"I feel like we have a really strong sense of identity now" - Steve Ansell
Blood Red Shoes have just surprise-released a brand new EP called 'Ø' via Velveteen Records.
A raw, rough and raucous collection of down-tuned and devilish rock songs, the release serves not just as a follow-up to their '19 album 'Get Tragic' but also a presentation of a different side of the band's musical passion. Where many had to question exactly how they could be creative during these strange times, Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell did what came naturally to them and opened up yet another avenue on their 17-year long journey.
We jumped on the phone with the pair to chat about the creation of the release and how their longevity and continued trust in each other has prepared them for anything...
Where did this EP first come to fruition?
Steven: “It’s basically accidental. We started the band in 2004 and have played live continuously since then. We even started playing live before we even had any songs. So for us, that’s what we do. We haven’t done that now for the longest period that we have ever not done it. So I see this EP a bit like whack-a-mole. You knock it down in one place, and it pops up in another. So if we can’t be on stage playing together, we will hang out, jam and make a load of noise. We had no plan or aim. It’s just what we do. It’s the fabric of our being. The last record, ‘Get Tragic’, was very detailed and layered and carefully assembled where we tried to get out of our box. This was us in a room saying, ‘That sounds fucking sick, play that again’. It’s close to how we used to write at the very beginning. It was a natural response to not being able to do it live. Create that big wall of noise in some other way.”
Laura: “We did it all ourselves as well. We would jam a song then decide if we like it. It was nice going back to that way of playing again. It was going back to being a two-piece again and having fun with it. We’ve always done EPs and random things in between albums, so it’s just another piece of what we have always done.”
Did you have time to process what the last album run had taught you before you got back in a room together then?
Steven: “That sort of thing is much more of a conscious process than anything that we actually do. As a band, we don’t think about anything. We’re instinctual. We follow whatever we feel like doing and see where it takes us. The longer we have been together as a creative partnership, the stronger that trust gets. We don’t ever sit and reflect and wonder if something would be cool to try. We just fucking do it. It’s as simple as hanging out, having a jam and recording whatever sounds the coolest.”
Laura: “It’s once again like how we started the band in the very beginning. First, we had a jam, then the next thing we knew, we had some songs, then the next thing we knew, we were out on the road.”
Steven: “Exactly, we have been winging it and going off a sense of our own energy and chemistry ever since.”
Laura: “We’ve also got to a point where we have this weird sense of confidence. So many artists at our stage in their career may wonder how they put their stuff together or make it a reality. But because we just get in there and record and make it ourselves, we have this freedom just to make that so.”
It’s pretty unique that when so many have struggled to find a way to express themselves, you two have been able to thrive. A time where doing what you do best is the most perfect of options…
Steven: “From the very beginning, we have been limited simply because we are a duo. The very inception of our band came within a restricted setup, especially for the sort of music that we want to make. We’re in a period of huge restriction right now, and it doesn’t surprise me that our band has been able to do loads of stuff with that. We’ve always been using our restrictions to push ourselves into doing something. We’ve got our label, our studio, our equipment. We don’t need anybody else to make it a reality.”
Laura: “A lot of that comes from our past in punk bands and the way we did things back then. So we’re just carrying on what we have always known. We’re DIY in everything that we do, so when it comes to the hard times, we have still found a way to make stuff.”
You never realise just how prepared you are for things until you’re in the middle of them. You’ve just been doing your thing, and you can thank your past selves that you never deviated from that…
Laura: “Also, we are so used to uncertainty. We’re used to being skint and not knowing when you could get paid. We’re used to not knowing your schedule.”
Steven: “You have to figure all that stuff out yourself.”
So when you started jamming, what was the first song that came out?
Steven: “It was ‘A Little Love’, wasn’t it?”
Laura: "Yeah, I think so.”
Steven: “Yeah, you just tuned your guitar fucking low and did something quite bonehead, in a good way, and it felt so cool. So I just played kick and snare, no clever shit, on my drums, and it built from there. It was almost deliberately stupid and really fun to play. It became a bit darker from there and unfussy.”
Laura: “It was all about the primal feeling that comes from that sort of music.”
