Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Blood Red Shoes Interview

Blood Red Shoes are a notoriously noisy coupling. Their reputation for ear-splitting punk laden pop has grown by gradual increments from its beginnings in small town Brighton, garnering an impressive fanbase and earning them opportunities to tour Europe and Japan, from where they recently returned to home shores. Though constantly critically lauded as the boy-girl two piece with more promise that the rest, the commercial big-time has so far eluded them, and it seems this year could be make or break. With their debut album ‘Box Of Secrets’, of which long-awaited is a definite understatement, released this week, there is still everything to play for. Gigwise caught up with the pretty punk twosome in Cambridge on their current tour to see how Steven and Laura-Mary are bearing up under the pressure…

Curled in a dressing room in Cambridge, dressed in black, Laura-Mary Carter smiles shyly behind a mass of tangled dark hair. She is all sleepy-eyed from touring, still pretty without her make-up, and it’s hard to imagine her red-lipped and screaming furious vocals over her trademark distortion saturated guitarwork. “Um, I don’t know, I feel a bit out of it,” she murmurs when I ask her how it is to be back in the UK after so long touring. “We were away so long that at one point when we got back I was getting on the bus and I forgot what to call a bus ticket, the saver return, in London, and I was really confused, people were pushing past me and I thought I was going to get run over, I was like, “What is going on, I don’t understand!” So yeah it is weird being back, I just feel a bit out of it and I don’t know what’s going on. I definitely miss friends and family because we pretty much never see them. My sister’s having a baby very soon and I’m not going to be there to see my nephew or niece for at least a few months after it’s been born…”

For a moment the exhaustion of constant touring seems to get the better of Laura-Mary. Her partner in crime, the handsome Steven Ansell, sits listening, propped up on the sideboard in the dressing room. There is a steely confidence about Steven, he is almost reluctant to answer questions but eloquent and smart when he chooses to be. Laura tells me she’s exhausted, but Steve says he’d rather be doing this than staying at home: “I get bored at home,” he says, typically direct. I ask them if their schedule ever gets them down and Laura-Mary is disarmingly frank with her response. “Pretty much, yeah. For me it’s like 90% feeling shit after a show,” she musters. Steven interjects, explaining: “It’s because you’re really like, hyped, anyway, so everything’s ten times more intense than real life, you’ve got so much adrenaline in your body and stuff and everything becomes really magnified.” I ask them how they deal with it, and Laura-Mary answers, “The only thing I think that helps is knowing that you have to play the next day, so you just keep looking forward.”

They certainly have a lot to look forward to. Right now they’re in the middle of a headline tour, with a stint in Europe to follow, returning to England just in time to hit the festival circuit again. It was last year’s festival appearances that first introduced many to Blood Red Shoes, though the charismatic duo have been playing together for several years now. There’s a lot of chemistry between the two of them in person, and they seem to fit remarkably well together, with Steve always thinking of the big picture and Laura-Mary getting involved with intricacies. It’s the same with their favourite tracks on ‘Box Of Secrets’. Steven picks ‘This Is Not For You’, while Laura Mary muses, “there is one thing I really love. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of it because it wasn’t my idea but on ‘Say something say anything’, it’s that little tremolo thing, sounds a bit like Nirvana, no one will probably hear it except me, but I like it, it’s quite difficult.”

It’s Steve that is better at keeping up with his e-mails, and Steve again that wrote the band’s myspace page, with its last minute admission, ‘oh yeh, and we don’t like being called an indie band’. I ask them about this. Steve exclaims, suddenly agitated, “Because indie bands suck!” Meanwhile Laura smiles again, this time almost apologetically, saying, “that’s bullshit, Steve wrote that. We don’t like being called an indie band because we’re not.” Steven looks at her as she continues, “I mean, indie, if it was what it was years ago then yeah, we’d be an indie band, but now, if you’re talking about the Pigeon Detectives, Wombats, The View, The Enemy, then that’s what we’re talking about, we’re not…”

“We’d hate to be considered as on the same time of level as those bands.” Steven finishes. I ask what they’d like to be considered as, and Laura says, “I think more people have realised that now, that we’re more kind of rock, and punk.” Steven adds, “We’re not a jingle-jangle band,” and Laura offers by way of technical justification, “I use the distortion peddle in pretty much every song.”

So they never listen to indie music? “I wouldn’t say that we hate indie music because actually there are a couple of bands that I do like,” Laura says. But Steven disagrees: “I don’t like indie music.” For a two-piece, Blood Red Shoes are clearly unafraid to contradict one-another, though there is an almost magnetic attraction between them that comes off well on-stage and on record. They share vocal responsibilities whilst Steven’s cacophonous drumming fills out Laura’s filthy sawn-off guitar riffs in a sound that is hugely satisfying on the new album, if not sometimes a little limited live.

Still, an enormous amount of time has passed since their 2005 EP ‘Victory For The Magpie’ introduced them as one of the most promising acts of the decade, and while they’ve obviously been working hard in the meantime, there’s a definite sense of frustration that it took so long for their album to be released. It was finished in September, but due to record company bureaucracy only made the shelves on Monday, suffering leakages on file-sharing sites in the interim. Of the leak, Laura-Mary says, “I went from not minding at all to actually being like, hang on a minute, everyone I’ve met so far at every show has said to me, “Great album!” and I’m like, “It’s not even out yet!” I understand people wanting to get it early and that’s really cool, that people are excited about it, but we haven’t even played it to our families. It’s just not how we intended it to be.”

“Personally it’s that issue of control,” Steven adds, “we’re not controlling it. And then when people get it not necessarily in the order that you want, with not necessarily the songs that you want, or with the artwork that you want, and it’s not come out at the same time that you wanted it to it’s a bit like someone’s taking control over our first ever record, someone’s taken that away from us, and that’s pretty frustrating. I couldn’t give two shits whether people pay for it or not. If every single person who wanted our record went out and shoplifted it I wouldn’t care.”

Though frustrated, Steven and Laura-Mary are determined to look on the bright side. Steven tells me that “some good things have come out of it as well, like, now things are moving really quickly. Traditionally people would record a record, and they wouldn’t even put it out for a year, especially on big labels. Now you can’t do that because people get it on the internet, which means you have to move faster. Which we’re actually quite into because we want our record to come out quicker anyway. It’s just proved to us that we can move things way faster; we’re actually going to do an EP of new material within a few months of the album coming out.”

This is good news coming from a band that have been skirting the edges of success for a good year now. The cards are on the table for Blood Red Shoes, with a lot riding on ‘Box Of Secrets’. But if they manage to maintain their hectic schedules in the wake of the album release, Steven and Laura-Mary could well be jostling shoulders with those controversially popular indie bands on music lovers’ must-see lists for a good while yet.

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