When a band has been together for ten years and reached their fourth album, situations change. Expectations and motivations may be completely different to when you started out. Some bands, if they are lucky enough to reach this point, may be creatively burnt out, flat lining after years of torturous grind. Conversely, they may have found themselves distorted by success with the essence of the band lost in a mainstream merry-go-round jumble. Blood Red Shoes aren’t like other bands though. As the two-piece of guitarist Laura-Mary Carter and drummer Steven Ansell release their self-titled new record, it’s quickly apparent that as a band they are in a very good place right now. A feeling of optimism is imbued on an aggressive, direct and hugely melodic album.
As Laura-Mary explains, the band approached their latest effort in an extremely positive frame of mind: “I feel like coming to do this fourth album we had this realisation of, wow, we’re still fucking here,” she says enthusiastically. “There’s so many bands that we’ve seen come and go and we’ve experienced so much stuff in the ten years that we’ve been together. There’s this weird confidence that you get when you realise that you’re still here. People are still coming to our shows, we haven’t gone down, and we’re still slowly growing. That’s an amazing position to be in. There’s a confidence in that that comes across in the record. I think it felt like a positive record. It’s more of a positive sounding thing. It’s a grateful feeling as well.”
With the band in such a vibrant mindset, it felt like the perfect opportunity for them to do something different and trust their own instincts as a band. “The thing about our band is that we like to do the opposite,” says Laura-Mary. “When we made ‘In Time To Voices’ we really tried to do something different to the previous album and experiment a bit more with layers and melancholy type songs with different tempos. As soon as we’d done that we just wanted to make a pop record but with loads of heavy, scuzzy sounding guitars.’
The record they’ve made is the ultimate realisation of the band’s love of heavy, visceral, yet melodic, rock music. All the conflictions of their previous records melt away into something primal, thrilling and spontaneous: “We’ve always been into heavy music, sometimes it hasn’t always come across as much in our records. Live usually it’s a bit more of a heavy sound. We’ve just been learning as we’ve gone along. That’s the kind of stuff we really like. This record finally has that aggression and the heavy sound that we’ve been trying to get.”
Perhaps a change of environment and circumstance allowed the band to lose any inhibitions they had towards making something that wasn’t polished or sophisticated. Entirely produced and engineered by themselves, ‘Blood Red Shoes’ is as unsophisticated as you can get. “I don’t think going in with a producer, they would allow us to abuse equipment like we did and fuck things up by putting a million fuzz pedals on something,” laughs Laura-Mary. That sort of liberating spirit pervades throughout the album. The band recorded for the first time outside of their native Brighton and as Laura-Mary professes that isolation and freedom allowed them to completely be themselves. “We had a need to go somewhere else as we’d made three records in the UK,’ she explains.
‘We’d written all three in Brighton mostly. We wanted to be where stuff is happening. If you’re stuck in a studio, it’s really good if you can go outside and see some stuff, get a drink or go to a cafe. We’re quite disciplined so we’re not going to go crazy and not do any work. We trust ourselves. Berlin is the perfect place. It’s got a lot going on and it’s really inspiring. You can get a really cool space there for not much money and make loads of noise. We ended up just being in a concrete room. It wasn’t fancy, it felt more like a home than other studies that we’ve been in. It was just us. We engineered and produced it and had no interference from anyone. It could have gone really wrong actually! But I think it’s turned out how we wanted it.”
After years of making albums with regular producer Mike Crossey it was a conversation with esteemed US producer and old friend John Congleton while making last year’s interim ‘Water’ EP that gave them the impetus to go it alone. “We went to Dallas to do it with John Congleton who’s known for doing St Vincent and stuff. He’s a friend, we’d known him since back in the day in the punk scene with his old band, [The Paper Chase]. That’s how Steven and I met, going to see the band and them putting us up in their houses. He said to us, ‘Guys, you should just do it yourself, just go for it. It’s really important that you do it at some point.’ He was the inspiration to just go fuck it, let’s do it. We know what we’re doing recording wise, we’ve got lots of gear that we’ve been collecting. In that sense, it didn’t seem daunting. It was really fun.’
Many of the songs on the resulting album are the end product of spontaneous jams and improvisations. It’s incredibly loose and natural sounding. “When we did the third record everything was in its place. At the time, we made it all ourselves before we went in the studio with Mike Crossey and redid it. I think something was lost a little bit from what we recorded originally. That got us thinking about what we want to do for this next record.” The feel of their live shows, which have become ever more brutal and direct, provided yet more inspiration. “We’re one of those bands where it’s not the same every night,” continues Laura-Mary warming to her theme. “Some nights it’s not great and some nights it can be amazing. It really depends on the mood. We thought that we should take that into our record, as that’s what people like about us. We were conscious about not overdoing things. Some things are out of tune on the record but that’s what makes it exciting.”
It’s apparent just how much the band appreciate the support of their growing worldwide fan base, the increasingly global nature of their popularity encouraging them to do something a little bit different with the initial promotion of this album. “We realise that we have to thank our fans as they’re the reason we’re still here and they still give a shit about us,” she says. “We did this QR thing where everyone had to get involved throughout the world to release the first song from the album. That was part of it as well, to give something back and let our fans be the first to hear it. That’s part of engaging them as they’re the reason we’re still here.”
As the music industry diversifies rapidly with every passing year Blood Red Shoes have been quick to adapt to getting their music out there in a different way. The QR search is just the first step in an effort to engage and energise their worldwide audience. “For us, we felt the need that we wanted to do something less traditional,” explains Laura-Mary. “Usually, you make a song, make a video and the song comes out as an exclusive and that’s how everyone hears it. We thought it would be really cool to directly involve our audience.
‘Music now is just so passive. It’s one click away. You can just go online and hear it. We come from right at the end of the generation where we used to find out about music from books and go and search for records. Once you got it, it was a really special thing. It’s part of trying to get people out of their houses as well. I think maybe there is a need for that. It gets boring if you can just get everything easily. To get people involved and participating is a cool thing.”
It’s refreshing to find a band that has been in existence for a decade, full of enthusiasm and vigour rather than a jaded blankness. ’Blood Red Shoes’ is the sound of a duo very much stripping things back to move things forward. “We definitely hope to progress,” Laura-Mary proclaims confidently. “We are an ambitious band and we always have been. We want to play bigger shows. We feel really happy to be here and just hope that people like the record.”
Blood Red Shoes’ self-titled new album will be released on 3rd March via Jazz Life.