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Blood Red Shoes Interview
Back in the days I think it was when they opened for Maximo Park in Cologne that I saw Blood Red Shoes live for the first time and liked them instantly. Now, about a couple of years and three albums later, this, as drummer Steven Ansell has himself pointed out in his contribution to Drowned In Sound, notoriously much-touring band, also find their way to my hometown, bringing their brand new self-titled and also self-produced album with them.I meet Laura-Mary Carter, the duo’s other half who is in charge of the guitar section, and find out about their work on the new album, favourite German delicacies and how music videos nowadays needn’t always be about some girl shaking her bum.So you decided to call the recent album like your band and in some other interview I heard you or Steven say that it’s an actual photograph of you two. What could you do differently this time, producing the album yourselves, so that you could say “Now this is really it, this is who we are.”?Yeah, I think Steve must have said the photograph thing, I don’t remember saying that. I don’t know, I think what he means is that it was just the most free record, because it was just us, for a start, and there was no one else involved and we recorded it exactly how we think that we sound. I think what he means is that we’ve learned a lot, obviously, over the years, but we just did it. And I don’t think no one kind of evenheard it. But we knew it was that. We were just jamming, a lot of it is just spontaneous stuff that we kept on there. It was like improvising lyrics on there, it was basically us jamming and I think that’s what he means.A very free approach then, nobody sitting there and expecting anything from you…No, we had no one there. Actually, there was a point when we really wanted some feedback (laughs). But it was just us in this concrete building in Berlin. But, yeah… We originally just went there to write, actually, and we just started recording it, we just carried on. And, yeah, I think we’re just happy with it. I think it’s a satisfaction that we did it, but also we always kind of wanted… we always struggled with the sounds guitar-wise, because we always felt like it wasn’t quite what we wanted to achieve and we didn’t know how to get that. Mikey, who was recording us, has a very specific way of recording guitars, so I guess we are just happy that it sounds heavy for once.You just told me that you’ve just come for Berlin and having lived there forhalf a year, is there anything you can think of that you miss when you’re not in Berlin? Anything, things you like to eat for example, or a special kind of feeling?Yeah, there’s a few things. I really liked Berlin in summer, that was really nice. And I actually just miss being out and have food late. It sounds weird, but even in London, where I live, it’s really hard to get food late and just have a quiet drink and just relax. I feel like in Berlin you can just go and there will be somewhere at least open where you can get a glass of wine and relax, it’s not all that hectic. And I miss that, ‘cause I’m a night owl. (laughs) That’s one thing I miss, but there’s a lot of things I miss.Anything typically German maybe apart from that? Like gummi bears or Spreewald gherkins?Well, I’m quite a big fan of Schnitzel. I know that’s an Austrian thing, obviously, but it’s also known in Germany today. And then there’s this place Max & Moritz on the Oranienstraße and that was like the traditional German restaurant that we went to quite a lot of times, quite massive food, like massive Schnitzel. Yeah, I miss that.Have you tried Currywurst?Yeah, I tried Currywurst, but I think I overdid it. (laughs) I did too much. Oh, and I miss Glühwein! Real, good Glühwein, because England… Well, we’ve got a bit better mulled wine stuff now but there’s something about Christmas markets…Oh yeah, I think I already heard you say that when I saw you live the last time, in Bochum.Yeah, I’m a big fan of it!Ha, yeah, I think you were drinking it on stage.Yeah, probably. (laughs)While I was reading along listening to the album and paying special attention to the lyrics, I got this idea in my head that there seems to be a tendency of the topic of identity or losing your identity and being alone. Do you think that this is a major topic for you personally? I realized there seems to be something typically, like a teenage-angst topic, which now seems to be going on later, after your teenage years, maybe?Hm, that’s interesting… It’s really weird, because we don’t really see the bigger picture of what we’re singing. It just comes to us. And we don’t know what we’re meaning. But yeah… I think lyrically it’s a little bit different this album to the other ones. It’s a lot about… It’s not so abstract, it’s a little bit more, some of it is a little bit more like storytelling. I don’t know. It’s still about a weird positivity, but there’s also some reflection on maybe us, like Steve and I, and everything that’s happened. There is maybe… yeah, it’s definitely about being alone and a lot of stuff, because we’ve grown up together, really, and realized that you kind of need your own life at some point. And