Laura-Mary Carter (guitars) and Steven Ansell (drums/vocals) met through the Brighton punk scene – embodying its ethos in spirit if not immediately in sound and through Blood Red Shoes they’ve transplanted a post-White Stripes boy/girl guitar-drums approach into the corpse of Brit revivalism. Celebrating a decade together, last year the duo shunned the slick professionalism of the UK and decamped to Berlin for six months, setting up their own studio in Kreuzberg and taking on the production and recording roles themselves. The fruit of this self-imposed exodus was released earlier this year as their eponymously titled fourth album (PIAS) and they’ll be saying something, anything at Astra on Thursday, April 10.
That’s a massive bowl of Haribo you’re getting stuck into.
Steven Ansell: I’m not much of a sweets guy, though. They’ve done it before,look: sweets, Club Mate, coffee. They know how to keep a band talking.
Laura-Mary Carter: Sorry if we seem a little bit like “urgh”, we’re getting a little bit of a crash.
SA: Yeah, I’m just coming out of the crash. We’re on the right side of it because one of us can always answer.
You moved here to record your new album.
LM-C: We knew we didn’t want to make another record in the UK and we wanted to write somewhere else initially so, I dunno. Just because we get bored. It was last minute in a way because we just wanted to write, and when we got there we wrote something and recorded it and it sounded pretty good. So we just finished it.
SA: The thing that struck me, that really summarized it for me, where we were living was right by Görlitzer Park, and it was great: there were drug dealers and everyone was fine with it and the police would walk right past them and just not fucking care. And then there was like mums with push-chairs pushing their kids around. You don’t have to put your dog on a lead, there’s people out having barbecues out when they fucking feel like it, some guy rocked up with like a cart that he was selling cocktails off. I was like, if you did that in Brighton — if there was drug dealers, black drug dealers, too, no mums would go there, they’d just run a fucking mile. If you had a barbecue you’d be told to put it out. The dog would have to be on a lead. If you went out with a cart selling cocktails the police would be, like, “Where’s your permit?” It’s like there’s no laws here but everyone’s okay with each other.
The police turn a blind eye to a lot of stuff.
SA: The [dealers] don’t even seem like that much of a problem. A couple of guys were really persistent, but that’s probably because they could tell I was English and were like “This idiot’ll buy anything.”
And how long were you here for?
L-MC: From March. We had a bit of a gap ‘cause we went to America for a tour.
SA: We would have stayed the whole time but we had a tour booked in the US, which was a very important part of the record actually, so it was good that we did it.
LM-C: We did like a support tour with The Joy Formidable and then our own stuff.
So what else were you doing in Berlin when you weren’t locked away?
SA: Going to the flea market around near here.
Find anything good?
L-MC: Skulls, what else…
SA: Skulls. I got my new favorite hat.
L-MC: I got some pottery.
SA: We got this little owl that became a bit of a mascot for a while, he was cool. We kept trying to find little instruments that we could use for the record but we didn’t find anything that we could use.
That owl didn’t fly you to the U.S.
SA: America’s, like, really new for us. In fact, this record will be the first record that we’ve got even a label that anyone’s heard of putting the record out. It’s been like small steps for us but still really early on, people don’t know us. Playing you know, fifty people in a bar is like a decent show for us. But that’s what’s really cool about it is we’ve got a sense of, like, starting from scratch. That feeling of touring the states is really cool.
L-MC: Trying to win people over.
SA: I like the challenge of a new audience, it’s really good.
I read somewhere you’d done 500 gigs before your first album?
SA: Either I was lying or someone made that up. We definitely didn’t do 500 before our first album. We probably did about 200 though. We’re probably at 500 by now.
L-MC: You say that every time.
SA: Do I? Right, I don’t know. I did, actually. I used to have a laptop; every time our tour manager sent us a list of shows I’d dump it in, and it was like a word document where it put a number on every line, so I could just open it up an go “Ah, that many shows.” And then that laptop got stolen so I lost my gig history.
You recently played Russia.
SA: We love playing Russia, it’s brilliant.
L-MC: I don’t know, there’s a lot of bands saying don’t play there, like, boycott it, but I feel that’s kind of like punishing people there that are really cool. And it’s not their fault that, you know, the government does really shitty things.
SA: I mean, it’s a really interesting, really strange, and from what I can tell it’s a really conflicted country. Especially the way the media is presenting it. But when you go there, the people you meet and what you experience is that everybody thinks that “Our government’s really fucked up, what are we going to do about it?” We don’t go and play in the Kremlin to dickheads, do we? I would play there if we were asked though, just to see what happens.
As a two-piece, do you find a limit to what you can recreate live?
L-MC: The hardest thing I think is just trying to figure out the sounds for playing live because we’re going to play all of the records, and there’s only so many pedals and guitars. That it’s like trying to find the in-between that kind of works for all of the records. That’s, at the moment, what I’m really trying to do.
You’ll end up like Sonic Youth: going around the country with trucks full of stuff in case you want to play that one album track.
SA: Laura would if she was allowed to. She would take a truck of guitars. Definitely.
L-MC: I’m not that bad.
SA: One per song.
L-MC: Well, I’ve had a Tele[caster] all the time; I’m allowed to indulge now. I mean, they’re all like from eBay for, like, a hundred quid.
SA: Hey look, I’m encouraging it I’m not saying you shouldn’t.
Steven, I heard that simultaneous drumming and singing made you sick.
SA: Oh god, yeah! In the old days, I just used to puke at every show because I just used to get so fucking hot. And I don’t really sing properly – I sort of yell, which is like you’re heaving up loads of air. You get really hot and exhausted and then you do that, and then you puke.
And you’re drumming on top of that
SA: Yeah, then you’re physically exerting. So I figured that out – it’s stage fans. They cool you down.
L-MC: And coconut water.
SA: The thing you realize is that when you sweat loads, you’re losing all the salts and other shit. So basically I need to pretend I’m an athlete, because you can drink loads of water and it doesn’t sort you out, you still feel really sick.
L-MC: I bet athletes don’t have like a bottle of whisky every night though.
SA: Yeah, that’s probably part of it. I should do a drummer article about it for a drum magazine – How to Stay Healthy on Tour.
When you’re recording do you ever find yourself thinking “well, maybe we shouldn’t add this other part in because we can’t include it live”?
SA: No, fuck that attitude. You’re making an album, not a documentary of a live gig. Live is live and a record is a record. I don’t really care about that.
L-MC: Yeah we don’t really think like that, we just see what feels right. It doesn’t matter what that is. We’ve got piano on this record and we don’t play piano live, so. We could do it, I’d just feel a bit silly standing playing keyboards and singing.
SA: Bit Kate Nash isn’t it?
And look what happened to her.
SA: She has gone wrong hasn’t she? I don’t think she knows where she is, poor girl.
Blood Red Shoes w/The Wytches | Thu, April 10 | 20:00 | Astra | Revalerstraße 99 | Friedrichshain | U+S-Bhf Warschauer Straße