“There's an inherent theme of gore in our music,” Blood Red Shoes drummer/vocalist Steven Ansell explains in the unbelievably busy beer garden of Chatham’s only cool night spot, the Tap ‘n’ Tin. We are all huddled on one wooden bench; all the tables are occupied.
“Yeah,” agrees guitarist/vocalist Laura-Mary Carter. “Hence the knife on our T-shirt.”
“And the sleeve of the record is a cake that’s stabbed and bleeding,” Steve adds. “There’s a general gore theme going on.”
Blood Red Shoes is a very different beast from Steve and Laura’s previous bands, Cat on Form and Lady Muck respectively. There is no overt social politics with Blood Red Shoes; they just want people to dance.
“It is definitely more riff-based [than our previous bands],” Steve says. “We don’t write out a song. We haven’t got like a verse/chorus/verse thing going on, it’s more like just rocking out. It’s because it’s so spontaneous, Laura will come up with a guitar riff, then I’ll play whatever drum part comes into my head. We don’t know how it’s going to end up. It all comes together really quickly, which is much more exciting than spending ages on a particular song.”
This is Blood Red Shoes’ first ever interview. The band came together at the end of last year, after Cat on Form split up. Steven and Laura had talked about jamming for a while, and Laura e-mailed Steve about jamming when she heard he was bandless.
“She e-mailed me straight away and said; ‘Do you want to have a jam then?’ completely insensitively,” Steve says.
The pair wrote their first song, ‘Victory for the Magpie’, at their first jam session, one of three songs on their debut 7inch, out on Jonson Family. The only thing missing was words to fit the vocal melody.
“Then that night a friend of mine asked if we wanted to play a show,” says Steve. “So we had to think of a name to go on the flyer, and we wrote some words to that song and two more songs. So we got it together as quick as we could, writing words really quickly, We were mainly just going ‘Nah, nah nah, nah, nah’ and we planned to fill in the gaps later, but for the most part we’re still going ‘Nah, nah nah!’”
They’ve been gigging pretty much non-stop since then, mainly playing the South but working their way up North when they can. They are a formidable live force, making up for their sparse line-up with their energy and the sheer volume of their music.
“Steve hits the drums really hard!” Laura explains.
“And we have a really big guitar amp and a bass-y sound,” chips in Steve.
It is unsurprising that the band put so much into their live shows. As a duo, there is naturally going to be less movement onstage, which could make a band seem lifeless. This does not seem to be a problem for Blood Red Shoes, however.
“It doesn’t feel any different to me,” Steve explains, when the pair is asked how playing with Blood Red Shoes differs from their previous bands. “In fact for me it seems heavier, because no matter how loud you play the guitar, when you’re behind a drum kit it’s just so loud, so for me it’s more physical than Cat on Form. It’s like with Cat on Form I could move around with my guitar, but with drums you have to sit down. All of your energy comes from your playing, so you just have to whack the shit out of your drums. It feels like the same energy basically. It just comes out through pieces of wood instead.”
“Yeah,” Laura grins. “What he said.”
The band is powerful on record too. Their debut 7inch features three fantastic songs: melodic and riff-driven, but with an art-punk edge. ‘Bless His Heart’, a song from the EP that was posted on their website, has already become a live favourite – people call out for it all the way through the band’s show. They don’t bother playing it.
The band walked into the deal with Jonson Family when they played a gig with Hey Colossus, who basically run the label.
“They just said ‘Do you want to do a 7 inch?’” explains Steve. “So we recorded the first few songs we had, and that was it basically.”
It also has a fantastic sleeve (the aforementioned stabbed cake picture) and has been pressed on sexy black and red vinyl.
“That was Jonson Family’s idea,” Steve says. “We tried to keep it a secret from Laura. They called me up and said that the pressing plant could do a swirly coloured vinyl, like a marble effect, in black and red, and I said that sounds amazing let’s do it, but don’t tell Laura. I didn’t want her to find out until we got our copies, but they put it on their mailing list and Laura’s on their mailing list, so…”
“I saw it and I was like ‘Does Steve know about this, or is it wrong?’” Laura cuts in. “So I called you up and you admitted it.”