that is like a really hard thing to do, because we’re just so used to each other and when that happened it could be quite traumatic. (laughs) When you realize that this is not your entire universe, you maybe need something else.Is it maybe like a symbiotic relationship and at some point you realize you just have to let go for a while?Yeah, I think there’s probably that in there. Quite a lot actually, yeah.Stranger seems to be a song that tends to stand out a bit, if only you put it down to the timing, so I had the impression that it really is a bit waltz-like. Was that a different kind of experience for you to do such a song?That song actually was a song that we had for the last album. And it was like… I don’t know why, but sometimes when I’ve got a keyboard or a piano, because that’s the instrument I originally learned, the guitar I just taught myself... So when I get near a piano I just write stuff like Tightwire, which was the first thing when we got to Berlin. So it was like Steve went downstairs and I just wrote like this Stranger thing. And then he came up and started playing along. And we had it and we took it in for the third album, but Mike, who made the record, didn’t really get it, and he was like “No, not sure…”. But we just knew there was something good about it and we just kept it and then, when it came to this album, we were like “Let’s record it!” It might not fit with everything, but we changed a few things. But we were like “Maybe it will work in the album.”, be something a bit different and stuff… Actually, it sounded really good in the room that we were in, the drums especially. It’s a little bit different vibe, but I think actually what we were trying to achieve on the third album in terms of sort of little bit more varied sounds… I think we actually kind of did it in this song what we were trying to do on the third album. In our heads, that’s what we wanted to do to the album to be like. So I’m glad it made it anyway.Sometimes they need to take their time then and come back later.Yeah. Totally, yeah. That happens quite a lot, actually.The album as such comes across as being raw in some places, which I personally like very much. And looking at the artwork I had this idea that maybe it was about representing this as well, like you guys being forces of nature with the head and the volcano and the wind you are blowing. Or is it totally a different direction?Yeah, that makes sense, actually. This is the first one for which I didn’t do the artwork. I did actually take the picture of my sister’s face, which is on the front. (laughs) And it’s my friend who did it, so we worked closely together on the ideas and I was sending him lots of references and there was a lot of like, yeah, that kind of reference, like volcanoes and smoke. I think the smoke thing comes from… I realized we always have this lyric, we sing a lot about it, in each record. So on the second album we sang about fire a lot, then we had the other one singing about ghosts, and we don’t know why, and then we realized that “smoke” is a word that we kept using in this record, so there was something in there and that was kind of the idea. Beyond that it was kind of Chris who put it all together and he did hear the record, so maybe that was his interpretation of what the record sounded like.Being a two-piece, there are several other bands that appear as a two-piece doing press and so on, and then on stage they have more musicians to back them up. So even though you’ve got this amazing sound and nobody would probably imagine it’s just two people on stage, do you sometimes wish that there were more people on stage so that you could draw on some more possibilities, music-wise?I used to always say no, but recently I would say yes. It’s not like I need it and I don’t think we will get anyone, because it kind of wouldn’t be our band, but unless it’s just a friend coming on to play stuff, which we’ve had before.But there’s this sort of thing in me, that’s like “It’d be great if I didn’t have to play right now.” Because recently I’ve been crowd-surfing a lot. I actually crowd-surfed with my guitar the other day, which was the first time I’d done that and I really enjoyed that, but at these shows I think it’s a bit harder because of the barriers and stuff, but at smaller shows... And then I thought it would be really cool if someone was still playing, like guitar or bass or something, and I could just do more interactive stuff. And we guessed it from one of our friends’ band recently, who are like a full band, and we were on stage and we were like “Wow, it sounds massive!” (laughs), because there is so much sound. And then I was thinking “That must be a really cool feeling, when it’s like going on like this.”, because it just sounds so big. On stage, it sounds good, but there is a space in between, I don’t think it comes across like up front, but on stage, with the monitors on, it’s so loud, it’s not actually, it doesn’t feel like that big sometimes. That’s what we already tried to get on months ago. We work hard for it to make it, to try to make it big. (laughs) I think what’s coming out at the front is a different story.And with more people it might mean more problems, maybe…Yeah. I