Lost Kids: Blood Red Shoes

“We put ourselves under pressure..."

Blood Red Shoes are really shooting to kill this time. They’re back with their third album and whilst sitting down for a chat with them in an East London café, it didn’t take long to realise that this time around, perhaps more than ever, this beast’s got fire in its belly. A fire that could be just the flame needed to put some heat back into British guitar music.

Drummer and vocalist Steven Ansell didn’t hang around in putting their ‘eyes on the prize’ attitude into words: “We put ourselves under pressure and we expect a lot from the people we work with, and we expect them to work fucking hard because we do. We want to be a big fucking band. We’re not touring 150-200 days of the year to go and play at the Camden Barfly. I want to be selling out Brixton Academy. I want people to fucking notice this band.”

It’s clear as daylight that the passion’s there, so why is it that after the best part of eight years of being a band, Blood Red shoes feel they’re only just beginning to get noticed? “From the beginning we got lumped in with indie music. I think we got a bit misrepresented.” Laura-Mary, the band’s guitarist and vocalist, explains.

“No-one gives you lessons on how to be a band,” Steven adds, in reference to the naivety they had when they started out as teenagers. “In England it feels like more of a struggle to get certain music industry bullshit on your side. It was hard to get people to notice our second record. The festivals would go, ‘yeah, you can open this stage,’ and we were under bands that were selling out venues half the size of what we were selling out.”

However, as Laura-Mary correctly points out, bands that have leapfrogged them on festival line-ups have often turned out to be perished goods by the following year. “It’s funny how you look back at all the bands who we’ve seen come and go over the eight years and we’re still here.” It appears that knocks like these just serve to spur the duo on, giving them something to prove at every step. Fact is, they are still here, and their grit has afforded them a third record – something very few of the bands they were ‘lumped in with’ all those years ago have managed to achieve.

As Steven and Laura-Mary continue to divulge their career story, whether they’re aware of it or not, an admirable picture is being painted. Where overnight success has seen bands tossed to the wolves after barely having a chance to toast their first single, Blood Red Shoes give away as little as possible to the industry they evidently have mixed feelings about. “We don’t actually have a conventional record deal,” explains Laura-Mary. “We licence our own records, and we pay and they get made. We tour with our own money; we pay for it, put it back in and make a record. Kind of like DIY, like we’ve always been. Basically, we do what we want.” This isn’t just a romanticised idea of independence though. “We were on a major label so we know how that works as well. It wasn’t out of choice!”

“Yeah, we had a year on a major label…” Steven wasn’t going to let his distain towards this period go unnoticed. “That was like a fucking Carry On film! They don’t know what they’re doing! They thought that the little amount of work that they put in would be so tempting to us.”

“When we told them we thought they were shit, they couldn’t believe our audacity in saying what we thought.” Laura-Mary’s expression turned to a wry smile before she continued. “It was quite amazing. Actually, it was one of my highlights of this whole band – being able to go in to the boss at Mercury and tell him he’s a fucking cunt!”

With all that now behind them, ‘In Time To Voices’ is an album that characteristically sees Blood Red Shoes in the driving seat. It’s powerful at both ends of the spectrum, featuring the band’s rockiest, and their most withdrawn moments to date. Laura-Mary tells us. “Where it’s heavy in places, it’s really heavy; where it’s quiet, we’ve made it as beautiful as we can.”

This time around, instead of hitting the studio and jamming out songs as they have done for their previous two albums, the band opted to sit down and feel them out on acoustic guitars before committing anything to record, paying particular attention to melody. Don’t let this give you the wrong impression though, the band’s raw energy is by no means censored by the new approach, if anything it’s been distilled to a more toxic proof.

The likes of ‘Je Me Perds’ from the new record, and new single ‘Cold’, on which Steven gives his drum kit the beating of its life, make it tough to deny Blood Red Shoes the accolade of being ‘ballsy’ – not a word you could truthfully lay on many British guitar bands at the moment. Combine this with the more delicate musical stretches where the duo craft out more moving, melodic moments than they’ve previously achieved, and the picture painted by Blood Red Shoes’ third album begins to portray them in an accomplished light.

Accomplished, yes, but there’s still plenty of space to grow. “In September our band is eight years old, so we’re getting to the point where we’re at that really irritating toddler age.” Steven begins, before each of them simultaneously reach for the coffee they’re sharing. “We’re fighting over one coffee! This sums up our band. We both went, ‘no, we’ll share a coffee,’ and now we’re fighting over it!” Aside from the coffee, as a band of two it seems that Steven and Laura-Mary have cultivated quite an open way of working together. “In our band there can never be an outsider, it’s always just us against each other. No one can ever gang up on the other one. It’s just an all-out brawl.” Steven laughs, but there’s sincerity in what he’s saying. “There’s equality in that, and that is actually a really strong point about it.”

With the release of their third album just around the corner, there’s a feeling that another building block’s being put in place: “We’ll always feel like we’re driving uphill.” Steven’s explains. “Although, the last few weeks have felt different to the lead up to our previous two albums, it’s felt a little bit easier; a little bit more like people give a fuck.” Finally feeling like what they set out to accomplish is coming to fruition, Steven’s mind digresses to the natural order of things: “You do Shepherd’s Bush Empire… then Brixton, then you can’t wait to do Ally Pally, then Wembley.” Subconsciously, Steven swaps from ‘you’ to ‘we’. “Then you can’t wait ‘til we… invent our own enormo-dome! Can’t wait ‘til we headline Glastonbury, what do you do then? Be the first band to pay on the moon? The first band to play floating in the sky?” The concept of time comes crashing down on Steven’s wandering thoughts. “Fuck, at this rate, by the time we get big enough to do that it’ll probably be possible!”

Words by Jim Pilling

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‘In Time To Voices’ is out now.

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