When Blood Red Shoes finished touring their 2014 self-titled album, they didn’t foresee such a long break between records.
“Did I expect it? No, not at all!” guitarist and vocalist Laura-Mary Carter explains. “It’s been years; I didn’t expect it. It was needed that we had a break, but it ended up being much longer than we anticipated.”
“It wasn’t intentional to be this long, but it was intentional to have some time away. There was a point where for ten years straight we were on the road and making records every two years. An album would come out, and then we’d tour again for two years. It just got to the point where it was like, ‘I can’t carry on like this anymore, because we’re gonna lose passion for it’.
“We were just at the point with each other where we were sick of each other. I was like, ‘I can’t do this now! I need to like reassess my life and try to have a normal life for a little bit and see what if I really wanna do this’, you know?”
The duo’s brilliant fifth record ‘Get Tragic’ comes five years after their last, and it’s safe to say they both led different lives in the downtime.
“We’ve been in this band for a long time together; I was a teenager when we started, and my tastes and personality have changed quite a lot over the years. It’s same with Steve [Ansell]. I started writing with other people and trying out new things, and started liking different styles of music, and playing different styles of music.
“I’ve been doing a solo project which is an alt-country thing, completely different to anything we’ve ever done. Steve got really into producing, doing a lot of electronic and hip-hop stuff. It played a part in this album; us discovering what we liked individually and trying out music with other people changed how the album came out.”
Laura retreated to LA during the downtime and began collaborating and writing for other people: “I was writing pop songs, and top lines, and collaborating with some heroes, which was pretty cool.” The duo then came back together when Laura invited Steve to LA to write together again.
“I said to Steve, ‘Come here to LA and let’s start writing’. It was a new environment for us; I was like, ‘I’ve got a garage we can do some stuff in’, so we did and we started writing.
“We wrote quite a lot of the main songs on the album, like ‘Eye to Eye’; that song came out, and it was like, okay, this is kind of a premise to what the record might sound like. It helped us shape the album.
“Then Steve didn’t wanna be in LA, he went back to England, so I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll come back to do some stuff there’. We ended up doing some writing there, but most of it was in LA.”
When they returned, the duo initially decamped to a small village in Wales, from which they were banished by the village elders…
“We were like, let’s do like a two-week stint somewhere where we’re away from any distractions. We found this Airbnb in Wales which was an old community centre that had been privatised so you could Airbnb it. It was all so weird!
“As I got there, I had a really bad feeling about it, but we kept with it. There were these two weird men that lived in it. They were bizarre, and the story kept changing like where we could rehearse.
“We were told we’d have the whole place. We were meant to have a bedroom each, and they were like, there’s only one room; they had no beds. I was just like, this is not ideal, but we’re here now so let’s try.
“Then at eight in the morning, literally the morning after, we hear this bashing on the bedroom door. It was like half the town had keys to this place and were just shouting at us.
“They’d been downstairs, seen all our equipment, and Googled the band. They were like, ‘You’re gonna play devil’s music near our church! What the hell are you doing here?!’ We went downstairs, and there were kids running around, there was half the town, and they were like, you need to leave.
“What we hadn’t realised was this community centre had been bought over the summer; no one had been told in the community, so they all still had keys, and they thought it was still their community centre. They didn’t listen to us. We were like, ‘We booked it on Airbnb!’ and they were like, ‘What’s Airbnb?!’
“We rang up our friends Pulled Apart by Horses. They have a studio in Leeds, and they let us use it. We went there, and then a few days later I broke my arm. I think that was just the beginning of a series of disasters.”
Laura insists that her injury had a positive effect on the album, though.
“It made me sing more, and there’s less guitar on this record than on previous albums. It’s not as much of a guitar album and it forced me to sing and write a lot of the melodies, and harmonies, and try out other things like keyboards.
“It forced me into a place I maybe wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t broken my arm. There’s stuff written before and after, but some of the more synth-y ones were written around that time.
“It seems so long ago now; it took me a long time to heal. I did some more writing, and then I just went away to LA and just healed because we had shows coming up. I was like, well, I need to get better for this.
“Every week I was like, is this a sign that we shouldn’t do this? I get it even now; when everything is against you, you’re just like, is this someone telling you not to do this? It was like a downward spiral of things that just kept going wrong.”
The album has its fair share of collaborations, including one with Brighton band The Wytches on ‘Nearer’.
“We thought it’d be cool to get Kristian [Bell, singer] to do his thing. I like his style; he’s got like a certain sound. We had a bit of space on ‘Nearer’, so we were like, maybe do some little lead-y parts? He was like, ‘Yeah cool’.
“He’s a good friend of ours. We’ve played with The Wytches a lot; they’re actually one of my favourite bands. So he just threw down loads of stuff, and then we picked out a few things and cut them up and put them on the track.”
They’ve also ‘Find My Own Remorse’, featuring Clarence Clarity.
“We weren’t even sure if that was going to make the album; it was so different. Towards the end, it took this new turn, and that was when Clarence Clarity came in. We gave it to him and he came back with basically that cut up, weird sound you can hear on it. We were like, oh wow this is pretty cool.
“I remember trying all different types of sounds on it until it came right. Nick Launay, who produced the record, was like, don’t even play drums on it! Just take that out! He was kind of pushing it to be weirder sound to what we normally would do.”
The duo were worried though that after such a long time away, they’d come back and no one would care.
“There’s that thought process because it hasn’t come out yet, but then again we’ve just put on a couple of shows and a tour. They’re not big venues, but they all sold out in days so that’s a good sign.
“Things in music change very fast, how you put music out, online stuff, and also fans grow up and they might not like the music anymore, or their tastes have changed or they forget about you. There are all those thoughts, but we do have a strong fan base, and I really appreciate them because they have always stuck with us. Hopefully, we’ll find some new ones with this new sound.
“There’s always that worry, but that’s the music industry. As long as you are true to what you’re doing, and you believe in what you’re doing, that’s all you can do. It’s all you can ever do; just put it out and see what happens.”
Taken from the February 2019 issue of Dork, out now. Blood Red Shoes’ album ‘Get Tragic’ is out 25th January.
Words: Josh Williams