Why Is Every Movie Trailer Set To A Sleigh Bells Song?
The indie band has become the ubiquitous sound of movie teasers. One trailer wizard explains why.
This month saw the release of the teaser trailer for Sofia Coppola's teen crime drama The Bling Ring. In 47 seconds, there are 45 images, including Emma Watson licking her lips in slow motion, palm trees, Paris Hilton pillows, and a silver Porsche. Aside from some sound effects and a single line of dialogue, the audio is dominated by Sleigh Bells' "Crown on the Ground," a song built on blaring guitars, drum machine blasts, and Alexis Krauss' warrior-queen vocals.
Five days after the online debut of The Bling Ring teaser, the red-band trailer for Kick-Ass 2 appeared. In its first 45 seconds, it uses snippets of "Infinity Guitars" and "Crush," two more Sleigh Bells songs.
Both of these trailers arrived a few months after the first trailer for Michael Bay's Pain & Gain, which features "Kids" by Sleigh Bells for its climax montage. This song previously played the same role in the trailer for Abduction and soundtracked a hard-partying promo for MTV's version of Skins back in 2011. While there is definitely such a thing as trends in trailer music — see the omnipresent Inception "bwong" and the use of agro dubstep for action movies — one particular band becoming shorthand for bad behavior is pretty intense.
Mark Woollen is the founder and creative director of Mark Woollen & Associates, the trailer house that created the teaser for The Bling Ring, the one that makes the most prominent (and best) use of the band. He says that picking the right song is often 80% of his job. His company previously did the trailers for Coppola's Lost in Translation and Somewhere. When they were brought on to this new project, Coppola was already using "Crown on the Ground" as temp music in the film.
Woollen seems genuinely unaware of Sleigh Bells being used for the Kick-Ass 2 trailer ("I was in Austin last week at South by Southwest," he says) or Pain & Gain ("Is that the weightlifter movie?"). Still, while he does acknowledge that occasionally a particular artist will be at the top of everybody in the trailer game's iTunes playlists, he says he usually avoids those acts. "I'm always conscious to try to not use something that's out there, so it's funny on the timing of the Kick-Ass thing," Woollen says. "It's just something in the air."
A different Sleigh Bells song was considered for The Bling Ring teaser, but Woollen ultimately stuck with "Crown on the Ground" because it was so versatile. "It gave us the right mix of chaos and madness but still had a celebratory thing," he says. "[Krauss'] voice fit these girls, and there's this great turn that happens for the downfall section two-thirds into the teaser when the car crashes and the gun goes off. It's a very malleable piece of music where we get lots of little sections and flavors out of it in a compact time."
Beyond the song's similarities to the tone of the movie, it also matched the narrative the piece was trying to convey. "The teaser starts off where you're with these shadowy figures trying to break into this house, and the opening chords almost sound like the alarm going off," Woollen says. "It sounds like great music to commit a crime to."