think there’s problems with both, because more people means more decisions but less people means that when you argue there’s no one else to… it’s just between you and it can be quite hard. Yeah, it can get a bit lonely, I suppose.Sometimes you might need someone to step in as a referee of sorts, I can imagine.Yeah, we’ve kind of got that in Tom, our tour manager, but he’s got so much to do. (laughs)I thought that Steven looks great in a wedding dress, so how did you come up with the idea for the An Animal video?Well, the An Animal video was a bloody pain in the arse, to be honest, because we thought “It’d be really great if someone had a really awesome idea for once.” And we had so much going on, and we were like “It’d be really good to just see what someone else comes up with, if we give him like a few references.” Well, we got back about ten pictures for the video and I was disgusted by pretty much all of them, because they were all extremely sexualized and sexist. Because I guess people that were doing it were used to doing pop videos and now, that’s what all pop videos are. And I was really, really pissed off by this, because it was ridiculous. The one wanted a girl to basically have an orgasm with a guitar and that was the video.Okaaaay…There was another one where Steve was the musician and I was the bad girlfriend who’d been cheating on him and he was in his studio and I had to kiss some model on the video and all this stuff. And then he’d get back and he’d smash all his gear because he was angry at me and then I’d turn into a cat. And I was like “D’you know what? I can’t be bothered with this. They can fuck off, to be honest.”So me and my flatmate just talked about the song and the idea and everything and she had this footage of a French film, and she actually makes videos. But she didn’t have time to do the video, unfortunately. But she was like “Look, I’ve got this idea, you could put it together and you could maybe take that.” And in a way I wish that this was our video, because it works so well, it’s like a 60s/70s French film and it’s like a guy running down the street and you don’t know what he’s running from. But he’s just like stopping all the traffic, having a cigarette and crazy. It’s like a three-part story and then there’s like a couple and they’re on a motorbike and there’s a guy smashing all his gear up and it just really worked.So we found this video director who usually makes documentaries about politics and stuff and we were like “Yeah, let’s get him to do it!” And they wanted to do it so they took a bit of the idea and then they came up with the one that we did. But then they came back with the storylines and I was in the wedding dress, with the garter, putting it in the guy’s mouth. And I was like “No way, I’m not being the jilted bride on there”. And everyone thought I was really being over the top. And then they were like “Okay, what about Steve? Would he wanna do it? That would change the whole perception of it.” And Steve said “Yeah, I’m up for doing it!”And now looking at it, I’m so glad it wasn’t me, because that would change the whole vibe of the video. So that’s how it came about. It was more me just going “No way, I’m not doing that!”, Steve going “Yeah, I’ll do it!” (laughs)Yeah, and not just representing those old-fashioned stereotypical role models, that would have been really lame…Yeah, I think so. It’s pretty scary how mental this is now, all videos, they just think this is normal, to put women into that sort of thing. Well for me, I don’t wanna be that person. I’m not really famous for anything, but there are girls that come to see our band and there’s no way I would ever do anything like that. No, not for me.So music TV is not that prominent in our media anymore today, it’s all YouTube and stuff and so I don’t watch that many videos, but recently I was travelling and staying at a hotel, there was nothing on the telly, so we just watched a couple of music videos on a music station and I was shocked, I was like “What the hell’s going on here?!”, it was just butts in the camera. And as you say, girls need someone to look up to…Yeah, and also it just makes people feel like that’s how it should be, or that’s what they should look like and all those things. It’s just not healthy, I don’t think it is, it’s not reality. Yeah, and I really don’t ever want to be part of anything like that.Now, about that incident I read about on Twitter, I’m really curious what happened there! Maybe you don’t know about it, but maybe you do. I saw on Twitter that somebody of Slaves [who opened some of their shows] wrote “Steven did some serious damage to Isaac’s testicles with his head.”(laughs out loud)Do you have any idea what happened there?I think he put him on top of his head, like around his neck, when you lift someone up.Aaaah, okay.And there’s a three-part photo the other guy in Slaves took and you can actually see the pain in Isaac’s face, you can see it happening. (laughs) Ah, I don’t know, he was just drunk when it happened, being physical. (laughs)Because when I read that all kinds of images came up in my head, but none of them made any sense. Now you’ ve solved the riddle.(laughs)
Blood Red Shoes Interview