On another grand old day in Norfolk, we caught up with Steven Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter of Blood Red Shoes ahead of their gig at Norwich Waterfront to get the lowdown on their latest album ‘In Time to Voices’.
Steven and Laura have to be two of the most passionate, hands-on people when it comes to their music that we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and it undoubtedly comes across in everything they do.
Steven Ansell: Pretty good, this tour is the cocktail tour, we’ve got cocktail ingredients backstage! That’s why we play like shit every single gig!
BE: What cocktails are they?
SA: Caipirinhas! They drink them in Brazil every day like it’s a glass of water.
BE: First of all we wanted to say welcome back to the Waterfront in Norwich! We saw on Twitter that you haven’t played here since the first album?
SA: Yeah, it’s been four years!
Laura-Mary Carter: I really can’t believe it, I swear we were sitting here not long ago…
SA: Early on we played Norwich loads, and it’s one of the cities that responded to the band really well and we had a strong fan base. It’s weird that we missed out on the second album! I think when we were touring for the second album, it just didn’t fit in our schedule unfortunately…
BE: How’s the tour been going so far? How has your new album been going down with the crowd?
LC: It’s been cool, I think as we’ve gone on, people know the words more and more.
SA: I feel like the UK shows have had the best reaction to the new album actually… People seem to really react to two or three new songs in the set.
BE: When you’ve been out touring, has there been any particular parts of the world that you feel get the album a bit more and quicker than other places?
LC: It’s usually Europe that gets it more…but I think that’s changed a bit on this record. I think people (in the UK) want to know whether we are for real or not!
BE: it’s only taken three albums!
SA: I think we had to earn a bit!
LC: I think people just didn’t really understand our identity…
SA: I think this record is also a lot better too, that probably helps a bit!
Mark Wood: Steven, we noticed you’re very opinionated when it comes to music. How does that manifest itself when you come to record your own music? Does that mean that you know exactly what you want to do when you walk into the studio?
SA: We had a really clear vision of this record and we worked out a lot of detail before we even went into the studio at all. But if you mean that we sit in the studio and I’m like “we can do this” or “we can’t do this”… we’re like that that together as unit with our producer – but it’s not like me being a loudmouth all the time! Laura is really opinionated about our music; she’s just not as much of a loudmouth about other people’s music!
SA: I think the only reason people think I’m opinionated is because so many bands intentionally keep their mouths shut, but behind closed doors people probably have just as much to say about music as I do. I know this first hand with friends who are in bands and they actually moderate themselves and censor themselves… So that’s why people think I’m opinionated, just because I stand out amongst everyone who is effectively taping their mouths shut.
LC: It is crazy though, the reaction you get when you do say something (about other bands)… people get really involved…
BE: Yeah I saw that on Twitter not long ago, I saw you were trending and I just had to investigate!
SA: I was like a Twitter villain for like three or four hours, it was amazing!
LC: The magazine kind of stitched us up because they said that Steve said ‘You Me At Six are terrible’ but actually he didn’t actually say that. It was a filmed video but nobody actually bothered to watch the video and only looked at the headline they gave it. I didn’t actually know that much about that band but what I was made aware of was that bands like that have almost a cult following…
SA: Yeah, almost religious dedication! And they can’t even comprehend that someone might not like their favourite band… like it’s unfathomable! But the whole creation of modern media is based on interaction and discussion and everybody having an opinion. YouTube and Facebook for example are completely based on people having an opinion and interacting…
LC: But then it’s weird that people react so strongly when they’re always giving an opinion too… It’s just a weird cycle, I can’t be bothered with it! If I took every comment seriously about me that somebody has written then I would be… a nervous wreck!!
BE: Blood Red Shoes seems like a pretty hands-on band, doing your own artwork, having complete control over your recording process, for example. There’s a lot of other bands who basically allow other people to do all that for them. Is it a lot of hard work in maintaining the motivation to maintain this work ethic? It seems like it would be very easy to just say.. “Screw it! Get someone else to do our artwork…”
SA: It would be a lot easier but you’ve just got to lump the fact that you’ve got to do the work… I can’t imagine someone other than Laura doing our artwork. We talked about it at one point because Laura was like “This is so much work, I’m not sure I can handle it…” but it took about three seconds before we realised that for someone to come along and go “This is what your album will look like” would be such an alien feeling and we couldn’t handle it…
LC: I think at the time it was because we were on the road and I was trying to do in the van… But yeah it would be really strange to have someone else doing it and I think even if I handed it over, it would never be right as it would come from us and they wouldn’t understand where we’re coming from. Even though it’s just the artwork, I like it coming from us…
SA: It’s who we are, it’s part of our identity as a band and its more than just what the record looks like, it’s everything about it and surrounding it. Even with our music videos we have massive hand in the direction of our videos, how they’re shot and edited… all the artwork and even the merch stuff… The promo photography we have on this record was all set up by Laura, she set up the shots and the guy just came in and took the photos for us while we were standing there. Once you have that, it would be weird to give it up again… But I think most bands don’t start off with it so it would be weird for them to have it in the first place, I don’t think other bands just aren’t bothered about it, they just haven’t had it to have it taken away. It’s part of our artistic expression.
