“Hey, D.C., who wants to dance with me?” Sleigh Bells singer Alexis Krauss screamed midway through the Brooklyn noise-pop duo’s sold-out show at Washington’s 9:30 Club on March 27th. The crowd of 1,200 howled in response as she launched into their hyperactive 2010 cut “Kids,” climbing atop a riser and whiplashing her jet-black locks to guitarist-producer Derek Miller’s hammering rhythms.
“We always feel like we’re playing a team sport,” Miller says earlier that afternoon, hanging on their tour bus before the show. “I do a ton of push-ups before we go out. We get really hyped. Afterward, it takes a while to come down.”
“It’s not something we take for granted,” adds Krauss. “Honestly, that’s what gets us through touring – your whole day is leading up to the 50 minutes that you’re onstage.”
Joined by touring guitarist Jason Boyer, Krauss and Miller tore through most of the sugar-rush cuts from their debut LP, Treats, plus the gnarliest selections from this year’s heavier follow-up, Reign of Terror, during the tight, hourlong set. The crowd’s energy stayed sky-high the entire time – right up to the encore, when Krauss dove offstage to crowd-surf as she sang Treats‘ Funkadelic-sampling summer breeze “Rill Rill.”
It was the second night of Sleigh Bells’ 26-city spring tour of North America, and the party was just getting started. “Last night, we were crossing back into the U.S. from Canada at two in the morning, and the border agents came on the bus,” Krauss recalls with a mischievous grin. “I’m thinking what it must have looked like to them – all of us sitting here, wasted, giggling.” Adds Miller, “I felt like Mom and Dad had come on the bus. ‘Throw the beer bottles away!'”
But that was pretty low-level trouble by Sleigh Bells’ standards: In February, while on a brief warm-up run through Miller’s native Florida, the guitarist cracked two ribs in an ill-timed stage dive during their good friend and tourmate Diplo’s DJ set. “Everyone was on Ecstasy and didn’t even notice me,” Miller says. “I went straight to the ground. I played the next night, though – just a grip of Advil and a bunch of whiskey, and they pushed me out there.”
As of last month, Sleigh Bells is opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on a string of East Coast arena dates. They scored the gig after Flea stopped by a show at New York’s Webster Hall last spring to extend a personal invite. “He was, like, ‘I’m Flea,’ and I was, like, ‘Yeah, I know!'” says Miller. “There was no reason to say no. What, out of fear? We’re not afraid of that shit. Let’s do it.” Adds Krauss, “When you’re on stages that big, sometimes it’s hard.”
And the duo has already started to map out their third LP for a potential 2013 release – Miller says to expect brighter moods and fewer monsters-of-rock riffs. “The second we get off tour, we’ll go into the studio, because there’s nowhere else I’d rather be,” says Miller. “We work relentlessly on new stuff. That’s what keeps me alive.”
This story is from the April 26th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.