September 1 2014

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Beauty And The Beat: Sleigh Bells’ Alexis Krauss Goes From Business Casual To “Bombastic, Energetic, And Tough”


With a varied career path that has included stints singing in the teen pop group RubyBlue and teaching the fourth grade, you’d hardly expect Alexis Krauss to have a soft spot for spiked leather jackets, big hoop earrings, and blunt jet-black bangs. Yet the Sleigh Bells front woman has developed a badass onstage persona that pairs perfectly with the band’s chainsaw rock sound. Since forming the Brooklyn-based outfit with Derek Miller in 2008, the twosome has released two albums (the latest, Reign of Terror, came out earlier this year) and garnered a diverse range of fans—including M.I.A., who signed them to her music label—and the throngs of kids who come to their sold-out shows to watch Krauss sing, dance, and headbang her way through the set. How does she maintain the high-level energy, night after night? “I try to stay as sober, well rested, and active as possible,” she explains, adding, “I bring my bike on the road with me and lately I’ve been practicing a lot of hot yoga—it’s an incredible challenge but the payoff is worth it!” Before heading out on a two-month tour, which takes Sleigh Bells across the U.S. and through Europe, Krauss let in on a few of her other tricks, including how to trim tough-girl bangs, doing your own nail art, and what it feels like to get a custom-made jacket from Nicola Formichetti.

What has been the biggest difference between releasing the first and second albums?
Our confidence levels. We are more assertive and more capable of making smarter business and creative decisions. We’ve learned to never compromise and to never succumb to the pressure or expectations of others. We no longer feel like the new kids on the block, and as a result we are more comfortable being who we want to be.

Rock ‘n’ roll has its fair share of tough girls. What is it about certain symbols of toughness—be it leather jackets or jet-black hair—that you think appeals to a lot of female performers?
I can only speak for myself, and in our case the band’s aesthetic is inextricably linked to the music we make. I want my style to represent our sound, which is bombastic, energetic, and tough while also being playful, innocent, and feminine. I like wearing clothes that represent that juxtaposition, whether it be pairing a studded leather jacket with a pair of pastel daisy dukes or classic white Keds with shredded fishnet stockings. I’m also constantly referencing the looks of rock ‘n’ roll’s most badass women, like Joan Jett, Cyndi Lauper, Lita Ford, Debbie Harry, or Mary Weiss, to name a few.

So your look is pretty thought-out?
Honestly, it’s something that I’m constantly thinking about and cultivating. When I began performing in Sleigh Bells I was still teaching fourth grade, and it took some time to transition my wardrobe from business casual to what it is today. I did tons of research looking into designers and cultivating relationships with my favorites. I love working closely with small labels such as Obesity & Speed and Bambi and Manson to create looks that are compatible with mine and the band’s sensibilities. Like many women I love experimenting with clothing and makeup and I’m always pushing myself to take risks and try different things.

Does that, for example, include styling the music video for “Comeback Kid”?
Derek and I love to make videos, and we’ve decided that the best way to make them is by doing practically everything ourselves. I love the challenge of being responsible for my hair, makeup, wardrobe, and, in the case of “Comeback Kid,” the choreography. Before the shoot I was gifted this incredible studded leather jacket by Nicola Formichetti and I immediately knew that I wanted it to be a centerpiece of my aesthetic. The rest came together through trial and error and has since become the template for my onstage wardrobe. Of course, I had Ria Lopez design my nails, and actually borrowed Derek’s mother’s vintage silk robe for the scenes of me jumping on the bed.

You’ve developed quite a following for your nail art. Do you work with Lopez to come up with the designs?
Ria is incredible and I feel so fortunate to have found her. Most of the time our designs are collaborative but I often let her do whatever she wants. She’s constantly thinking of new designs and I’m happy to be her guinea pig. I try to get my nails done as often as possible, especially when I’m home. There is something so fun and expressive about nail art.

When you’re on the road, what nail products do you turn to?
Sephora has a ton of awesome nail products and I especially love their huge assortment of nail stickers. Sally Hansen has great nail art pens in multiple colors, which are perfect for creating your own designs when you’re on the go. I also strongly recommend Models Own polish.

What about maintaining your signature fringe when you’re touring?
Before tour, I always get them trimmed. I like them super-straight and at a very specific length. Much to my hairstylist’s dismay, I frequently take a scissor to them on the road, which is usually not the best idea. When I do have to cut them myself, I prefer cutting them dry so I can be more accurate. I actually just dip-dyed the ends pink and purple—just needed to switch it up for summer!

You’d think that head-banging every night would do a number on tresses, but yours always look so shiny and healthy.
I love Sachajuan products from Woodley & Bunny—the Hair Repair treatment is wonderful, as is the Straight and Shine Spray and the Volume Powder. I also use Moroccanoil to keep my hair as healthy and supple as possible.

Anything else you stock up before tour?
I always visit Lyz from Obesity & Speed and get some new shorts from Polly at Bambi and Manson. I make sure to stop in Search and Destroy, and I buy lots of affordable accessories from Forever 21.

Photo: Patrick O’Dell

Beauty And The Beat