Interview with Blood Red Shoes:
The struggle was necessary because we were too comfortable

In Interviewsby indiespect

Brighton’s indie duo Blood Red Shoes is back with their fifth record «Get Tragic». It has been a long journey for Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell, in personal and creative aspects. The two musicians talked about the difficulties and about leaving their comfort zone to find a new direction.

Blood Red Shoes Are:

Laura-Mary Carter (vocals, guitar)
Steven Ansell (vocals, drums)

Indiespect: Yesterday, you put on some special make-up for your Halloween show in Munich and I heard that it didn’t get off that well.

Laura-Mary Carter: Yeah, we didn’t have a proper mirror and we used all that fake blood that stains everyone’s face. Particularly, I’m bad because I put it all around my eyes and I can’t scrub them. I don’t know how long it’s going to be on my face.

Indiespect: So, what are your plans for the show tonight? Will you dress up again?

Steven Ansell: Blood red eyes.

Laura-Mary: I think, I’m done with the blood right now.

Steven: It’s probably not clever to put more make-up on the top since it’s already damaged.

Laura-Mary: No, I’m gonna go as myself to Halloween (laughs)

Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell from Blood Red Shoes.

Indiespect: In a lot of interviews alongside the release of your recent album, you were talking about the difficult times before and during the making of «Get Tragic». I don’t want to bother you with that again. Do you remember when you reached the turning point? Where you felt that everything could work out well?

Steven: I feel like Eye to Eye was a real turning point. Because, when that song came together it felt like the first song that really clicked. It sounded like us but new. We felt that energy of having a song we were like: this is the defining song of the record, this is our direction. When that fell into place that felt like a real shift. All the other stuff, fuck knows – I don’t know. But creatively, that was a real turning point.

Indiespect: During the making of the album you had a crazy experience when you rented an Airbnb in Wales that used to be a community center. May you tell me something about that?

Laura-Mary: Oh yeah. I always forget about that

– Steven laughs –

Steven: Now, it seems really long ago. We went to this place and we weren’t even there for 24 hours. Basically, the whole town came out and we got woken up by people who asked: why are you here? Get out! We were like: our manager has rented this building for us to use. We walked outside to take our stuff to the van and there were people of the village just staring and they asked themselves: why is this band here in our village? They were worried because we were opposite of a church. They said: there is a church over there you can’t make music here. We were like: okay… so we just fucking left. Really creepy.

Indiespect: That almost sounds like a scene from a horror movie.

Steven: It was kind of like that, yes.

Laura-Mary: It was, yes. It was scary.

At the moment it seemed like a good idea to use fake blood for Halloween.

Indiespect: Shortly after that strange encounter Laura had a motorcycle accident. I read, that it changed the way of how the record sounded afterwards. What was the best thing you got out of this bad thing?

Laura-Mary: Probably, that I was able to sing more. I didn’t really sing that much on the other records, how I liked to sing. It gave me time to explore my voice which was really cool. That changed how the sound of the record is and it was the biggest thing that came out for me out of that. And I just didn’t play guitar that much.

Indiespect: «Get Tragic» is a brilliant record. It seems to be a fresh start for your band.

Steven: It feels like it’s a whole new re-invention of ourselves which we needed.

Blood Red Shoes

To bring Get Tragic on stage, Blood Red Shoes added two additional musicians to the line-up.

Indiespect: The new sounds and instruments you put into that record also led to the fact that you added two new musicians to your live line-up. Did that also influence the way you tour?

Laura-Mary: It hasn’t changed how we tour, just in the way that there’s extra people in the van (laughs). Is that how you mean?

Indiespect: I meant because before it was almost always just the two of you on the road.

Steven: It changes certain dynamics in terms of the chemistry, musically. But actually, it hasn’t felt like huge jump because more than half of the set it’s still the way we used to play. We do more than half the set as a two-piece on this tour. It feels like you get to explore more styles and more different moods during a show. Before we did it I felt: oh, this is going to be so different. And then as soon as we did it, I was like: oh no, that’s kind of fine.

Blood Red Shoes were supporting Pixies on their current Tour.

Indiespect: You were in Zurich not too long ago. You supported Pixies at the X-TRA.

Steven: Yeah, maybe two weeks ago.

Indiespect: I wasn’t able to attend the show but the reviews were saying how amazing you were as support act.

Laura-Mary: Oh, cool.

Steven: That’s great.

