Interview: Blood Red Shoes

Interview with Blood Red Shoes

Blood Red Shoes


Brighton’s Blood Red Shoes pull no punches with their scuzzed-up garage-rock, and they’re as frank and uncompromising in conversation as they are on record. We invited Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell to talk ambition, “tour psychosis” and major label fall-outs...

Questions and answers

Hi guys, where are you today?

Steven Ansell: Right now I’m in our studio space in Brighton, going through the ten tonnes of sh*t we’ve accumulated over this year of touring.

Laura-Mary Carter: We just got back from Australia so we are feeling jet lagged…

How was Australia? It must have been a struggle to drag yourselves back to the UK.

SA: We played New Zealand and Australia, actually: a combination of festivals and our own shows. The headline shows were great fun and the small amount of time off that we had was really enjoyable. Both countries are pretty beautiful and were crazy-hot.

But it was a major comedown to step off the plane back into the UK, yes. We’re looking forward to the shows we have this month over here, but I’d trade up tidying our studio space for sitting on Bondi Beach f*cking any day!

You had a pretty insane touring schedule last year. How was the US tour?

SA: Yup, I think 2012 was our heaviest year to date. I don’t know for sure whether we played more shows than in 2010 – where we almost won a record for the most gigs in a year – but we certainly had a lot more to do last year. There’s been more activity in general, like we recorded a new EP as well as touring, plus we also spent a few weeks producing a record for a French band called 1984.

The US tour was one of my favourite parts of the year. I really enjoyed going back to tiny bars where people barely know us, and just trying to build our band up from scratch: it’s really satisfying. I think it’s really healthy for us too, because not having your lighting rig, or extra road crew to worry about all the small details, helps us remember that the only important thing is getting a good vibe between us on stage and with the audience. Everything else is just indulgence.

LMC: The Gaslight Anthem tour was great; they’re great guys who we really respect. We had to get into the swing of being the support band again but once that awkward bit was over we really enjoyed it! Their fans are very hardcore and they either really hated us or really liked us.

Being on the road so much must be pretty intense. How do you stay sane being constantly on the move?

SA: We don’t really stay sane, to be honest. I don’t think it’s possible. You just have to accept that you’re going to get “tour psychosis”. It can get volatile, for sure; there’s not really any way to avoid it. So we just get nuts, let it out, and move on. We’re always friends in the end.

What are the best and worst things about touring for you?

SA: Well, we get to see the world and play music. My excitement for that has not worn off one bit. The worst thing is just the psychosis, really; the weird rollercoaster of emotions you go through. It’s f*cking intense, like being sent away to war or something; all crazy highs and crazy lows.

So, the new EP’s arriving pretty swiftly after In Time To Voices. When were these songs written?

SA: We started writing the songs in soundcheck jams and in-between the festivals we played over the summer. They came together really fast and we liked the idea of keeping them rough and ready and not working over and over on them like we did with the songs for In Time To Voices. To me they sound like the closest we’ve ever come to classic rock! (Laughs) I think they’re kind of sleazier and more confident sounding too.

LMC: We recorded them in three days in Dallas, at the end of our US tour. It was a fun process as we really just wanted to experiment and to keep that rough edge to them; almost to fight back at our third album which was very considered and thought through. Not because we dislike that record, but just because whenever we do something we always like to do the opposite.

It’s definitely rawer than In Time to Voices. Was that John Congleton’s influence?

SA: I wouldn’t say it’s his influence but he definitely really helped us capture those sounds. We wanted it to be the most raw, distorted, f*cked up thing we’d recorded and John was really fast at getting sounds we were into and his attitude was, “Yeah, let’s go further!” That was f*cking great and I feel like we opened a lot of possibilities with that.

Do you have plans to work with him on your next album?

SA: Currently, no we don’t, but that’s not definite. I think we’d like to try producing our next album ourselves, which is something John has actually encouraged us to do as well.

Is the EP representative of the direction you’re headed next, sonically?

LMC: It’s hard to know what the next record will sound like. We are really into collaboration at the moment: making music with other people, guesting on stuff, keeping ourselves inspired, really. We are in no massive rush to get the next record out.

You’ve been making music together for eight years now. How do you feel you’ve progressed artistically in that time?

LMC: We’ve improved a great deal. I mean, we can play our instruments now! (Laughs) We have grown together and I feel we still have a way to go. We are always striving for something, learning something new.

SA: I think we’ve mostly learnt a hell of a lot as vocalists. In fact, when I listen back to my singing on our first album it makes me f*cking cringe. Recording really helped us learn how to develop as songwriters and I think we’ve also found the confidence to explore our experimental side more and more. I feel like we’re just getting warmed up with what we want to achieve, musically.

Have your motivations for making music changed at all?

SA: Not really. I mean, I don’t fully understand what my motivations are anyway! I just know that I need to do this: it’s a compulsion, being in a rock and roll band. We just want to keep moving forward and making better music, and hopefully keep seeing our audience grow as it has these last years.

I’m not sure people realise how serious or how ambitious we are. We’re not happy to be a niche band: we believe our music is strong enough to have a pretty wide appeal. We’re just very careful and very fussy about how we get out to a bigger audience. We don’t want to f*ck it up.

If you had to offer one piece of advice to new bands, what would it be?

LMC: I would say this: stuff does not happen unless you make it happen. No one cares about your band as much as you and no one will think about things in as much detail as you. You have to be on top of it, work hard and never drop the ball. Once you get complacent about any of it, you’re doomed.

We heard that you called the head of your old record label a c*** to his face! Did you ever worry it might be career suicide?!

LMC: (Laughs) No, I never thought of that, and the reason is that nothing has ever happened to us through anyone but ourselves working our arses off. Our old label did nothing for us except pay for some expensive hotels and taxis.

SA: You can’t worry too much about career moves. That being said we’re cocky enough to know (or think we know) that we’d be able to make our band survive without that c*** making decisions.

Have you noticed a marked difference between working with major and indie labels?

SA: Yeah. Indie labels are smaller, so can adapt much faster. They also realise that bands are different, whereas a major label has one process to break a band, which applies to every act – whether it’s us or Rihanna – and if it doesn’t work they drop you. And they needlessly spend money on anything at all and they all get paid insane salaries, which is why they are f*cked. It’s the most inefficient business structure I’ve ever seen. Indie labels are also smart enough to look globally, whereas if you sign with a major label they’ll be obsessed with your domestic country.

So what’s the plan for 2013?

LMC: We will be touring the States again and doing some festivals.

SA: But we’re going to spend most of the year working on new ideas and experimenting. We’d like to try some writing sessions in different parts of the world because we’ve written the bulk of our three records in Brighton and we’re crazy restless to get out of here. We might relocate to Berlin for a while. Or maybe Paris…

Finally, can you tell us what music you’ve been enjoying recently?

SA: I think the Everything Everything tune ‘Cough Cough’ is f*cking amazing, and we both love the new Hives album. I think it’s the best album they’ve ever made: it’s just solid f*cking BIG tunes all the way through with zero filler.

The new Tame Impala record has some great, really inspiring, exciting sounds on it, and there’s a band called Wallace Vanborn from Belgium whose recent album we both really like. It picks up where stoner rock left off, takes it somewhere more sleazy and more intricate but it’s still really, really ballsy. And even though it’s egotistical to mention it, the 1984 album that we produced is f*cking awesome...