Blood Red Shoes


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Anton Coene
19 Saturday 19th May 2012

I'm backstage at Heaven with Steve Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter of Blood Red Shoes, blasting through our interview before they catch The Cast of Cheers onstage. Meshing a mutual punk background with a clear pop aesthetic, both members of the band parallel the two dimensions to their music, with Laura-Mary's quiet contemplation sitting easily alongside Steve's frantic and unapologetic brashness. Over lollies we speed-chat about having the guts to choose music as a career path, playing hundreds of dates a year and being hated on by punks from their past.

So you've been working with producer Mike Crossey in the studio again on your latest album, In Time To Voices. What's it been like, third time round?
STEVE: Much like any kind of relationship, the longer you go on, the more open you are – and the more often you'll fall out. We both criticise each other's ideas more than we did in the past, but we understand each other a lot better than we did.
Did you guys bring a lot of the ideas to the production table, in terms of what you wanted the album to sound like?
S: More than we ever did in the past, yeah. Way, way more; we've been really controlling on this record, which is hard for a producer, obviously. They're used to getting some input – I mean, [Mike] obviously had some – but was probably shocked of how sure of ourselves we were on this one. 
Is it true that you worked on this album for longer than the first two?
LAURA-MARY: Yes, we worked on it longer before taking it to the studio.
S: We didn't really spend that much more time in the studio making it, but a hell of a lot more time preparing for that.
Were you putting it together on the road while touring 2010's Fire Like This?
L: We did a little bit, yeah. 
S: We wrote a few bits and pieces, but not whole songs.
I assume you both collaborate totally when putting the tracks together. Is there a Blood Red Shoes method?
S: There are no real rules to our system; it's just whatever works at the time.
Is that why you think you function so well as a two-piece?
L: Yeah, I guess so. We've just made it work.
S: There aren't many bands where all the members actually write all the songs together. Usually it comes down to about two people writing it, and the others just putting their parts on it; it seems like it's rarely more than that. With Blur or whatever, when it really gets down to it, I'm sure the drummer puts a beat in but probably doesn't write much of the song subsequent to that.
There's a real sense of duality to your music – that whole pop clashing with punk thing. Do you feel like those two opposing forces come from two parts in both of you, or one from each?
L: From both of us. We're both into punk and we both like pop music. We came together and –
S: – we brought the pop side out in each other that we hadn't found in other musical relationships. Right from the start, when we were writing, it was more melodic than what either of us had done in the past. We're also both really critical of when it goes too far – we're always trying to fuck with it, you know? It's a bit of a constant battle.
So do the people from your punk past look down on what you do now?
S: Hell yeah! It's good to fuck with people though, isn't it? If people dislike it or don't understand it or think, 'Fuck that stuff', that's cool. THAT'S punk rock, to fuck with people. If you achieve that by writing a chorus, so be it.
It reminds me of what you wrote in your 'How To Be A Music Professional' piece for Drowned In Sound, Steve, where you touched on how people often equate making a living as a musician as selling out.
S: Yeah, we've been making a living out of it for five years. So what?
L: I think if people were in our position they'd really want to do it; they just don't have the guts to. They rave on about how they want to 'Just make music for themselves', but they're probably really scared of the unknown. Some of the people we know from the punk scene are a little like that – if they had the chance to do it, they would.
S: It's quite a comfortable scene to be in and follow the rules of – which isn't really punk rock at all. Saying that, even with the amount of people that probably look down on us, there a lot who support us because they know we work fucking hard. Even if they don't like our music, they know that we give a fuck, are in control of what we do and are doing it from the heart. I definitely feel that after a while, some of those kids came round and warmed to us.
So what's on for the rest of the year? Obviously you guys are playing a whole bunch of UK dates now, and then going to Europe for more.
S: Yeah, then we'll do a bunch of festivals –
L: – back to Europe, festivals there, then to America, onto more more touring, Australia...
What's the biggest amount of dates you think you've ever played in a year?
S: I don't know, something like 300. A lot.
Well you've nailed it, and the album sounds great.
S: Can you just write a review that says 'Blood Red Shoes nailed it' and leave it at that? Or just, 'They fucking nailed it?'.
No, but I can direct you all to the band's site to buy the record and find out if they'll be playing in a town near you this summer. 

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