back then, so she emailed Derrick, but it was the wrong Derrick Miller. Thankfully, that Derrick forwarded it to us. Looking back, it’s strange how serendipitous everything was—between that and Derrick and I randomly meeting in a restaurant. I guess that’s what life is: a succession of happy accidents.
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Is there a backstory to the title of the album?
The interest in Jessica Rabbit comes from a nostalgia that both Derrick and I have for her. Derrick had a very naive infatuation with her, and this realization that she represents something that you will probably never achieve or attain, but still strive for. In her literal existence, she’s an absurd, larger-than-life, perverse character. In some ways, that reflects the album. We’ve always had a pop foundation, but yet it’s always been sort of twisted in this f-cked up version of itself.
Jessica Rabbit definitely seems to charter new sonic territory. We hear a lot more of your voice.
That decision came out of me being more involved in the songwriting process and writing melodies for my voice, and Derrick writing lyrics that were more personal. But the album is very fragmented and schizophrenic in many ways. The vocals feel like they’re unhinged, and other times, the softest and sweetest and most heartfelt. I think there’s a juxtaposition between sweet and heavy, melodic and noisy, and exploring the pull of that. We’re making our heaviest music to date, but also exploring our lusher, more vulnerable side.
Why did you decide to launch your natural beauty blog, Beauty Lies Truth?
I’ve always been passionate about the environment. One day, I was reading a New York Times article about microplastics and face wash, and just being shocked. Like, What? There’s plastic in this face wash? And that plastic is coming from chemical companies that support oil and gas growing? I just felt suddenly extremely irresponsible.
What’s your number one piece of beauty advice?
Beware of fragrance. It’s a general term for proprietary blends of chemicals. Everything we are used to smelling is an enhanced version of what it actually smells like. Go with unscented whoever possible or explore the many uses for essential oils and national fragrances. If it smells artificial, I would stay away from it.
Watch the video for “I Can Only Stare” above, and buy Jessica Rabbit for $8 on the iTunes Store. Plus, shop a few of Krauss’s favorite natural beauty products below.