Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Miller admits that with the new tour launching in Pittsburgh on Friday night, "We'll be a little sloppy ... you'll get us in raw form."
The Brooklyn noise-pop band is not only hitting the road with a new album, its numbers on stage have grown from a duo to a full-blown quartet.
Last year, Sleigh Bells added Jason Boyer as a road guitarist. He's down with a bicycle injury, so he'll be replaced by Mr. Miller's former Poison the Well bandmate Ryan Primack. The bigger news is the addition of -- gasp -- a live drummer.
"It's just to keep it interesting for Alexis [Krauss] and I, live, to be honest," the guitarist says. "To me, it still feels like a relatively young band. In Internet years, you know, we're much older. We're on our third record and I think we're just really ready to add in a different element. He's not replacing our beats. He'll be accompanying the beats because that's our sound."
The Sleigh Bells sound, unveiled in late 2009, took shape after the former guitarist for the hardcore band Poison the Well, then waiting tables in a Brooklyn bistro, met Ms. Krauss, an elementary school teacher who had sung in a teen-pop group. She was the beauty, with purring vocals, and he was the beast with monster beats and abrasive guitar tracks.
Their debut, "Treats," was a critical favorite in 2010, and Sleigh Bells was all the buzz at festivals like Coachella and Pitchfork. Last year's "Reign of Terror" was more of the same, with extra guitar heroics from Mr. Miller.
While "Bitter Rivals," which is due on Tuesday, is no radical departure, the duo changed its approach.
"Alexis was essentially whispering before," he says, "and I was very much pushing her in that direction. That was a big part of the sound: the very tiny, small, quiet unemotive head voice. And then I just overdub it many times and create these layers, which is almost like a shoegaze technique. It's fair to call me a big My Bloody Valentine fan. But we just got kind of bored with it and Alexis was ready to push more air and actually start belting and singing how she normally sings. I basically stopped interfering with her process."
He handed her the instrumentals and the lyrics and let her do the rest. "She wrote all the melodies and I didn't really nudge her in any direction vocally. That's the main difference, and it had a profound effect on the record. There's more room for her voice. The guitars aren't quite as loud. Everything feels a little more taut, less dense."
The next step is to take it on stage, where Sleigh Bells has added the live drums and stripped away the massive wall of mostly fake amps.
"We've been rehearsing all week and I'm beyond thrilled to start playing [the new songs] live," Mr. Miller says. "The new record, everything is around 10 to 15 beats per minute faster. A lot of the older songs kind of hover around 70 beats per minute. This record is around 80 and 90, so they just feel a little more urgent and on their toes. Since there aren't a ton of overdubs, it's easier to perform live."
It might just take a little while to balance the live and electronic drums and get the four players working together seamlessly.
"Once we're two or three months in, we'll feel like a well-oiled machine," he says. "You can go out and execute and -- not to be a hippy -- but that's when you can find those really transcendent moments when you don't have to think, you're just doing, and then you're really in the moment and it can become something special."
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg. First Published October 3, 2013 4:00 AM