"I've always been involved in music. My father is a musician, and I started playing the guitar when I was growing up in New Jersey. By 12, I became the bass player and lead singer for this put-together all-girl band called Ruby Blue. It was the time of Britney and Mandy Moore and the crazy pop wave. We wrote our own songs and played our own instruments, but it was manicured and very much a product of the label. By the time I was 16, I was playing bubblegum pop that was being marketed to seven-year-olds. I was at home listening to the Clash and the Ramones and I thought, 'You know what? I can’t do this.' So I switched my focus to academics and, after college, I became a teacher for Teach for America in the Bronx.
Then one summer break, I was out to dinner with my mom, and my now bandmate, Derek [Miller], was our server. The restaurant was Brazilian, and my mom, being very chatty, asked Derek, ‘Are you from Brazil?’ And he was like, ‘No, I’m from Florida.’ Well, my mom is a native Floridian. So they start talking about Florida, and then about what he’s doing in Brooklyn. He told her, ‘Well, this is going to sound sort of weird, but I’m a musician, and I’m up here trying to put together a band, and I’m looking specifically for a lead female vocalist.’ And my mom did that thing where she’s like, ‘My daughter is a singer.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, no.’ [Laughs] And he asked me what kind of stuff I do, and I’m just thinking ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe this conversation.’ But I told him that I mostly do pop and R&B. Then we got really serious about it and started talking, and he said, ‘Well, I have these songs and I’d love you to listen to them.’ It was so strange, but I got a really good vibe from him—he wasn’t flirting, there was no ulterior motive—he was just really sincere and genuine, and it turned out he lived two blocks away from me! So I decided, 'Fuck it. It’s summer. Why not have fun in music again?'
Long story short, we ended up recording our first album, Treats, in my apartment—me shouting into the internal microphone of a laptop that was set up on my kitchen table. It was super DIY. To me, the music was just this great mix of being very percussive and rhythmic and electronic, but with a heavy guitar element; it has an abrasive undertone, but there's a sweet, melodic, sing-song-y quality to it, too. We’ve basically been touring and touring ever since, and we just put out our third record, Bitter Rivals, in October. We work a lot, but we’re restless.
I’m really happy with where we are as a band and where I am as a woman. When I was teaching, I was up at five every morning to commute—the last thing I was concerned about was how I looked. But now that I’m back in music, I have the luxury to reengage with fashion and beauty, and it’s been wonderful. I feel good, and really comfortable with my body. I’ve never been stick thin—I remember in Ruby Blue, they actually thinned me [in Photoshop] in one of the pictures. They didn’t tell me, but I saw it and was like, ‘Oh, those are not my thighs.’ What’s great about being on an indie label is that you are much less scrutinized in that way. You can be an individual and have your own style and look, and not be representative of a certain ideal of beauty. You get to step back and think about who you are, as opposed to thinking about yourself as others see you.
When I get on stage, I feel like I need to meet the music where it is. There’s a lot of natural adrenaline—I’m transported outside of myself and develop this confidence that I wouldn’t have in my day-to-day activities. I also play up my makeup a little more than I normally would, especially in the eyes. It’s the part of my body that I really know how to enhance.
I’m kind of obsessed with black and gold on my eyes, so all of my shadows are in that range. I don’t love to spend a ton on makeup—there are other things in life I would rather spend money on—and, I mean this Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadow in Sunday Brunch does the job just as well as a really high-end product. I just want something that’s going to hold and pop on my eyes. I use the Shiseido Shimmering Cream Eye Color shadow as eyeliner, too. I like to put it over my black liner to make it look more grayish. I wear it on stage all the time because it doesn’t run or get dry. As for my black liner, I desperately need more Bobbi Brown Black Ink Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner. It’s a strong, very dark pigment. Right now, I’m wearing liquid liner—Sephora Collection Long-Lasting Eye Liner—but I don’t do that every day by any means. It has a nice tip that’s easy to use.
Aside from my eyes, I hate looking like I have makeup on. For foundation, I use Clinique Superbalanced Makeup, which is lovely because it’s not cakey and doesn’t look like I’m wearing anything. And then I set it with Sephora Collection Smoothing Translucent Powder. I’m lucky to have generally blemish-free skin, so I don’t have to put a ton of stuff on it. I don’t wear blush because my cheeks are naturally really rosy.
If I’m going to wear lipstick, I’ll usually wear Nars. I have a lot of it: Funny Face, Manhunt, and Heat Wave, which is an orange-y red. I need more; I would have endless Nars if I could. Otherwise, for a peach-y pink, MAC’s Sheen Supreme Lipstick in Full Speed is good, and goes on easy. If I'm doing a photo shoot, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar in Anime is so fun. And then when I’m on tour I end up just wandering around a lot and buying cosmetics at places like CVS, which brings me to this Maybelline Color Whisper in Cherry on Top. It’s a great, sheer gloss. I can’t wear sticky gloss on stage because my hair will get stuck in it and that doesn’t look good. [Laughs]
In terms of my skin, everything I know about caring for it I learned from my mom. She always puts on moisturizer, washes her face, and uses sunscreen. That’s my routine, too. Sometimes I think about buying serums and eye creams, but I’m not good about that shit. I just use Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel, because my parents used the lotion, and this one is less oily. My skin is not super dry, so the gel moisturizes without making me feel greasy.
I've been dyeing my hair since high school. I’m naturally medium brown, but it would get sort of brassy, so I prefer a darker color. I get a single-process color once every three months at Woodley and Bunny in Brooklyn. I’ve been seeing Brooke Burbee there for like, five years. I just love her. My ends can get pretty fried on tour—I headbang a lot and throw my hair around like crazy. I’ll get off stage after having sweated profusely, and I won’t be able to run my hand through my hair. So I needed a good, moisturizing hair mask. Kérastase Reflection Chroma Captive Shine Intensifying Masque is really nice—it’s been important for my hair. The tour bus showers also aren’t so luxurious, so I only wash it every two days—I would go longer if I could. Sachajuan Volume Powder is great for second-day hair when I need to look freshly washed, because it absorbs oil. It also isn’t as starchy as a dry shampoo, so it works well as a styling product, too.
I’ve been wearing the same fragrance since I was twelve—Dior Hypnotic Poison. I remember being in middle school and feeling like, 'I’m so sophisticated. I’m wearing Hypnotic Poison.' It sounds so dramatic. My friends would be like, ‘Is that the new scent from the Gap?’ and I’d be like, ‘No, this is my Dior.’ [Laughs] My mom always had a signature fragrance—Diorissimo by Dior—so after I came home with some, like, Victoria's Secret perfume that smelled like candy, she said, ‘Let’s get you a beautiful scent that you can have for the rest of your life.’ I’ll literally never forget it.
Right now, my other must is nail art. I got into it through M.I.A., when she was involved with putting out our first record. She took me to WAH Nails in London, which was insane. But here, I get them done by Ria Lopez, whose brand name is RiaNailz. She’s a good friend of mine—she helps me with wardrobe and accessories choices, and she’s a really badass nail artist. I got these done the other day. She does polish art and then top-coats them in a gel so it lasts longer. She actually just designed these Rad Nails nail wraps based on the album artwork for Bitter Rivals for our merch booth on tour and on our website. I feel like concert merch is still one of those very male-dominated things where all you can get are boxy t-shirts, so we wanted to do something that girls would actually get excited about.”
—as told to ITG
Alexis Krauss photographed by Emily Weiss in Brooklyn, New York on December 4, 2013.