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CMU Beef Of The Week #281: Sleigh Bells v Demi Lovato

By | Published on Friday 6 November 2015

Demi Lovato

Did I ever tell you about the time I saw Sleigh Bells live? Well, it was an in-store at Rough Trade East around the time of the release of their first album. I bought the record on twelve-inch vinyl picture disc too. Remind me to show you it next time you’re round, it’s quite cool. Very distinctive.

It’ll be a right fucker to find, actually. My vinyl’s all in a completely random order at the moment and it’s a bit of pain to find anything that doesn’t have the title written on the spine. Even then it can be quite difficult. And the Sleigh Bells album – ‘Treats’ it’s called – is just a picture disc in a clear plastic sleeve. Bloody nightmare. But, as I say, very distinctive when you actually see it.

Oh, yeah, I was talking about seeing them live. It was in Rough Trade East, as I’ve already mentioned, and now I think about it, I don’t actually remember that much about the performance, except for standing among the racks of the shop feeling that very distinctive guitar sound shuddering through me.

Way back in 2010 it was. No wonder my memory is a little hazy. Some things never leave you though, do they? Those guitars, the distortion created by everything being turned up so loud, the incredibly distinctive drum patterns. Those you wouldn’t forget. Not ever. They were so very distinctive. ‘Infinity Guitars’ and ‘Riot Rhythm’ in particular.

Anyway, changing the subject slightly, Demi Lovato has a new album out. It starts really well but gets a bit tedious as it progresses. Which is a shame. But the first three tracks are very enjoyable. ‘Stars’, one of them is called. And it has these very distinctive drums.

So distinctive, that even Sleigh Bells noticed them, and they tweeted Lovato this week to say: “[We’re] flattered you guys sampled ‘Infinity Guitars’ and ‘Riot Rhythm’ for ‘Stars’ but we were not contacted. Gotta clear those”.

Of course, it’s very hard to prove that one drum pattern is exactly the same as another. Especially if it’s been slowed down slightly and had a couple of effects thrown in. So I’m not saying Demi Lovato did sample drums from two Sleigh Bells tracks. Just that it’s weird that two drum parts that sound very similar to sections of two separate Sleigh Bells songs have appeared in one other song by someone else entirely. Still, it could be coincidence.

That’s what producers Carl Falk and Rami say, anyway. They told Entertainment Weekly: “We did not use any samples in Demi Lovato’s song ‘Stars’. Demi was also not involved with the production. She only wrote top line”.

So, hey guys, Demi Lovato wasn’t even involved in this sampling that didn’t happen, so lay off, right? But a rep for Sleigh Bells countered: “I can confirm that the band feels their music has been sampled without proper clearance and are seeking all available remedies with [Lovato’s label] Island Records”.

If nothing else, sampling archive WhoSampled also reckons that ‘Infinity Guitars’ is sampled on ‘Stars’. Though I’m not sure if that is admissible in court. Not that a case like this would ever get to court. The problem for smaller artists in situations like this is that it’s costly to hire lawyers to fight your case, while major labels have better lawyers on retainer already. So “all available remedies” often just means “passively aggressively tweeting about it”.

Though it might help their case to learn that Lovato was named the winner of Billboard’s first Rulebreaker Award at the 2015 Women In Music Awards, which are set to be handed out next month. Unauthorised sampling definitely counts as breaking a rule.

You know, I heard what I thought was the ‘Infinity Guitars’ drums sampled somewhere else once. I wish I could remember where. They’re quite easy to spot, what with them being so distinct and all. Still, that might have been a total coincidence. As it may be here too.

Listen for yourself.

Here’s ‘Infinity Guitars’:

And here’s ‘Riot Rhythm’:

And now here’s ‘Stars’: