Wednesday 28 March 2012, 12:32 | By Andy Malt
Q&A: Blood Red Shoes
Having formed in 2004 after the demise of respective bands Cat On Form and Lady Muck, Brighton alt twosome Blood Red Shoes, aka Steven Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter, released their debut album ‘Box Of Secret’ via Mercury in Spring 2008. It was immediately well received and soon bred a sequel in 2010’s ‘Fire Like This’, after a considered return to the pair’s original label V2.
A document derived from constant touring, petty crime and debauch (“From getting arrested, Laura fighting bouncers… twice, to the two of us breaking up on stage or me being found in the street robbed by prostitutes”, says Ansell) third album ‘In Time To Voices’ is proof of the duo’s punk rock ‘coming of age’. Out this week via V2/Co-Operative Music, the LPs campaign will see BRS play their largest capacity show to date at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire on 18 Oct, part of an international tour whose British section begins on 27 Apr at Concorde 2 in Brighton.
As the band limber up for said live labour, CMU Editor Andy Malt approached guitarist and co-vocalist Laura-Mary Carter to ask – amongst other things – about her ambitions for the new record, past/present triumphs and regrets, and her thoughts as to the vicious rumour that “rock is dead”.
AM: How has your sound developed on ‘In Time To Voices’?
LMC: The biggest change on ‘In Time To Voices’ is the development of the songwriting. We really wanted to focus on writing great songs and once we had the backbone of that we could embellish things in whatever way we felt fit. That way behind all the guitar distortion and heavy drums you could play the songs on an acoustic guitar and they could still stand up on their own.
We also decided before we started to write this album we would not limit ourselves to the guitar/drum set up only. So, for example, if we felt like strings or keyboard would work in a song then we should put it in. Which we did. We still like to keep our sound real and not too over-produced, but we did put more layers on than the previous albums, though each part really has a place.
Our voices have been a huge step forward for us as we are really learning every day about how to sing better and how our voices complement each other.
AM: Given you have more layers and production going on this time – how will it translate live?
LMC: Like I said, the backbone of each song is there without the production, so it will be a more stripped back version live. We will not be using backing tracks or have extra members, which is something we feel very strongly about. At the moment we are rehearsing the songs, and although there is a lot more to think about for both of us, I think there are ways we can work it out. A few songs on the record may not fit in our live set but we can play them acoustic for sessions and various other things.
I have way more pedals now and Steve has to take singing and drumming to the next level, but we are confident we can pull it off. Playing live is what we are known for and it’s so exciting to be able to mix up all three albums in a set now.
AM: Have you always wanted to experiment more with your sound? Why start to impose fewer restrictions on yourselves now?
LMC: Yes, we have always wanted to experiment, but we were conscious not to run before we could walk. I think if we had made this record a few years ago it would have been shit as we wouldn’t have known how to execute it in the right way. Once we had two records under our belt we felt the need to change and progress and will continue to do so in the future. I really think that ‘In Time To Voices’ is just the beginning of experimentation in our sound. We have learnt a lot even since finishing this album.
AM: Do you have any particular favourite tracks on the new album?
LMC: Yes, I think ‘Silence And The Drones’ is our favourite track on the album. It was the song that set up the mood and feel to the record for us. We wrote it really fast and it kinda just fell out of the sky. We always wanted to write a song like that, so for us it’s our personal greatest achievement.
AM: Are you looking forward to starting your tour next month? What can people expect from the shows?
LMC: Yes, we are looking forward to touring. They can expect an energetic and real rock n roll performance, mistakes and all…
AM: You’ve had a bit of a convoluted route though the major label system, originally signing to V2 but then releasing your debut through Mercury. This is now your second album for V2. What led you back there and are you pleased with the team around you now?
LMC: We signed to V2 way back when they were not owned by Universal. We thought of many things to put into our contract but we didn’t think about putting in a clause to say if the label is bought out then we reclaim all rights and are free to walk. Silly us… massive schoolboy error there.
So V2 was sold to Universal three months after we signed, and the labels within the major were able to take their pick of any of the bands. We never in a million years thought Mercury would want us. And I can say hand on my heart, it was one of the worst feelings I have ever had hearing that they were picking us up. The experience was how you would imagine if you were to write a stereotype of major labels. They don’t have a clue and we took great pleasure at telling the boss of Mercury just that in a meeting before we parted ways.
I think that major labels should stick to their big pop stuff as the track record in the last however many years with anything guitar based has pretty much mostly been a disaster (Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong is a prime example there).
Once we were back to the re-established V2 with the guy who actually signed us in the beginning, it was like going home, even though we were still technically within the Universal empire. We like working with actual ”music lovers” and a forward thinking label. We have a close relationship with all our label throughout Europe. However, we actually license our albums to them, so we don’t have a conventional deal any more. So we tour a lot to be able to put our earnings into making the next album. That way we have complete control, so it’s better all round.
AM: If you could go back and give one piece of advice to yourselves as you were preparing to release your debut album, what would it be?
LMC: Don’t let anyone make you dress up in silly outfits for photo shoots, to be more confident, and to just be yourself.
AM: What’s your view of the current state of the music industry? Are you optimistic about the future?
LMC: The music industry has changed a great deal since we first started being involved in this world. The ways of breaking bands these days into mainstream is totally changing. I think major labels still have not quite grasped what’s actually happening and are still signing loads of bands that are clearly gonna go nowhere in the hope that one of them will make back all the millions of pounds they have lost.
It is interesting when you think about the fact that one of the biggest artists in the world right now, Adele, is on an independent label. If that doesn’t speak volumes I dunno what does.
Another thing I have noticed is that there is no method to what is popular. I didn’t really see Ed Sheeran or The xx getting big, or Two Door Cinema. But people just like them! It’s a real guessing game as to what people will like, and I think that is an exciting prospect. On the other side of things the internet and the way of hearing music has got so saturated that many artists’ people don’t know where to look.
Attention spans are not the same, and the mystery in bands has all been taken away with things like Twitter. It’s all about content and everyone is fighting to be heard. I think maybe at some point people will get sick of this too and maybe it will regress back.
I also have the opinion that the success of bands like Mumford And Sons and Adele is a lot to do with the fact that they write classic-sounding songs with a great voice, something that is lacking within a lot of mainstream music, so it sticks out amongst the vast amounts of new stuff out there.
I have so many conflicting opinions on this subject I could talk for years. But I guess who knows what will happen. I stay optimistic about music in general, I think great music will always prevail.
AM: You’ve said elsewhere that you see most modern bands as “way too clean-cut and sensible”. What are bands doing wrong, and how much do you think this has led to recent claims by some media that rock is dead?
LMC: Rock is dead comments are rubbish! Rock will never die, people need to proactively find it! If you’re just waiting for it to go mainstream and come to you then you might be waiting a while as bands being signed at the moment are not necessarily good guitar bands. There are plenty of great rock bands I can think of about at the moment – maybe not as many as there used to be, but as long as there is underground music, there will always be guitar bands.
AM: What bands are you enjoying at the moment?
LMC: I really am enjoying St Vincent, Tame Impala, True Widow, Grizzly Bear, Mark Lanegan, Peggy Sue, Pulled Apart By Horses, and The Dodos as they are new things on my iPod. Then the oldies like Queens of The Stone Age, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac, Autolux, Hotsnakes, Mogwai, Television, Blur, PJ Harvey, Trail Of Dead and Pixies.
AM: What’s next for Blood Red Shoes?
LMC: Tour for the next year and beyond …our plan is to take over the world!