Indiespect: How did it feel for you to play to a Pixies crowd?

Laura-Mary: It was really good. We didn’t know how it’s going to be, but people really listened and their cheering was really loud. I feel like they really liked it. We were surprised how well it went.

Indiespect: You have been to Zurich a lot of times throughout the years. The first time I saw you was back in 2008 when you played a show with The Subways at the Rohstofflager.

Laura-Mary: Oh wow.

Steven: Weirdly, I brought that up, yesterday. I remember that. It was one show and there was also an American band playing.

Indiespect: That band was called Blackmarket, I think.

Steven: Right. I just remember them being American. I remember hanging out with them afterwards and chatting.

Indiespect: Do you know how the line-up for that special show came up?

Laura-Mary: Oh, no idea. That’s so long ago.

Steven: I don’t have a fucking clue. I mean that was eleven years ago (laughs). Probably, a promoter felt they would like to do a little mini festival. I remember it was quite a big event there were a lot of people.

Laura-Mary: Carry on, I’ll be back in a second.

– Laura-Mary leaves the room to check something with her amps –

Indiespect: A lot of your current record was written and recorded in L.A. The one before you did in Berlin. How did you choose those cities. Was it only by accident?

Steven: It was not by accident, we felt that something is drawing us to those places. We always loved Berlin. It’s really easy to go to and to set up and play. Nobody is going to be like: you’re too loud, shut up. You can kind of do what you want. L.A. is the same. It has a real sense of freedom. It’s also very easy to do things there and it’s really creative.

Blood Red Shoes

Blood Red Shoes on stage at the Mascotte Club in Zurich.

– Laura-Mary comes back in and has a problem with her effect board. It seems not being solved, so she leaves again –

Steven: Uhm.. We tour so much and we go to so many places. There are some that have something about them and you feel that you need to go back there. It is a feel or some kind of spirit that you can sense of the people, the place and their attitude. It’s not a surprise to me that a lot of records were made in L.A. or in Berlin.

Indiespect: But I have the feeling that often bands do their depressing records in Berlin or Germany, in general.

– Steven laughs –

Steven: Yeah, I don’t understand that, because Berlin isn’t depressing to me. Berlin is a really vibrant place.

Indiespect: During what time of the year you were there?

Steven: We were there for a whole year. So, we had all the seasons. Summer is really hot and winter is freezing cold. It’s really good because you have actual experiences of change. You feel like you’re actually on the planet. Where L.A. has no weather. It’s always sunny, every fucking day. It never changes.

Indiespect: But while you are recording you’re inside, anyway.

Steven: Well, the other thing with L.A. is, actually you don’t. The studio we used to have there had huge windows. You could see sunlight which lots of studios don’t have. Actually, one guitar we recorded outside. Laura went outside to play guitar (laughs).

Blood Red Shoes

Blood Red Shoes bring their live energy to Zurich.

Indiespect: Do you remember on which track?

Steven: I think, it was the end of Nearer. It was so nice and Laura said: I’m going outside. We turned the speakers round and faced them out of the big studio. So, she just went outside and did all the guitar takes there.

Indiespect: Even if you were in sunny L.A., the record still became quite dark. Did you write the lyrics in advance?

Steven: No, the lyrics were written as we wrote the music. Most of it was written in America. Actually, I think we’ve made a depressing record in L.A. but not in Berlin, weirdly. This record is much more depressing than the one before. But that’s just where we were mentally. We were quite lost and we were suffering as individuals, as a band but also by trying to do something different. It was really uncomfortable and unpleasant. When you’ve done your band a certain way for four records, you know what to do. It would have been very easy for us to do this again and really boring. Actually, forcing ourselves to try different things that’s a really unpleasant process. You take away all the things that are comfortable, easy and you know and like. Then you’re making music and constantly throw it away. We were exploring so many things that weren’t good enough. It was like a constant process of failure. That was quite upsetting to go through, creatively. We need to try something different, we need to feel that spark of something new. But actually, when we did it, we didn’t like it. That’s hard, that’s a struggle.

«Get Tragic» is the fifth studio album of Blood Red Shoes. It defines a restart for the band from Brighton.

We were exploring so many things that weren’t good enough.
It was like a constant process of failure.

Steven Ansell, Blood Red Shoes

Indiespect: But you still seem to like the record that came out of it. Even if it’s connected with that much trouble.

