Blood Red Shoes kickin' it at R&V

By Lydia Jenkin

Duo's manic track record means Gisborne's celebrated New Year festival will be loud and a little crazy.

Blood Red Shoes are not a punk band, but they're happy with the comparison. Photo / Supplied
Blood Red Shoes are not a punk band, but they're happy with the comparison. Photo / Supplied

Laura-Mary Carter from melancholy Brighton indie-rock duo Blood Red Shoes had to wander round looking for a quiet corner when the Herald phoned her in Manchester.

The duo had just come off stage, and the headlining act were noisily going about their business, but Carter did find a spot where cell reception was reasonable.

The pair (Carter plays guitar and sings, while Steven Ansell is on drums and vocals) have been on tour for many months since releasing their third album In Time To Voices in March, and they're not stopping any time soon - even Russia is on the itinerary before they get to New Zealand and Australia for shows between Christmas and New Year.

The duo are playing at Gisborne's Rhythm and Vines festival, which starts on Saturday.

"My singing teacher was from New Zealand, and I was quite close to her at college, and she was always telling me how cool NZ was and how she missed it, so I think it's always been in my head to come down there," Carter says.

When Blood Red Shoes played their first show in 2004 they didn't quite have their songs and lyrics finished, and they hadn't had time to find any more band members, so it was just the two of them. Eight years on they've really embraced their two-piece style, in spite of the live complexities, and forged a reputation for ferociously energetic, loud performances.

"We can play our instruments a lot better now, because we couldn't really play at the beginning - I'd barely played guitar before, we just learnt together. But I think the energy we had in the beginning is definitely still there, and it's definitely loud! People always comment on how loud it is. In fact I think we've pissed off a few people on this tour already with how loud it is. I think that's gold."

Having just the two of them to translate their songs live does provide some challenges ("It means my foot is switching different pedals on and off at the same time as playing and singing, so I've become quite good at multi-functioning. And Steve is drumming and singing for 90 minutes") but with the most recent album they've been especially keen to make sure that line up doesn't restrict their songwriting.

"We made two records that are really true to what we sound like live, and then we just thought, with the third one let's do something different, let's not worry too much about recreating exactly the same thing live, and just make it the best we can.

"It's made me a better guitarist, and made Steve a better drummer, both of us are capable of a lot more complex things now. There are a couple of songs that we just leave for when we do acoustic sessions because they don't fit quite right with the rest of our set, but that's quite cool because then we have another side to us that we can show too."

Though they're not a punk band in a musical sense, there are a few aspects to Blood Red Shoes that make them happy with the comparison.

"When people think of a punk band I guess they think of the Sex Pistols, or something like that, which we're definitely not. But yeah, the punk attitude of kind of 'do it yourself', get on with it, that attitude is where we come from, playing 150 shows a year, and really working our arses off, and having control of every element of the band - we pay for our records through touring, I do all the artwork, we license it, and I guess that's what we take from the punk ethos."

Their name comes from a reference to a tale of Ginger Rogers dancing so hard that her shoes turned red with blood, though this is not something that Carter has achieved.

"It's funny, I'm a really big fan of dancing, and I never get to dance any more, so I just have to live through watching other people do it. Mostly it's pogoing at our shows, but I think, when we first started we had more dancy tunes.

"Now we're a bit more straight rock, but we did have a disco beat or two on our first record. Now it's more head-banging and moshing," she says with a laugh.

Plus the pair have a reputation for finding their way into oddball trouble while on tour - Ansell has told stories in the past of hotel demolition parties, accidentally getting arrested after drinking in a biker den, or being robbed by prostitutes, and Carter admits they seem to have a knack for "attracting weirdos".

"We do have loads of crazy tour stories, absolutely loads. And we just assumed that everyone had these stories too, and I'm sure there are bands that do, but a lot of musicians we've met haven't had these sort of stories, and I realised that might be because we tour more than most bands. We don't specifically look for trouble or anything, strange things just seem to happen.

"And Steve has a great ability to instigate craziness."

Either way, they're definitely a pair you want to seek out for a raucous New Year's Eve party, which is exactly what they're heading to Gisborne for.


Lowdown

Who: Blood Red Shoes

Where and when: Performing at Rhythm and Vines, tomorrow, Vines Stage, 9.40pm-10.40pm

Recent album: In Time To Voices

- NZ Herald

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