“It ruined the game,” Steve replies. “You missed out on the shock of finding out at the last minute!”
Steve also plays in Projections, a band that features other ex-members of Cat on Form. Juggling the two bands is occasionally difficult.
“Sometimes you have to choose which band you want to play in, which is kind of like choosing between two mates,” admits Steve.
“Especially if you’re booked in on the same days or whatever.”
Despite this, Blood Red Shoes have managed to pen quite a few songs, usually jamming out the songs and adding the lyrics as an afterthought. One song, however, was written specifically about Laura’s inability to be on time for practice.
“Laura was 12 hours late to a rehearsal once,” says Steve. “No joke. She was supposed to get there at two in the morning and got there at two in the afternoon.”
It is pointed out at this point that 12 hours is ridiculously late. How could someone be that late?
“I dunno, that’s how it always is, I’m always late,” shrugs Laura. “It’s like I’m cursed.”
“Yeah Laura definitely has a curse,” Steve agrees.
“It’s like everything that could possibly happen does happen on the day that I need to get somewhere,” explains Laura.
Steve laughs: “A day in the life of Laura is a very crazy day!”
That brings the band’s story up to date so far. Is there anything that the band wants to add?
“Steve wears red nail varnish!” Laura exclaims.
“I actually had a better shade. I had a shade that looked a bit more classy…”
“No it wasn’t!” gasps Laura.
“It was more classy,” Steve insists. “But Laura said I should go for the cheap looking ones.”
“I like the cheap looking reds, because I’m a cheap kind of girl!” Laura laughs. “One other thing, I’m a gypsy.”
“Yeah Laura’s a gypsy girl, and we’ve been drinking cherry Lambrini today. We’re not a classy band, that’s why I’m wearing cheaper nail varnish; I don’t want to pretend I’m something I’m not.”
What about the band’s musical tastes? Both think for a moment.
“Laura likes the Smiths, but I think they’re the worst band ever. I fucking hate the Smiths. It’s important you get that bit in there.”
“Well I like them,” says Laura defiantly. “We both really love Blur though.”
“Yeah, when we went on tour, we mainly listened to ‘Parklife by Blur, Madonna, ‘The Immaculate Collection’, Green Day’s ‘Dookie’, and some compilations of 50s rock ‘n’ roll stuff,” adds Steve.
“My favourite band is Babes in Toyland,” says Laura. Steve looks very deep in thought.
“I don’t know who my favourite band is. It’d probably be (UK post-rock band) Hood, which kind of ruins the spurt of totally non-credible music we’ve just listed. We should’ve stuck with Green Day and Madonna. I really like the Kaiser Chiefs, with no irony! I really like them. It took me a while to admit to myself. Before I was just pretending it was an ironic thing, but it turns out I was lying to myself and that I do really like the records, There ain’t nothing I can do about it.”
It is noted that the Kaiser Chiefs' music is currently the most irritatingly infectious music on the planet. Steve nods.
“Yeah, it’s just good pop music. It’s the stupidest lyrics and the stupidest choruses, but it’s really good.”
He then breaks into a comedy rendition of ‘Everyday I Love you Less and Less’. It isn’t particularly good, but he gets full marks for effort. Laura pipes up:
“That song is their best one. I really like the Futureheads.”
“Yeah,” Steve grudgingly agrees. “The Futureheads are alright. I don’t think they’re as good because they’re not as catchy. I like my pop music really poppy. They are kind of alright, their cover of that Kate Bush song is really amazing, including their accents. It’s like the Byker Grove Strokes!”
As Blood Red Shoes’ set time draws ever nearer, we call the interview to a close. The band seems keen to get onstage, but can’t be bothered with a sound-check – they prefer to do things spontaneously. If they didn’t, their music wouldn’t be so gloriously simple and energetic.
Before the band head off, I ask the band if there is anything else they want to add.
“People should listen to Charlottefield,” Steve says enthusiastically. “They’re amazing, probably the best band in England.”
Just as enthusiastically, Laura adds: “And their singer’s fit!”
Steve smiles: “He is though. It’s true.”
It sums up Blood Red Shoes perfectly: arty and independent, but out to have a bloody good time.