Steven: The songs that made it are the ones we actually fell in love with. That struggle was necessary because we were too comfortable. Our fourth album is cool but it’s too comfortable. I hear a band that is way too comfortable. I mean, I have criticism for all our records. When you make a record you just make what you honestly feel like at that time. When you see it after a year you see different things in it. We didn’t really push ourselves because we could just do what we want. It was the first time, we did a record without a producer. We put everything in there and did a record like we wanted it. That’s cool but we didn’t get out of our comfort zone. We didn’t learn anything new, really. Except, we learned how to record ourselves. I think, we had to make that record so that we could make the next one. That comfort, I never wanna do that again. I always want to be uncomfortable. It’s way more creative.

Blood Red Shoes

The colors of Get Tragic also found their way to the light show.

That comfort, I never wanna do that again.
I always want to be uncomfortable. It’s way more creative.

Steven Ansell, Blood Red Shoes

Indiespect: Do you also think that the whole experience and the hard process made you stronger as a band because you now know that you are able to go through a time that hard?

Steven: It did. In that last period we were either gonna break up and just stop or we would come back and would have figured out how our future is going to be. We came through that on a personal level and how we want to do our business. Creatively, we’ve opened more doors to different possibilities. Now, I’m really sure of our future in a way I wasn’t before.

Indiespect: What is the main thing you learnt, that you never want to do again?

Steven: That I never want to do again? Uhm, I don’t know, man. I don’t like ruling things out. I like to have a lot of possibilities.

Indiespect: So, it made you even more open to other things?

Steven: The whole process has been more open. We have different people collaborating on different songs. We are more open to use different instruments, writing in different ways, playing with different people. Everything is more open.

On their self-titled album in 2014, the band produced everything on their own for the first time.

Indiespect: You produced Hip Hop in the time you didn’t create music with Blood Red Shoes.

Steven: Yes! I don’t really like guitar music that much. I’ve got really bored of it. It just has the same things and everybody wants to sound like the past. I listen to Hip Hop and I think it’s really inventive, exciting and quite futuristic. Also R&B or Neo Soul music is really interesting. It takes risks. It’s poppy but the sounds they use are actually quite intense and sometimes kind of shocking. Guitar music just feels really safe. Lot of what I’m inspired by, is outside of guitar music. We try to push our band, to try things outside of the traditional guitar ideas.

Indiespect: So, maybe Blood Red Shoes will sound completely different in several years?

Steven: Possibly. We’re both really open. I’d love to make a record that sounds like a movie soundtrack with an orchestra. I’d also love to make a record that sounds like a really fucked-up Nine Inch Nails thing, where you take a band but you manipulate all the sounds that it sounds synthetic. I really like synthetic sounds. I like the sound of things that have been fucked-up, broken and degraded by technology. There’s a lot of possibilities.

I don’t really like guitar music that much. I’ve got really bored of it.

Steven Ansell, Blood Red Shoes

Indiespect: Then you would have a fanbase for each style you play.

Steven: Who knows what the fans would make out of it? You have to just follow your creative instincts, you can’t worry about that. You never know what people are going to like or what they don’t. You can’t predict that. You just have to make what you honestly think is you and roll the dice. Then you see what people say.

Indiespect: When you say that you don’t like guitar music that much. What are currently your favorite artists?

Steven: I absolutely love the Billie Eilish record, I think that’s amazing. I listen to a lot stuff of Tyler the Creator. He’s really interesting and I like his whole attitude and his approach. He is just funny (laughs). He has got too many ideas. I listen to a lot stuff like that.

Indiespect: The music industry got faster because of the streaming. Are you already working on a follow-up to Get Tragic?

Steven: A little bit. It’s difficult on tour, because we just don’t have loads of time. But we’ve got a few ideas. We wrote a lot for the last album and threw it away. Sometimes, when you go back, you find little bits that you wanna keep and try out. Eye to Eye was actually made out of one tiny section of a whole song with six other sections. We wrote the song, threw it away and maybe a year later we listened back and we were like: that one bit is quite cool. Why don’t we try to keep on with that? And eventually, you wouldn’t even recognize it. Originally, it was guitar chords that we turned into the bass line.Then we added synths and completely changed the groove, the timing and the key. We’re definitely not going to take a really long time. I wanna make it as soon as possible. And I want to make it really fast. The last record took so long. We agonized and spent so much time. I want to try the opposite now, where we say that we’ve got three weeks and then we have to just make it.