MW: Your second album, for whatever reason, seemed to have slipped under the radar of a lot of people. Did that affect your mentality going into record ‘In Time to Voices’?
SA: We felt like we had something to prove, didn’t we?
LC: It wasn’t as if we felt really hard done by, I don’t feel that at all… I just feel lucky that anyone cares at all and we’ve got to this point… Not many bands get to do this as their job. We kind of felt some people didn’t notice because they thought we were one-trick ponies…
SA: I think it was more like maybe people didn’t realise we were a band to be taken seriously.
LC: I think one-trick pony wise… like our sound, people thought that our first record was what we do and there wasn’t anything more to us.
SA: Once the novelty of being a new band wore off, they were like ‘whatever’. On the first record we had a lot of media on our side and for the second record… It was quite invisible but we actually grew a lot in that time, we actually played to more people and sold more of the second album than the first one in England. It showed us that the media stuff is really useful but you can’t live and die by it… And it also taught us that it is possible to do it without it because we did! And now that we’ve carried on to make the third record, we’ve got more press and get played on the radio again. It’s weird to see a turnaround again!
LC: It’s good to be a bit under the radar if you’re still doing alright, it just means that people aren’t sick of you!
SA: It’s better than being in everyone’s face all the time, because if you meet someone like that, someone that constantly trying to get your attention and in your face, you just want them to go away! And we are the opposite of that, we’re kind of waiting for you to find us. It’s a bit of a slow game but it’s definitely the healthier way to be!
MW: So, was recording ‘In Time to Voices’ as fun as it looked in your studio videos?!
SA: A lot of it was quite stressful…
LC: The beginning was fun!
MW: Steven you seem to be dancing most of the time for example!
SA: Yeah the thing is, if someone’s videoing you in the studio and there’s bits where you’re arguing or its really tense, they tend to switch the camera off. It wasn’t unpleasant or anything but we just put so much work into it and wanted it to be really perfect. We were really tight to it, really close to it and didn’t want to let go of it or any of the little details we’d figured out in our heads…
LC: It’s quite a painful thing that record, because, even though I feel like it’s the best thing we’ve ever done, there are still bits that I now think we could improve upon… We had such a clear vision of it that sometimes you can’t actually get the sounds that you had in your mind within the timeframe that you’re given.
SA: When you know exactly what you want it’s harder, because you’ve got to try live up to the expectation you have in your head. We’re kind of trapped by our own control freak nature! But it has to be that way because we know what we want.
LC: I don’t know what the next record will be like… I nearly went insane on this one!
MW: Back into the studio straight after this tour then!
LC: Uhh yeah, we might do actually!
SA: Yeah actually as soon as possible. Despite how stressful it was, we’ve really started to grow into the whole studio world to use as an extension of your creativity… Using what you can do in a studio that you couldn’t do live for example. We’re actually really excited to get back into the studio whenever we can!
BE: I guess that now you know how the crowd has responded to this record, you might be more sure of where you want to take things on the next one…
SA: I guess it is encouraging because I’d like to say even if they hated it… (I’d do what I want) but it really does affect you if everyone turns around and says this is a terrible record. You’re a liar if you say otherwise, and it has been really encouraging that the reaction has been really good.
LC: Yeah it’s definitely a grower kind of record so people probably have to take their time with it.
BE: By the time it’s summer and you’re playing festivals I feel like people are really going to start getting it more…
SA: It’s definitely a bit of a record that takes time and that’s what we wanted to make. We live in an age where everything is short-term, for example, singles you’re supposed to like immediately and we really wanted to keep ourselves out that universe and make something a bit more substantial. So you have to be a bit more patient with the audience!
BE: And finally on the note of festivals, the last time we saw you was at Reading 2010 on the Festival Republic stage and now you’re going to be playing at Reading again this year on the main stage… and we even saw that you’ve even been boosted up higher since that announcement!
SA: We were just suddenly told that we were now going to be second on the bill, it was amazing!
BE: Do you feel like you guys are ready for that? Just the two of you alone on this massive stage!
SA: We’re going to smash it! We have done stages that size at festivals and other countries but…
LC: It is Reading and Leeds! So is a big deal to us because it’s the festival we used to go to, but I am already quite nervous… I think we’ll pull it off… we’ll be alright!
SA: No other bands will be doing that at that festival, just two people, no tricks, no big lights no fancy show or backing tracks. Just two people and big tunes!
BE: You’ve got a new single coming out soon, when’s it out?
SA: You know what… What even is a single release anyway? It’s just kind of a lie now isn’t it? The song is already out, it’s on the record! That’s all it is to me really, a single is kind of like handing out flyers for the show or a flyer for your record…
BE: I guess, it’s a promotional tool. People are aware that it’s out, it gets played on the radio more at least.
LC: It isn’t out yet but the video for it went up today!
BE: Thanks talking to us today guys, enjoy the show and enjoy the rest of your tour!
SA & LC: Thanks!
‘In Time to Voices’ was released on the 26th of March 2012 through V2 Records and is out now.