Blood Red Shoes: 'We're always reacting against the last thing we did'
With In Time To Voices, Brighton duo Blood Red Shoes delivered one of our albums of 2012 and their recent Shepherd's Bush Empire gig (their last UK show of 2013) provided an early live highlight, thanks to the duo's ever-consistent blistering command of the live arena.
It's been a characteristically busy few months too, with the release of their three-track Water EP alongside their first ever Australian tour and a couple of dates in Russia, not to mention the announcement of a split release with their friends Pulled Apart By Horses which will see them cover each others' tracks. April will see the duo jet across the pond to play five shows with TMF faves The Joy Formidable, as well as their own headline North American tour.
We're exhausted just reading that, yet the duo still found time to sit down with TMF and reflect on In Time To Voices and look forward to outing number four, among other things.
While many hip young things have burned bright early and faltered, your third album was your best and you're managing to keep a loyal fanbase across the UK and Europe. How so, do you reckon?
I think it's partly luck for one thing. I think also, we've always pursued our ambitions in a very grassroots way which I think is much more sustainable. As a band, we started out in a very underground, DIY scene, where the whole attitude is that you get in the van and tour. That mentality has stayed with us and I think that way you can gradually build an audience that's very stable, very real and isn't bought with media coverage or advertising or hype.
And I think just by virtue of the kind of music we like to make, we've kept ourselves away from the 'zeitgeist' musical fads which on one hand makes us outsiders, but on the other hand means we have our own momentum and we don't live or die by another 'scene' or trend of the time.
You were braver with In Time To Voices and messed around with the BRS sound. Recent EP Water sees you going off in another direction. Do you know yet what album number four might be?
We have no idea - we just do what feels right at the time. With the last album, we really wanted to push in some new directions and explore things we'd been talking about trying for a couple of years but never actually done - using more layers and more intricate parts, trying out some more sombre songs.
On the EP we just immediately reacted against that and did the opposite by making something really spontaneous and not really over-worked or over-thought. We have this in-built tendency to contradict ourselves, it's like we have to generate some kind of fight to make ourselves creative. So we're always reacting against the last thing we did and trying to do something different.
You've said that your recent Shepherds Bush gig was the last UK date of 2013 for Blood Red Shoes, so what does the rest of the year hold? Will there still be festival appearances, or will eyes start to turn towards album number four?
This year, the only touring we have is in the USA, which is somewhere we've only just started to tour and it's starting to come together a bit. Other than that, we're just working on ideas for the next album. 2007 is the last year we actually had this long a break from the road, so it's great to reflect a bit and just get really stuck into writing new material, without the interruption of festivals or tours. We've actually not written in such an unfragmented way since the first album.
The duo, having seen a proliferation of two pieces in the past few years, is taken over from the three piece as rock's coolest formation. Discuss.
[laughs] Well you're asking the wrong person what's cool. We have our own internal understanding of 'cool' and whenever we look around, it often doesn't match up with what's going on outside our band. I do know what you mean though - there are some cool duos kicking around and it does seem like an ever-increasing thing.
My understanding is just that people feel freer creatively to do whatever they want, and if that's a duo, then so be it. For rock n roll music I think it's all about chemistry, and if you have that with two people then why add more members just for the sake of being typical, you know? I think people really see that now.
You always claimed the US college/underground scene was much more of an influence than the watery UK 'indie' crowd. That still the case? And do you think that's why the groovy gang turn their noses up bands like you?
Yeah that's true, I think we certainly take cues from that kind of music and the attitudes around that kind of music. That being said, I think we've been a band so long now that we don't really feel like we're influenced by anything in particular, we have our own path. Of course we don't exist in a vacuum, but we definitely don't look to influences in the same way we did in 2004 when we started.
And yeah, we definitely feel an affinity with harder-hitting, meaner sounds, and a lot of UK music to me feels a bit soft and lightweight. I don't know if people turn their noses up at us or what. I mean on a very practical level, certainly the bands we meet on the road are really decent people 90% of the time, I don't feel like they're looking down on us. We just feel a bit like outsiders when it comes to exposure and media and industry stuff, which to be honest, can be helpful but aren't essential for our band's survival.
The end of 2012 saw your first tour down under. Did it live up to expectations and did you notice any major differences between playing there as opposed to London?
Australia was really fun. It's the first time we'd ever been so our expectations were fairly realistic, the only thing we were told is that the crowds are really lively, and that turned out to be true. It's hard to compare it to London because we've been playing London for so long, plus our first shows in London consisted of five songs which we could barely play, but our first shows in Australia were after 700 shows and three albums. London gets a bad reputation but to be honest we've actually found London shows really enjoyable since really early on!
Recently announced was your split 7" single with Pulled Apart By Horses, how did that come about? James Brown took part in your London encore, so did it just feel a natural thing to do?
We'd been talking about that for years! And both bands being too lazy or too busy to sort it out. We've been good friends with those guys for years and we've done a lot of touring together, and it was something we came up with one night when we were out after a show. Like, chatting shit in a bar saying "doooood we should totally do a split 7 where we cover each other". That was in 2010 I think. So we finally did it this year, although we both recorded our songs late 2012...
I think bands now are really catching on to the freedom we have from the traditional album cycle. Actually I think the musicians are seizing this way more than the industry. To base the life cycle of a band around album releases is almost redundant now - you can release what you want when you want. For example, we look forward to an album release because it means we can tour, not touring to promote the album.
I think split releases, collaborations, EPs, one off singles... these are all signs of bands feeling that freedom and pushing to use it more. I can't wait for the industry to catch up because right now, it'd still be difficult (though not impossible) to get touring and drive some momentum off of just an EP or single.
Finally, what was the question we should have asked you today?
You should have asked "how exactly will you celebrate when Margaret Thatcher finally kicks the bucket?"
Additional questions from Gary K.
In Time To Voices and the three-track Water EP are available now. For more information on Blood Red Shoes, including their US and Canada dates, visit their official website - www.bloodredshoes.co.uk