Blood Red Shoes | Interview
I love the human element of looseness and error and we wanted to push ourselves to accept our flaws.
With a forth album firmly behind them and a tour directly in front, we shared a few words with Blood Red Shoes drummer Steven Ansell, highlighting the positive spell for guitar music and their time spent recording in Berlin.
So there’s been a lot of talk around the new album, is it nice to sit back and soak it all in at this stage?
Yes it is nice to hear, like the other day we put up the record so you can stream it from our facebook and website and I quite like it when we get that, I like hearing the reaction from our fans, that’s always really cool. Apart from that all we’ve been doing is just rehearsing hard for the tour so I’m not too aware of all the other stuff to be honest. We’ve just been in a studio trying to get ourselves in shape. It’s nice to see everybody’s different reactions, lots of people have picked different songs which are their favourites which is always a really good sign because if you’ve got one of those records where there’s two obviously good songs and nothing else then you’ve got a bit of a dodgy record haven’t you?
You recorded the record in Berlin, it must have been an interesting experience working in a new environment?
Yeah for us, we fell into it very naturally. We’ve been talking about self-producing for a long time and I guess we never quite had either the guts to do it, or we weren’t quite confident enough on a technical level to engineer and produce it. We finally decided to do it and just went away to Berlin and it felt really comfortable; even though it’s not a place we’ve recorded before, it is a place we’ve been on tour and I’ve always really liked. It all came naturally, just going to Berlin and living there, it felt like going back to when we first started and we were recording our own 7 inches. Only we’ve learnt a lot in the interim since 2005.
Was it a spontaneous decision to go to Berlin?
We’d been talking for a long time about self-producing, we were really keen to get the fuck out of England to write and record the music somewhere different because we are a band that tours all over the world. In fact we’ve probably spent more time in different country’s than we have in England. We were like, if our music has this reach why don’t we just make a record for what it is. Berlin was the first place we came up with, it’s got a really good musical history for lots of different types of music, it’s a really cool place, there’s loads of space; because one thing we wanted to do was not use a conventional studio, we wanted to use our own space where we could put our own equipment in and in Berlin there’s loads of old industrial buildings that you can rent cheap. It’s the perfect place really because there’s loads going on, there’s loads of clubs, music shops, venues, and loads of artistic things as well.
It’s taken a direct hit on the album with ‘Behind The Wall’ right?
Yeah that was a reference to Berlin, the music wasn’t but the lyrics were written right when we first moved and they had this extended winter that went on until the end of March last year, it was really dark, even in the day time it was really dark and snowy. It was kind of written as us coming to Berlin and getting the hang of this broody and dark place, I mean physically dark place, it’s difficult to see most things. That song is the only direct reference to Berlin on the album.
Did you go into the studio with an idea of what you wanted?
A little bit of both, I mean the clearest idea we had was that we really wanted to go to town with the guitar sound on this record, we wanted to make it as guitar centred as possible like a real riffs record. The only other thing is that we didn’t want to be too perfectionist as we have been, we wanted to leave in mistakes, leave in the scruff, leave in as we sync slightly out of tune. I really love scruffy records, I love the human element of looseness and error and we wanted to push ourselves to accept our flaws a bit more. They were the only two things, beyond that we just jammed and wrote and were seeing what came out really. That’s why there’s some quite different stuff on there.
I guess self-producing helped you embrace those flaws?
There was a few reasons, firstly the more you record, the more you understand the studio and the equipment. By recording yourself there’s not a stage of translation that it goes through. When you want a sound to do a certain kind of sound you’re not explaining to another person how to do it, you’re doing it yourself, so it’s a purer way of executing it. As a control freak band, we got the point of realising we can use all the equipment we wanted to we were just like, well we should fucking just do it. We talked to people about it and they were really encouraging saying, like look you should do it because you learn so much about recording and about yourselves as a band, so people were encouraging us as well which was cool.
The first single was released in quite an exciting way with QR codes cropping up in different places, would you say technology has benefited the album launch?
I’ve noticed the benefit for us because we didn’t want to go around the same ride again, I didn’t want to do this thing where you release one single that’s maybe Zane Lowe’s Exclusive Play or something like that, then put a video up and then release the album. We didn’t want to go through that process again, we thought that’s really outdated and unnecessary. We thought there must be ways of building up anticipation to your record that are international. We were just thinking of different ways to do it because the promotional side of being in a band is the bit that feels like the job. Playing the music, writing the music, going on tour, that stuff is what we fucking live for. The other stuff gets boring very fast, so we were trying to find ways of doing that stuff that wasn’t as boring for us and also in a way that would make it more interesting for fans.
It made it trickier for fans to reach the music in a way…
We both have these concerns that music is becoming incredibly placid, that people can just sit at a laptop and press a button. You don’t have to leave your house, you don’t have to do anything to access that music. At the age me an Laura are, we’re in a generation where we’ve crossed over; when I grew up I had to leave my shitty little town because there was no internet or record shops, I had to get the train to Brighton, I had to go to the record shop and the music that I found changed my taste forever. I think there’s something about the effort and investing your time in something that means when you get it you value it more. I think when you can just click a button and listen to it then it devalues it. With the QR codes we wanted to say, if you really want to hear our new song then you’ve got to get out of our house and race other people for it. It was important for us to make it an active process for our audience.
The tour is coming soon, in Bristol you’ll be stopping at Trinity, excited?
Yes we played there a few years ago, we’ve played the Thekla what feels like a hundred times and it was really exciting because it was our first Bristol headline show in a different venue. I remember the place being really cool and having a community vibe, we played with The Cast Of Cheers and went out with those guys afterwards it was a really good night.
This next one is set to be a lot of fun, we spoke to DZ Deathrays recently who said they’re good at drinking your rider, any truth in this?
Yes thats true! The first time we met them was in America, I’d heard their record and they got booked to support us and we were like fuck that’s really good. On that tour we realised we got on really well and we’re very similar people. They’ve got a new record coming out so it’s perfect timing to get them back to England. They feel like part of out family, there are some bands you tour with who feel like they’re in your gang.
Now’s an exciting time with DIY bands cropping up all over the place like The Wytches, Joanna Gruesome and Drenge, after an article you wrote a while back assessing the hard times for guitar music, would you say something has changed recently?
I do feel like guitar music is in a better place now than it was a few years ago definitely. I mean those bands that you just named are all bands I really like. I wouldn’t call it a scene but there’s certainly a trend in guitar music which is in line with the kind of thing Blood Red Shoes were inspired by, which is a punk rock aesthetic. It’s not about being a commercially successful band, it’s about you know ‘fuck these guys, we’re just going to get on and create our own sound’. I’m seeing a lot more of those bands now than I am when we started, there’s a bit of a generation gap. We’re quite good friends with Drenge and Rory is about ten years younger than me but I’ve got more in common with him than the bands when we first started. It’s nice, it makes me feel happy.
Thanks Steven, best of luck with the tour.
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