Blood Red Shoes are a busy band. When they’re not crafting an elaborate (but hugely successful) PR trail, the duo are hand-signing dozens of pre-orders of their latest record. Stepping back from the studio-slick third effort, In Time To Voices, Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell took a decidedly different approach for this latest, and eponymous, record. Packing up and driving to Berlin, the pair lived for months in a rented studio working to strip back the band’s dynamic – recording and producing all twelve album tracks, released this week via Jazz Life.
We caught up with guitarist and vocalist, Laura-Mary Carter back at home in her London flat following a late night studio stint in the band’s home grounds of Brighton working on the b-sides to recent single, ‘An Animal’. “The last week has been absolutely crazy as the music industry just shuts down over Christmas so my head’s all over the place with all these things to organise. We’re involved in kind of every process of the band so it’s a lot to remember!”, she jokes. Something that’s certainly true with Carter contributing much of the band’s artwork until 2012’s In Time To Voices and their recent time in the studio as a twosome, to boot.
Since their humble beginnings back when Carter didn’t even own a guitar (“the only reason I used a Telecaster in the beginning was because I didn’t own a guitar so I just used Steve’s Tele.”) the band have long championed the DIY spirit with their commitment to their fans and prolific musical output from their debut Box of Secrets back in 2008. In reference to an old Plan B magazine we found listing BRS alongside Electrelane and Bat For Lashes at Ladyfest Brighton, Carter reminisces: “I remember when we were going to do that (show), it was one of the goals I had.” A decade on from forming and Blood Red Shoes have taken in slots at Reading and Leeds, Belgium’s Pukkelpop and All Tomorrow Parties (curated by none other than The Breeders) and rallied a legion of loyal fans across the globe with their fast and furious stage formula.
So how did it feel to take on the challenge of an entirely independent approach to this new release? “It was cool because we’d written all of our album in Brighton and we just kind of said, we need to go somewhere else, you know. We’ve been building up to this for so long. Originally we were recording our own stuff anyway and then we learnt a lot from Mike (Crossey) who worked on our first few records with us. We’d also produced a few bands ourselves so it wasn’t daunting but it was a different experience”. But Carter confesses to one or two worries when it came to the new material: “Because there’s no one there with you, you are kind of like ‘Is this the worst thing we’ve ever done?”
Well, fret not because Blood Red Shoes is a turbulent noise affair recalling the duo’s signature drone spliced with their frantic fretwork and Brit spat sentimentals. Opening instrumental, ‘Welcome Home’ is full of buzzsaw riffs and visceral jam outs and certainly feels like a band free from the shackles of the gleaned stylings of their contemporaries. ‘An Animal’ channels the same energized outbursts as Ansell repeatedly squalls: “I’m just an animal, I can’t be controlled”.
A band notorious for their relentless tour schedule, how does Carter feel the band’s live set up has developed in the ten years that the pair have been playing together? “Live it’s mainly stayed the same. I’ve probably got a few more pedals and I’m looking into changing my main amp for the next tour but I haven’t found the right thing yet. I’ve got a few new guitars that I’m going to be using to perform the new songs – an old battered Teisco guitar that I got on ebay for £100. I bought it when we were Berlin actually, there was a guy there who set it up for me for like another £100. It sounds awesome and the reason I got it was kind of on a whim; it’s got these really great pick ups. I wrote ‘An Animal on that straight away as soon as I plugged it in”. She continues: “I’m not using the Telecaster quite as much now which I think a lot of people might be quite upset about. Every time I get a new guitar, our fans go mental but I think it’s time to put the Tele down,” she admits.
But it’s the band’s longstanding relationship with their fans that has seen the duo rise from their seaside surroundings here in the UK to international status. Something that was more than apparent following their recent PR campaign to reveal one of the first album tracks at the end of last year. Not content with the humdrum download, Blood Red Shoes handed the power over to their fans for the release of ‘A Perfect Mess’ which saw the two piece (and a number of very generous and perfectly placed friends) set about installing a cross timezone scavenger hunt from New York City to Jakarta, Indonesia.
“We’re on our fourth album now, we end up going through the motions, you know. You have your single and you get it on a radio exclusive or something and it’s always in the UK and then just feels like the rest of the world has to catch up. Since we are an international really, it’s not like UK is our biggest thing – we thought it would be really cool to thank those people; they’re the reason why we are still here so we wanted to give them control. Whilst we were making this album, you start thinking why that is and our fans are really dedicated so we just wanted to do something for them in some way”.
And the fans didn’t let them down unlocking the ten bite size wav files to teaser track ‘A Perfect Mess’ in under 24 hours, but that’s not to say the concept went off without any glitches. It was panic stations in Paris when the first of their QR codes was stripped from the walls only for a group of fans to report back about its missing location. Carter explains: “I had to ring a friend who used to live in Paris but is now in Strasbourg to ring one of his friends in a hotel who could print it out to put it up there. It also happened in Brussels too. And it actually ended up with me just thinking: ‘Who do we know in Brussels?’”
It’s this kind of innovative and thoughtful approach to their recordings and their fanbase that marks Blood Red Shoes as an act that clearly understands the changing face of the music industry. “When we’ve grown up, we’d go and find out about music from magazines of word of mouth and then go out and try and find that record and it was such a great feeling and I feel a bit sad that people don’t really have that experience. We like the idea of people investing time and coming back to our records -something they will keep as a real item not just something they can download”.
With the recent artwork to Blood Red Shoes coming from one of Carter’s closest friends (“I like keeping things with our friends and we know so many talented people”) the band is no stranger to ‘keeping it close’. “So who’s had enough?” Nope, neither have we.
Blood Red Shoes is available in a deluxe CD edition and/or signed vinyl bundle over at Record Store.