Steven: “It feels mean as well. It’s probably the meanest thing we have made. It’s the sort of riff that you can’t take home to your parents.”
It’s interesting for you to be finding things and feelings that you haven’t done before even now…
Steven: “Yeah, although one thing we have realised about the EP is that we jam like this quite a lot. We just haven’t put it out. It’s like a side of us that we have kept private in a weird sort of way. There are so many things that feel like this that have never made it to a record or made it past that jam session. It’s always been there. We just haven’t made it public.”
Laura: “We really do mess around with stuff in this way, but never show anyone. So this time, we thought we would go with that side of us because it’s quite a big side.”
Steven: “I don’t know why we haven’t done this before. It’s very much our default setting, but not to the public. That’s why we’re so happy with this EP. It’s showing this secret side to us. I think we’re a lot eviler than the people we have presented to the world.”
Laura: “Oh, definitely.”
So what is it that made all of these different jams come together into something that looks and feels like this?
Steven: “So we had three complete songs that were a bit more fleshed out than just us thrashing about in a room together. So that’s the point where we thought to turn it into an actual EP because there was fuck all else going on. So that’s when we started running with it.”
Laura: “In terms of the look, everything was green on ‘Get Tragic’, so we wanted to reset everything from there and go to the classic black and white.”
Steven: “The music on here is certainly not green.”
When you’re working on instinct in such a way, it must be pretty mad when you look back and realise where that instinct has taken you…
Steven: “I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. We’ve been around a long fucking time, and we have grown into our sound and got more confident with age. I feel like we have a really strong sense of identity now. We know who we are and with this EP showing a side of us that we haven’t done before comes down to us having that confidence and identity. Our level of trust in our self-instincts is higher than it has ever been.”
It’s incredible how powerful longevity can be in situations like this. So many people and peers have come and gone, and you’re still here and still doing what you’ve always done…
Laura: “Yeah, absolutely, that’s so true.”
Steven: “I’ve no idea how we’ve done that, though. We’ve been around way longer than the average band is expected to. I am aware of how we didn’t fit into any of the scenes that we were put in. We’ve never really been in a gang of bands. We’ve never really fit comfortably in any genre. We’ve never followed any trends. That’s been really annoying and difficult for us because we’re an ambitious band. But I think it’s why we are still here. We haven’t come and gone with a song or trend, and we have maintained an audience who trust us to whatever we feel like at any given moment. I think people can believe in you and believe in what you’re singing more when they know that. We have the history to show that. It’s two fucking weirdos being weird, and that’s it.”
Laura: “With bands that have come and gone, there are always different circumstances, but I have seen it happen where other things come into play. There are so many things that could have broken our band up. There’s so much crazy stuff that has happened, but we are still music obsessive at the end of it all. We are all about the songs, so we never let anything externally destroy us. Though I can see how and why it happens, I think the proof of us being around for so long is proof of how stubborn we are and how much we believe in our art.”
An audience can smell bullshit from a mile away…
Steven: “Absolutely, and so many places think that they are cleverer than the audience. A label sees an audience as sheep, and they can advertise their way into their lives and trick them into liking something. It’s not fucking true. People know that it’s art. It’s not a product that you’re trying to sell like IKEA furniture. It’s human connection, and you can’t bullshit that.”
Laura: “I also think that if you’ve been around for a long time, I think it’s important to create within other things as well. We both do other things outside of this band, and we are constantly creating something. That’s something that helps you to keep ongoing. Some people stop doing it for a bit or make only one piece of music a year, whereas we are always trying to find new avenues to explore and feel inspired by.”
Steven: “It’s muscular. If you stopped training and then played football for the first time in ages, you would be fucked. It’s about keeping creative all the time. Leaving that tap running is so important. If you stop and put your feet up, you’re going to seize up.”
And to return to where we are now, this EP was a means of not putting your feet up and seizing up. It’s now a part of the Blood Red Shoes story and a new way to find another path to go down…
Laura: “It’s just a need. Neither of us will ever stop writing music because it’s what we need to do to be able to function as a human. We’ve always had it, and we always will.”